After an introduction to Steven Pressfield’s work at the March NCWA meeting (thank you Caleb Breakey), I purchased The War of Art and Do the Work and finished reading them today. I vacillate between thumbs-up and thumbs-down for these landmark books describing what inhibits creativity and productivity. On the one hand, Mr. Pressfield gives simple but revolutionary advice for overcoming self-doubt, discouragement, and fear. On the other hand, he subscribes to an esoteric spiritual mojo and a superstitious practice of praying to his Muse before he begins to write each day. He says to write, reflect on what you’ve written, and then write some more; to never inhibit the flow of ideas by reflecting while writing. He also dismisses Christian fundamentalism as a “philosophy of the powerless” and as ascending “from the landscape of despair.” Can you see why my thumbs are exhausted? Oh well, the only fully endorsable book is the Bible and those aren’t that. (Awkwardly worded, but you understand my meaning.)
Nevertheless, his words prompted me to rethink a writing project I attempted a while back. I met with some resistance and immediately gave up, blaming my failure on others and on timing and the appropriateness of the topic. Ironically, I felt embarrassed about not following through with what I had announced I would do and eventually wrote a blog post about the experience. Pressfield writes about the importance of finishing and shipping the project—that point of no return when you click send, or even worse publish. Today I realized that I had considered that blog post as a place-holder for something grander, that my show-stopping manuscript about that topic was yet to come. But no, I had shipped that project. I accomplished that goal. It is time to move forward. Yay for me!
I’ve decided to follow the advice given in the closing paragraphs of Do the Work to “start before you’re ready.” So . . . I will start writing my novel or biography or autobiography tomorrow. I don’t know what it’s going to be about yet, but I trust that as I write, my thoughts will coalesce into something profound, at least to me. And even though I’m the only one who may see it, it will be worth the effort.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Jack London