I’m leaving later today to attend a week-long writing retreat with Jen Louden (in Taos, New Mexico, squee!)
Writing that sentence immediately sparks fear, anxiety, and excitement in me … a flutter just below my sternum that is probably the reason I haven’t slept more than about six hours a night (WAY TOO LITTLE for me) for the last week.
It stirs up feelings of not-good-enough, of ‘who the hell do you think you are, Liz?’ … of just general Resistance-with-a-capital-R.
So for the last two days, I’ve stuck my nose inside Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
The cover promises that it’s “a kick in the ass” (at least, according to Esquire), and my bottom does feel sufficiently (metaphorically) kicked after having finished it last night.
I don’t want to editorialize TOO much right now, because — well, I’m already feeling anxious enough. But I *DO* want to share some of my favorite quotes from the book. If you don’t have time to read the book yourself (although it reads super quickly), perhaps these small nuggets will help your bottom feel sufficiently booted into action.
“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.” — p. 9 I’ve certainly found this to be true; in fact, all of the feelings I’m feeling right now are efforts by this force to keep me from sitting down in a room in New Mexico tomorrow and Do My Work.
Even just typing the word “my” in that last sentence felt imposter-y.
“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” — p. 12 …. UM, ALL THE YES.
“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.” — p. 40 Apparently, my fear is helpful, even though it’s stealing restful sleep.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.” — W.H. Murray, quoted on p. 122 Ok, honestly, that paragraph took my breath away. Begin. It. Now.
“We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be. … Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” — p. 146 What I love about this sentiment is that it points out a fallacy so many of us are told to believe as children — namely, that we can do anything we want with our lives. But it’s simply not true! I could not have become an Olympic-medaling gymnast, because I don’t have the genetic talents to do that. No amount of grit or hard work was going to make me a Hollywood star. The fact is, we have certain gifts, and that’s OKAY! I don’t have to be awesome at everything I try, because then how would I know what I will become?
In truth, I love this sense that Pressfield gives… that underneath the layers of fear and self-doubt and capital-R Resistance, there lies a core of talent and inspiration and creativity that just waits for us to peel back our layers enough for it to come out and play. To shine. To be.
“Remember, as artists we don’t know diddly. We’re winging it every day. For us to try to second-guess our Muse the way a hack second-guesses his audience is condescension to heaven. It’s blasphemy and sacrilege.” — pp. 156-157 Pressfield thinks of the Muse as the divine gifts from the universe/God/gods. While his language sometimes veers a bit more religious than I’d prefer, I think this particular passage speaks to me because it makes clear that we aren’t supposed to feel like we’ve got it all figured out. We’re just meant to show up, consistently, and let the magic of creativity guide us. I LOVE THIS.
“If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?” — p. 158 This is a test to know whether you’re pursuing something creative and divine, versus self-serving or attention-seeking. If nobody else was here to witness you pursuing your craft, your creativity, would you do it anyway?
I think I would.
Last one (for the book, and for me): “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” — p. 165
Or as my friend Julie just texted me: “You have such important things to help other people know. Don’t squirrel away that wisdom, don’t you dare!”
So, friends, off I go!