You might hear me quote Stephen Pressfield a lot. It’s his fault I’m writing fiction. He’s become something of a virtual mentor to me. Certainly The War of Art and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t should be required reading for any aspiring author/poet/dancer/artist/musician/entrepreneur. If you’re creating, they will save you much heartbreak.
Stephen has his excerpt from The War of Art here. Go read it and come back. If you’ve never read it? You need to for context. I’ll wait. .
Update Bah. He changed his site. Try this one. it will give you the gist.
All done? Ok here we go.
I am certain that when you read those words it opened a release valve for you. Guilt, shame, imposter syndrome. These things are not just your crazy. It’s all Resistance. It’s all designed to take you out. Keep you from the Work. Whatever it is. You know in your soul this is true.
Now I don’t know if my experience is normal. But I’m going to lay out what Pressfield says he does. Then I’ll tell you what I do. And hopefully by the time I’m finished you will have some tools to stab Resistance with a fork. If not decapititate it. Baby steps.
ok. So the first wave of assault for me is usually physical. I get hungry. Sleepy. White noise sometimes fills my mind, making it hard to think or focus. I usually think in pictures with emotions and then translate those into words. Sometimes I think in words. Not often. So “making it hard to think” means literally, I’m blank. If I’m upset or anxious about something? Yep. I’ll let myself distracted, jump at any excuse. The next thing I know?
I’m watching cat videos. Or baby elephant videos. Or Googling obscure conspiracy theories.
All of this is in addition to niggling feelings of self-doubt, which sometimes I can work through. Imposter syndrome. I keep refreshing Twitter because I’m dealing with anxiety. But I do things between refreshes.
ok so. Here’s how you stab this stuff with a fork.
Stephen has his lucky charms.
..my lucky work boots and stitch up the lucky laces that my niece Meredith gave me. I head back to my office, crank up the computer. My lucky hooded sweatshirt is draped over the chair, with the lucky charm I got from a gypsy in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for only eight bucks in francs, and my lucky LARGO name tag that came from a dream I once had. I put it on. On my thesaurus is my lucky cannon that my friend Bob Versandi gave me from Morro Castle, Cuba. I point it toward my chair, so it can fire inspiration into me. I say my prayer, which is the Invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, that my dear mate Paul Rink gave me and which sits near my shelf with the cuff links that belonged to my father and my lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae.
Whatever reminds you of past success? Make or obtain a symbol of it to remind you of the truth. You’re not a loser, you have had great luck in the past with ____. It can be a picture of a loved one. A souvenir. Jewelry. A sweatshirt. A special mug. Whatever. This is about creating personal ritual. They’re your icons. Use them. I have a lucky sweater and a picture of my Dad.
These icons help with step one.
1. Verbalize, out loud, specifically what’s happening. Journaling works too. The important thing is getting it expressed. Many times this alone will be enough to make you laugh and reject the stupid ideas. If not? Ask for help. Out loud. Reject any untruths.
Stephen uses the Invocation of the Muse. I usually use St Patrick’s Breastplate. Whatever floats your boat. Stay humble and ask for help with the Work.
2. Take care of you.
Stephen calls this “Going Pro”
Set your mind to treat the Work like a job.
Get enough rest. Eat. Exercise. Deal with stuff that needs dealing with. Don’t run from it. You don’t have to know what to do. You only have to know what to do next. Do that.
3. Notice truth.
Every day you’ll learn something or see it in a new way. Write those things down. Go back to things you need help with. Are any of these things possible helps? Do they apply to your battle?
use it even if you feel silly. A lot of times feeling stupid or silly means you’re on track.
If you really can’t get clear? Log the episodes. Look at the logs with a person you respect. Noting what happened just before and what you thought and felt can be a great thing to track.
All of the above means you must set a routine. There can be no compromise. No excuses. This is war. Excuses are lies.
If these Resistance tactics don’t stop you, Resistance will bury you in battles to give you excuses and keep you on a treadmill.
Take solace in this. If the darkness fights you like this? It’s a good sign. Your work matters. You must be amazing.
Say it out loud. “My work matters.”
Say it every time Resistance hits.
Stab it with a fork.
Enough for now. Let me know if this helps or what your experiences are and how you work?
and then we’ll explore the next wave, the Avalanche of Battles.