The War of Art
Paracelsus is a contributor to The New Modern Man.
I’ve just sat down to write, “The Muse” has just struck me. Personally, I’m not much for a set schedule as Steven Pressfield describes in his book – The War of Art – which this article is named after. I’ve always been more manic, if a good idea comes along get it out however I can type. Right now “it” happens to take the form of writing, but in the past it has been everything from painting to playing numerous musical instruments. In my mind I was going to become the next Trent Reznor, but I just ended up being a fucking stellar dilettante. But, as I sit here listening to The War of Art, I reluctantly admit Pressfield makes a damn good case for staying on a single pursuit until it finally pays off.
Chances are if you’ve ever met me in person you have endured one of my famous tirades about what I’m currently researching. For years my modus operandi has been to obsessively dig into whatever topic has caught my attention – only to abruptly stop once I find my new raison d’être. In fact there are really only two things I’ve ever stuck with for the long haul. Those two things are weight lifting and reading. Although I don’t lift every single day I still think about lifting every single day. But reading, I can’t not do it every single day, every single day I have to learn something. It would be painful not to discover insight I’ve never possessed and potentially revelatory. However, there is a catch.
Throughout history voracious readers have often been praised as the very reincarnation of Thoth himself, but this praise isn’t always justly due. The voracious reader and devotee of Pythagoras isn’t Pythagoras. While you can be deeply moved by a philosopher or writer, you still lack their unique style. For a while I got onto a serious fiction reading kick and consumed as much as I possibly could from these writers:
H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jim Thompson, Cormac McCarthy, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and last but not least – my favorite author- Carlos Castaneda.
The last author on this list is shrouded in intense controversy about what column his work should actually go in. I don’t personally care which, because to me that rascal Dõn Carlos was one hell of a writer and his books are the greatest literary influence on my life. Yet as a writer I’ll never be able to write like Castaneda or Lovecraft, or any other writer named on that list. God knows I’ve tried writing fiction, just none of it has been any good. My point is, reading alone just gives you better ideas, you are responsible for applying them.
This is the heart of The War of Art, the fact that creativity is first and foremost a labor. Although it is a labor of love, it is a laborious process that tests you and your ability to persist in the face of intense resistance. Now that I’m regularly putting pen to paper I can attest to the fact that I am engaging in intense mental labor. And labor though this may be, I fucking love it.
As for my “process,” I am and always will be a pen and paper kind of guy, every single word you read has been written in cursive and typed up. It is an arduous process, but it is one that doesn’t lead to the litany of distractions typing on a computer lends itself to. On my blog I’ve written at length about the seductive nature of internet porn, but, I never addressed the internet itself. One minute you have the resolve to sit down and type 50 pages, the next minute you are watching the new GT2 RS set a Nordschleife record on YouTube. This is why I am a proponent of the highly atavistic pen and paper. You are faced with a blank piece of paper and the call to create something compelling worth reading.
This war of art is a war worth fighting. Creating something unique is a exceptional talent, and it doesn’t matter the form or the inherent reason why you are doing it. You can strike up a conversation with any stranger and the de rigueur question will always be asked at a certain point – “what do you do?” Deep down you know that it is merely a perfunctory gesture because most people hate their jobs. But the minute you commit to a creative profession you find a sense of joy with your answer to that question.
I’m a writer, and I’ve had to work alot of shitty jobs to get here, and I fucking love it. I don’t have to pretend I work at a prestigious company or that I have prestigious credentials and letters from an equally prestigious institution. Sometimes I write pure drivel and un-adulterated bullshit and my internal editor throws it in the trash. But that judgment rests with me on what goes to print.
I’ll leave you with this, if you’ve got something unique to contribute, put it out there. You’ve already got plenty of skin in the game. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and today isn’t over just yet. I once had a painting instructor shit all over a piece that I was working on and happened to love. Turns out he was going through a nasty divorce and was spending most of the time out in the hallway arguing on the phone with his soon to be ex-wife. He was an arrogant East Coast artist type teaching beginning painting at a community college and his opinion meant fuck all to me. There are always going to be critics.
You only need to meet your standards, so beat your internal critic every single day. Beat you resistance to create and get to fucking work!
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