Friday, November 7, 2008

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

So if you want to feel like a real wuss, take this book in. He blasts every excuse in the universe for not doing what you love, and you feel this stirring of nausea in your gut for being duped--mostly by yourself. And you can wonder how you ever managed to get anything accomplished when all the resistance out there (and in there) is stacked against you. The danger of reading it is that you will be inspired to make a lot of resolutions, even if it is not January first, and then utterly and in a most humiliating fashion... fail. But hardly anyone succeeds without failing a little bit, and my guess is those who succeed without failure have still not challenged their deepest skills and desires.

The anguish of my life is that there is so much to do and I will have to make choices, eliminating some things I love to nourish other things that I might love more. How to make the choice when you want it all? Right now, I love teaching. I feel most alive teaching. And I dread the possibility that hearing impairment may force me to abandon the classroom for a new challenge that must be begun at the beginning.

I cringe at that raw nakedness felt as a novice making mistakes that ace players snicker at beyond your supposed notice before offering a benign piece of trite advice with a straight face. Or the kindly meant but debilitating encouragement from a self-titled "genius" of the trade who suggests you just don't have it and to give it up. Or the fear that you are called into a vocation of failure because there is a need and you are the only one to hear the call to stand fast as a nobody for the sake of everybody--like the guy who takes the bullet and sinks into oblivion so that the hero can save the day.

And an even worse self-revelation than finding out you might be called to be a nobody is the realization that you are one and like it, because you are too cowardly to be otherwise. That you chose to not succeed, to not try too hard, to hide in the safeness of mediocrity because the bullets aren't flying there. You curl up into self-imposed hibernation and hope that when you are inconveniently awakened from your stupor the war will be over, but all the heroes will be dead.

Awake, my soul, and sing. Be not afraid. Be not cautious. Be heedless of the danger. Be free to be.


E. W. Lynch said...

Everyone I know has now, at some point told me I should read this book. Some people have brought it to my attention because they think it will interest me, and others because they are interested in knowing what I would think of it. I should probably just read it(I do hear that it is short).

That aside, I hear you. Art is often a painful experience of self doubt and harsh criticism, with just enough silver linings to keep you going. You don't necessarily get there, but you see them in the distance and they keep you chasing new horizons.

Eventually you turn around and realize that you've come a long way, chasing those horizons, and they're still as far away as ever.

Lisa said...

I think it is the purest form of a love/hate relationship with in an interest.