A long time ago, in the forward I believe, I read something in “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which seemed odd to me at the time. Napoleon Hill suggested that in order to get everything out of the book that was in there you needed to read it again and again.
Now, at that time I guffawed at this notion, to think that book, a seminal self-help book at that, needed multiple readings to get out the necessary information was appalling; however, I was wrong.
Some books you only need to read once. Others, obviously, need second, or even third viewings. Then, there are those outliers that strike a chord with you and need further study.
Stephen Pressfield is an author I come back to again, and again. There are very few authors on the list of writers that I have read, reread, and reread their books: Herman Hesse, Neil Gaiman, Conan Doyle, Ian Flemming, Trevananian, and a litany of nonfiction authors such as Pressfield.
In the War of Art, Pressfield tackles succinctly the battle that all creatives go through. It was refreshing to understand that I was not alone, that every artist struggles to create at times. Sometimes it flows like rain, others it's clogged like the toilet at Chipotle (my words not his).
His key phrase, “The Resistance” reflected my own struggles with ego. We do not conquer Resistance, we face it every day. The more we repeat this battle, the more familiar we become with our procrastination demons, the better we are at facing them in battle and overcoming them.
There are no fearless warriors. We all get nervous. We all “throw up” before the big game. Bill Russell, Henry Fonda, and countless other performers of the highest order all chucked before they stepped on stage.
Yes, there are moments when we know we are exactly where we need to be whether it’s in front of an audience, a camera, or behind a keyboard; however, there are even more moments when imposter syndrome sets in and we feel like the taste police will come and arrest us for fraud.
Fear is a part of life for the artist. The Pro understands this and they learn to conquer their fears, the amateur hides behind status and seeks to protect themselves from criticism, waiting to overcome fear. Fear is never overcome, it is faced.
In that idea of facing your fears is the idea of doing the work. Pros seek to create systems, amateurs focus on results. The legendary coach John Wooden, the winningest coach of all time until Nick Saban lands a few more top recruiting classes that is, laid the foundation for this motif.
There is no way around the work. You can’t shortcut experience. The best way to become a writer, is to write. You are an actor is you perform, and the only way to do this is to do this. There are no shortcuts, we must do the work.
The most important step an artist can take is showing up and doing the work. Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth, and amateurs will plan their dreams until the moment passes, ever afraid to get punched in the face. Trigger Warning: You can’t avoid getting punched in the face. This life, this career path, this job will beat you down again, and again, or as Big Magic author Elizabeth Gilbert calls it, “You got to decide what kind of shit sandwich you want to eat.”
Finally, the artist shows up, every day. Kobe Bryant was perhaps the greatest artist to ever play basketball. The way he expressed himself on the court was like a jazz musician or a painter, only his canvas was the court. Kobe was tenacious, he showed up every day to work on his game.
Like Jordan before him, Kobe wasn’t the biggest or the fastest. He wasn’t even the key baller on the court when he arrived in L.A. What was different, was his work ethic.
Seinfeld expressed a similar notion with his now infamous calendar approach: the comedian kept a calendar next to his door, and every day he wrote a joke he would cross it out with an “X.” The idea was to never break the chain. Want to be a comedian? You need to write more jokes. Want to be better than every other baller on the court? You got to show up.
Tom Brady, Steph Curry, and numerous other athletes know this. They can see the game and there is a team of trainers paid to help expand their talent 1 to 2 percent a year.
As an artist, you have to create a system for yourself that offers the same ideas. Show up to work every day. Set a clock by it.
“I write only when inspiration strikes,” writes Pressfield, “fortunately inspiration strikes every morning at 9 o’clock sharp.”
The muse only visits those who prove their worth. Inspiration moves on when you miss your appointments.
Do you love your passion enough to be a pro? Do you love creating enough to share it with the world? Are you willing to show up day in and day out?
That’s what it takes to win the war of art. Not talent, not luck, but persistence. If life is going to stick it to you every day, then you damn well be ready to get back up.
Brock D. Vickers
This is the beginning of a new part of life: a habit: an idea: a routine to dig at what makes a man great.