The War of Art is written by the same author who penned the classic Gates of Fire and it’s aimed at writers, musicians, painters, etc. who can’t seem to sit down and do the work. The funny thing about this book is that it doesn’t give you a magic formula or tells you what to do in order to get out of your blockage and stop procrastinating, but rather studies the issue in itself. What is this blockage? Why do people procrastinate? The author terms it ‘Resistance’.
What I learned from this book is that Resistance is always present whenever something is difficult to do. It’s present because we, as humans, are wired to be afraid. We get mixed up thinking the benefits our work can yield, and before even setting out on the journey, we’re scared of failing or not reaching our full potential or a hundred other issues. What we should really focus on, the author explains, is the work in itself. The work is fueled by the relationship between the artist and the muse.
Bottom line is that art is not for ourselves. It’s meant to be shared, experienced, liked and disliked, judged and praised. It’s for the people. We, as artists, work for others, not four ourselves. Our wish is to connect, but at the same time, we can’t think about others while working on our art, because what we make must be pure, it must come from the heart, from the muse, from inspiration, from deep within ourselves. And we can’t go deep within ourselves while thinking about the opinions of others.
The key message of this book for me (someone who is writing again after a year and a half of not putting pen to paper), is that art is work. Period. If you don’t sit down and challenge yourself regularly you’ll get nowhere, and the muse won’t even give you a second look. Art is about the expenditure and recycling of creative energy, which basically means no pain, no gain.
In my case, it also meant putting beside other projects to focus on writing. I have a day job that I have to be at from 8am-5pm that I happen to like, something I feel blessed and lucky about. I was thinking of undergoing Yoga Teacher Training but decided to put it on hold because I won’t have the energy to consistently write, work out, practice yoga personally, be a good lawyer, cook & take care of my household, yoga teacher train and get a good night’s sleep. And even if it were possible, I don’t want my life to be that hectic. I need moments to slow down, moments of inner reflection where I can reconnect with myself and re-charge.
I’ve also had to make other sacrifices, like deciding not to paddle competitively in this year’s Ocean to Ocean Cayuco Race, even though I really loved participating last season. There’s a set number of hours to the day and I need to distribute them wisely so I continuously achieve steady, solid progress in the prioritized areas of my life. So I made a schedule. Every weekday morning I would wake up at 4am, write until 6am, pray, work out and/or do yoga, make breakfast for my husband and me and then go to work. I tried out this schedule for a week and found that for the first time in a long while, I found a routine that suited me.
I wake up early to get the hardest things (writing and working out) done first and then go to work refreshed because of the exercise and ready to face the challenges of my work place. At the end of the day I’m drained of energy and exhausted, but that’s okay because I get to chill. I did everything that I had to do. Most importantly, I wrote. I sat down and did the work. By 8:30 or 9pm I go to bed reminding myself not to underestimate the struggle it can be to get up early again the next morning. Never underestimate Resistance. Difficult things to do aren’t easy. But they’re worth it.
And that’s what I take from this book 🙂