It cuts down more aspiring artists than anything else. It is what Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art calls “Resistance.” “Excuses” and “self-doubt” don’t seem to adequately describe it’s evolving power. How does an artist overcome this destructive debilitation?
The Enemy You Know is Better Than the Enemy You Do Not
Seeing it for it is. I think I can best illustrate its stranglehold by sharing with you some of Its many manifestations in my journey.
- Negative Forecasting: Probably the most common form of this force for many aspiring artists. It’s the one that keeps you in the “routine” and your face glued to a screen. It’s the “cannot’s” and the “will never happens.” “It’s too much work” and “Why bother?” You get the idea. Art is a meaningless financial dead-end. That kind of thinking. This post is dedicated to Steven Pressfield for helping me overcome this initial obstacle.
- The Unsustainable Effort: I have a day off from my day job, and I spend six hours writing. I quarantine the sections of my book into sterile components. I take in calories and hydration for the sole purpose of writing. The next day, there’s something nasty whispering in your ear: “Do it again. Everything and everyone in your life is a distraction. All that matters is that you write like a death march.” I begin to expect too much from myself. I get frustrated. I begin to dread writing for the herculean effort it now seems to demand. I burn out. My creative energy is shot and I spend two days playing stupid games on my phone.
- Rigidity: This is the form of this force that is most formidable to me. I could also call this the “Tyranny of the Routine.” It seduces my ego and says “You are taking control of your destiny. You have a spot where you sit every day, for at least an hour and a half, producing at least a page on Microsoft word, achieving an exact impression on your own mind as you create.” It’s not quite like the Unsustainable Effort. It’s demands less resources but basically equates to running my creative life like a sweat shop. “This what your artistic process looks like. It must look like this.” Writing for me should open up windows into new ways of being. Rigidity can be a healthy part of discipline, and there are days when I’m better rigid than lazy. It’s when it starts to become robotic and I’m no longer curious by the world around me.
- Drama: This is a fun one. Pick an argument with someone or lose my shit over an unforeseen bill in the mail so I don’t have to write. Works every time.
- Micromanagement and Detail Obsession: Another one that knocks me down on a weekly basis. I pour over one sentence or paragraph like I’ll be selling vegetables on the side of the highway if I don’t nail it perfectly. Or I’ll cuss the paint of the walls for two hours trying to figure out how Mailchimp, losing all focus that it’s one foot in front of the other and learning as I go. And don’t forget to spend inordinate amounts of time on page layout and formatting.
So, that’s what the force of destruction looks like for me. See it in yourself. It will keep you from trying to new things and taking chances. Ultimately, it’s from a healthy place. The ego. It’s meant to keep you safe in the comfortable areas that are hazard-free. Some of us have had our fill with comfort.
Buy Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art
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