Note from Josh: This is a guest post from Jenny McCoy from Workin’ On A Ramp. Jenny interviewed one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield. Steven wrote the incredible Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and The War of Art, among many others. Jenny wanted to run this piece on my blog instead of her own, and even though she should have kept it, I let her give me the post.
by Jenny McCoy
It took me three months to read a book about resistance.
Yes, my hand did hurt when the cookie jar slammed shut. But oh, the lessons learned were so worthwhile.
The force behind the jar? A free copy of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.
I received a copy to review in October and I eagerly placed it on my to-do list. The same list I often forget to do.
Steven Pressfield calls this resistance.
I call him brilliant. And this is why:
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wanna be writers don’t and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.” – Steven
Just three pages in, Steven pinned down the intruder who frequently invades our creative pursuits, creating commotion in an otherwise peaceful neighborhood. In my house, the struggle goes something like this:
- Exciting idea flitters through brain
- I decide I must make it real and share it WITH THE WORLD!
- Blank word doc with menacing cursor frightens me
- I flee, choosing to catch up with the Kardashians or get real with the housewives in some U.S. metro area rather than write
- Cursor continues to blink
- Once vibrant ideas flicker and fade
- Look at that, it’s time for bed! Idea can wait ’til tomorrow..
Of course, this is just one example of a perpetrator that has many forms. But with each page, Steven filled in many more composite sketches of the culprit that often binds our creative pursuits.
Rationalization, fear, excess of drugs or sex. Its guise varies, but its effect remains the same: it keeps us from sitting down to our life’s work. It assuages the void that would otherwise spring us into action.
Sound familiar? It did to me. In fact the topic hit home hard enough that I actually finished a book before starting five others – a rare occurrence. I place this quick but hard-hitting book alongside other well-respected, get-your-ass-in-gear must reads such as Hugh MacLeod’s “Ignore Everybody.”
As a 25-year-old copywriter and a relatively new blogger, The War of Art gave me a glimpse into my past and an acknowledgment of what can be improved in my present to attain a more rewarding tomorrow.
And now, I have a special treat for you. In addition to the free copy to review and an additional free copy to give away, Steven was nice enough to answer three questions for me. As you’ll notice, I only asked two. The last question is for you to ask. Leave a comment with a question you’d like to ask Steven and I’ll send over the top theme as question number three. Plus, by leaving a comment you’ll be eligible to win my extra copy of The War of Art.
JM: In light of recent events, if you were about to send “The War of Art” to the publisher on Friday, would you amend the references to Tiger Woods? If so, how would you address the contrast between his ability to overcome resistance on the golf course versus the role of resistance as a contributor to his crumbling personal life?
SP: I was just having breakfast with a friend this morning and we were talking about this very subject. Not Tiger (I’m going to stay away from any speculations about his personal life, as I certainly wouldn’t want him speculating about mine!) But about how it’s possible to be extremely disciplined and self-composed in one area of one’s life (usually the professional arena) and total blithering in others. I’m that way for sure. As hard-core as I can be as a writer, that’s how lame I am in many personal areas and even in such seemingly easy arenas as sports, diet and meditation. My friend and I were scratching our heads this morning: why can’t we transpose that rigorous self-command from one area to another? I don’t know. (I’m saying this to her as I’m shoveling the third piece of bacon into my craw. Arrrrggggh!)
JM: Since publishing The War of Art, have you received feedback from artists who have read your book, taken it to heart and made great changes in their lives?
SP: Actually it’s been pretty amazing. Some of the e-mails I’ve received are excruciatingly personal (in a good way) and so heartfelt they read like confessionals from AA. I’ve gotten letters that go on for pages, detailing incredible self-generated tragedies in people’s lives. This really doesn’t surprise me, as my own odyssey has been just as calamitous. What has surprised me (it probably shouldn’t have) is the volume of grateful feedback from people who are NOT in the arts.
Entrepreneurs particularly. Businessmen and women. I had never realized the extent to which Resistance operates, even in these bravest-of-the-brave, intrepid enterprisers. I’ve even gotten letters from mothers of servicemen, who have had to deal with their own fears for their sons and daughters. What’s interesting is how frequently (almost all the time in fact) the act that helps them most is not to flee from their fears but to plunge in with both feet, become really active and work hard to aid others in the same situation. It’s amazing how these mothers wade in ther and kick some butt!
About the author:
Jenny McCoy prefers writing to climbing ladders, but does a little of both. She once brought sexy back in a High School Musical bathing suit and her addiction to Venn diagrams is rivaled only by her love for Microsoft Paint masterpieces. Take a break from your work day and check out her (admittedly) wacky blog at WorkinOnARamp.com.
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