It’s been a crazy week in the world, with earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding. Take the chaos in the world, add in the stress of our personal lives, and it can be hard to settle down and write. Today’s tip is the last in our summer series on favorite writing books. It addresses the age-old problem of getting over our doubts and to the page. I’m grateful to guest author Tammie Edington Shaw for writing this tip about Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art.
Enjoy! —Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach
The War of Art: A Reflection By Tammie Edington Shaw
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a small book of only 160 pages or so. Although it may be short on words, it is full of advice and wisdom.
It is not a book about the specifics of writing (apostrophe here, quote there), but how to beat that inner enemy that gives you all the reasons to not write.
Pressfield believes that the main thing that keeps us from writing is Resistance. It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
He divides the book in thirds:
Book One – Resistance (Defining the Enemy)
Book Two – Combating Resistance (Turning Pro)
Book Three – Beyond Resistance (The Higher Realm)
Throughout Book One you will find each division or chapter hardly more than a page long, with titles such as: Resistance is Internal, Resistance is Universal (this chapter has two sentences), Resistance is Fueled by Fear, Resistance and Criticism.
In Book Two, Pressfield talks about the difference between a professional and an amateur. The professional does his work, just as those of you who go to a day job, he says: We show up every day. We show up no matter what. We stay on the job all day.
He reminds us of Somerset Maugham who said: by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he (the writer) sets in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration (p. 64).
Then in Book Three, Pressfield writes about getting through the Resistance, about what inspires us, what keeps us going, and FEAR. He says the greatest fear is: Fear that we will succeed (p. 143).
At the end he leaves us with this thought: If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony . . . and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself . . . You hurt your children. Your hurt me. Your hurt the planet (p. 165).
I need to remind myself of these things more than I like to admit, and so I pull the book off the shelf and do just that. Keep fighting the war and sit down.
Your turn: What helps you to sit and face the blank page each day?
About the Author: Tammie Edington Shaw is a freelance writer, is on the staff of the Write-to-Publish Conference, and works part-time at her local public library. She has been a weekly newspaper editor and a product coordinator for David C. Cook Publishing Company. You can find her at www.tamedingtonshaw.blogspot.com.