The War of Art, Part 3: Invoking Your Muse


I’ve given you excerpts from Steven Pressfield’s cut-through-the-crap-and-get-busy book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles over the past few weeks.  Today, I leave you with a final installment, and I hope that you will run your little fingers over to your favorite book-purchasing website and pick it up for yourselves.  The few bits that I have shared are only a snippet of the wealth of insight and the injection of courage that awaits you in this awesome book.

Approaching the Mystery

Why have I stressed professionalism so heavily in the preceding chapters?  Because the most important thing about art is to work.  Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Why is this so important?

Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen.  A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid.  Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t.  When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us.  The Muse takes note of our dedication.  She approves.  We have earned favor in her sight.  When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings.  Ideas come.  Insights accrete.

Just as Resistance has its seat in hell, so Creation has its home in heaven.  And it’s not just a witness, but an eager and active ally.

What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist’s Code or the Warrior’s Way.  It’s an attitude of egolessness and service.  The Knights of the Round Table were chaste and self-effacing.  Yet they dueled dragons.

We’re facing dragons too.  Fire-breathing griffins of the soul, whom we must outfight and outwit to reach the treasure of our self-in-potential and to release the maiden who is God’s plan and destiny for ourselves and the answer to why we were put on this planet.

The creative life is a struggle… Pressfield calls it “duel[ing] dragons”!  It also feels kind of superfluous sometimes. The hours it can take to create can seem silly, unessential, wasteful even.  Why spend precious time and energy working on something that doesn’t even exist?  When we work to create something, we are literally bringing something into existence.  This is a grand aspiration… but the laundry needs to be done, dinner needs to be cooked, at some point you will have to shower and dress yourself (and your kids if you have any)… Why is it important to spend time creating?  Pressfield’s answer is this…

The Artist’s Life

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace?  In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way.  If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself.  You hurt your children.  You hurt me.  You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s the gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.

What have you been allowing Resistance to convince you that you can’t do?  It’s interesting, but just in the revisiting of this book for the purposes of sharing it with you, I’ve been thinking more and more about some big things in my life that I’ve been allowing Resistance to convince me that I’m not capable of.  I think it’s time to turn Pro and kick Resistance in the butt!  (Even as I say that, I feel Resistance’s grip tightening… It’s gonna be a struggle.)

Tanya Barber

Tanya Barber has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and a Master’s in Theater History. She currently lives in Kansas City, Missouri but is anticipating a move to Seattle in the near future. Check out her blog to find out more.

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  1. #1 by chemicalmarriage on December 2, 2010 - 9:03 am

    What you have here is true. I have been forcing myself to make something everyday for almost a year now, known as the Dailys Project. It has been a test; it has been work; it has been heaven sent, and also dragged along hells rocky bottom.

    But you are correct; simply forcing yourself to sit down and physically begin to create gets powerful engines within your psyche moving and churning; even if you don’t feel inspired. By training yourself this way, the gap between thought and actual physical reality begins to close.

    I found you can’t always start with feeling. Sometimes you just got to dive in, chaotic and confused, and then when your done step back and say “Wow” along with the rest of the world.

    Thanks for posting this.
    ~A

  2. #2 by Becca J. Campbell on December 2, 2010 - 10:13 am

    A –
    I’ve found the same thing, too. And it’s amazing what you can get done when you sit down and actually just *work* instead of waiting for something magical to hit. I can’t afford to wait.

    Thanks for your comment!

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