“This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.”
I am not a rereader of books. I prefer to try the new as opposed to revisiting the old. But there are two books I reread every year, that are constantly with me, both in physical form and on my mind. The first is Marcus Aurelius's stoic masterpiece on how to live a life, "The Meditations." The best thing ever written in my opinion. The second is Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art," a brief manifesto on how to "break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles." This book has helped me immensely in my own writing output.
This week sees the release of the companion manifesto to "The War of Art," the second Domino Project release "Do the Work."
In "War of Art," Pressfield introduced the idea of The Resistance, that unexplainable inner force that prevents us from accomplishing things. Something we all suffer from, yes, but something some of us are better at managing.
I met so many people on my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour who had their own apparent dreams of writing a novel. They'd see my book and go, "A self-hurt guide? Ha. I don't need to buy that. I could have written that!"
And, I'd always snap back, "Well you didn't. I did."
They couldn't have written it. Because they'd also wonder: “So, how long’d it take to write HOW TO FAIL?” When they found the answer was several years of intense effort, you could see the look of fear and self-doubt and mercy in their eyes. They would never do that work. Too much Resistance to overcome. Too much lack of immediate gratification. Too unreasonable to write that long with no road map laid out, with no potential reward.
I know other writers, good writers, that just can't quite finish things. They have 90% of a manuscript, 95% of a screenplay, but they're frozen with an inability to complete the work. It's not perfect. It's not good enough. It could suck. It could flop. It's not "ready." What does that even mean? It's means The Resistance is defeating them. It means they are being too rational. "Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego," says Pressfield.
It's too easy to think how utterly ridiculous it is to write a novel or make a movie or start a company or even get six-pack abs. No one you know does these things so you become an outlier amongst your friends and family for even attempting them. You become a source of mockery even for having such outlandish dreams.
Thus, we are forced to become unconscious in our own work if we have these unreasonable dreams. "Let the unconscious do its work," say Pressfield. I do this through irrational confidence in the future success of my work. And by drinking. No better way to release the unconscious, to be irrational, to silence The Resistance in me than by popping a few beers or nursing a few glasses of bourbon.
(Yeah, I know this is unorthodox thinking, I doubt the fine Mr. Pressfield endorses it, but it works for me, and I've written two more books than 99% of you.)
Pressfield wants to encourage us to release this "second self, an unlived you" from inside of us. The second self that wants to write books, make movies, etc. but keeps convincing himself otherwise for the most silly and rational reasons.
"Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur's indispensable allies." Again, drinking helps get that ignorance and arrogance released, just like the sauced lout hitting on every pretty thing at the bar, thinking he's as suave as George Clooney.
"Don't think. Act." Drink some more. "Get your idea down on paper. You can always tweak it later." Drink. Then start writing.
Be impetuous. Drink. Quit having an inner critic that judges you, that prevents you from doing things. Drink. And become impervious to it all.
Work isn't pretty. Writing and creating art is just as primitive as hoeing fields. Pressfield says it's "better to be primitive than sophisticated, and better to be stupid than smart." Drink, drink, drink and you'll be pretty damn primitive and stupid eventually. Pressfield uses the indelible image of a women giving birth:
"The hospital room may be spotless and sterile, but birth itself will always take place amid chaos, pain, and blood."
To produce work we have to get dirty, we have to have this killer instinct, focusing only on the work at hand and the joy in creating it, and ignoring every inner and outer voice of resistance around us. "The War of Art" laid the ground work for tackling Resistance, "Do the Work" gives you the road-map. And, I'd add, a few drinks will give you the courage to slay the dragon of Resistance.
"Do the Work" is free on Kindle until May 20 so I'd pick that up now, but I'd also grab "The War of Art." I think that's a better overall book and a better place to start conquering The Resistance. Both these books could be knocked off over this weekend (perhaps while having a few drinks). No better time to start than the present. Then, on Monday, you can begin doing your own work.
Tomorrow: How to Fail at Conquering Resistance