Years ago, my friend Ashish introduced me to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, which opened my eyes to the common struggle that creative overthinkers like myself face every frickin’ day. I keep a spare copy on my bookshelf for times of creative crisis, when doubt is bombarding our position from all sides, like an extra magazine of ammunition. Because, as Pressfield will tell you, being creative is war and your enemy is malevolent manifestation of resistance that actively seeks to tear you down. In terms of creative endeavor, I’m but an amateur ghost namer and demon hunter; Pressfield has written the canonical book on the subject, as far as I’m concerned. Colleen Wainwright has a spiffy review of the book, if you need more convincing.
Pressfield’s recent book, Do the Work, launched in mid-April this year. It’s a brief manifesto on the same themes of Resistance, and it’s one of the most enlightening and inspiring pieces of writing I’ve come across. It’s not only a dramatic envisioning of what you are facing as an artist, it’s also a practical preview of all the hell you are going to go through to overcome all the terror and doubt that is going to come beating you down until you are defeated. This is a 100% certainty. But then, you’re going to get up and you will beat back the Resistance. In an odd way, Do the Work reminded me of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a fable about your “personal legend” dusted with the glimmer of 1001 Arabian Nights. If you think of The Alchemist as a wonderful song from your childhood, Do The Work is like a bubble-bursting episode of Behind the Music, documenting the brutal struggle that killed half the band before they soared. Except it’s about you. You won’t be able to look away…your destiny is blood and pain, but your creative future doesn’t end with that. It will begin when you beat Resistance for the first time.
Highly recommended. If you have a Kindle, you can even get the book for free through a sponsorship from General Electric; just click on over to the book’s Amazon page. Colleen Wainwright has a more in-depth review of the book here that I would be remiss to not acknowledge.