Can Art Be War?

A dear friend questioned Steven Pressfield‘s anthropomorphism of Resistance, the mental and emotional pushback we feel when we dare greatly, equating it with fear and wondering whether Steve’s focus might not be ill-conceived or misdirected. Here’s my answer:

Ah, Resistance and fear. Yes, of course, it’s fear. Thing is, most of us never look fear in the eye. It is a vague shape in the dark, which means obviously it’s a monster come to eat us.

I don’t accept that all things in the natural world are good, or healthy. Some things should be fought against. If I don’t remove the weeds and bug and animal pests from my garden, I don’t have as much food. If I don’t fight off some of the bugs within my body I have illness. If I don’t quash certain thoughts, I don’t have mental health.

You have a slightly different perspective from most people I’ve met because you are way way to the right on the “comfortable in your own skin” bell curve. Don’t assume that others can now, or ever, reach that level. I, for one, must constantly question my assumptions and thoughts and actions because I grew up with a load of nonsense in my head about self-worth, the value of work, the value of dreaming, the value of art, the value of money, on and on and on.

An aside: Steve P does not want to be a guru. Refuses the mantle. But he can’t stop helping people ’cause he’s a nice guy. Though try to get him to come speak at your event, fergit it. But people need a Messiah or they don’t know how to find the path. Some of us, though, can look at what Steve or Seth or whoever noticed, notice the same thing, find my own takeaway, and go on to the next thing.

Back to Resistance: We all have things we need to fight, for lack of a better word, every day. Physical health requires abstinence from some things, persistence in others. Mental health. Spiritual health. Avoid some, insist on others.

Our natural state is entropy, not growth. We tend toward being angry selfish lumps on the couch in front of reality TV. It is imperfect human nature, and it is not possible to go the other direction without work. Should we call it “work” or “effort” instead of “fight” or “war”? Okay. It’s terminology. But a spiritual writer I respect more than any person alive today, the apostle Paul, wrote about a “war in his members.” He knew what war and death were, coming from a violent persecutor’s background. He also knew peace, kindness, unselfish principled love, and spent his life until a martyr’s death teaching it and living it. So, if “war” works for him, I don’t argue it.

Am I even coming close to addressing your discomfort with “the war of art” as a term, a concept, whatever? Because I find your question fascinating and well worth discussing.

I highly recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

“There are only two possible dialog tags,” he said.

quotesPicture the scene:

You and a friend are having lunch by the water. Their phone rings. They chat for a moment, hang up, and turn to you and tell you it was Bob.

If you’re nosy, you ask a question.

“What did he . . . ” What?

Aver? Shout? Insist? Snarl?

… more … ““There are only two possible dialog tags,” he said.”

Wine into Water?

wine into waterAs writers, I hope you’re getting some of your marketing savvy from The Story of Telling. Not only is Bernadette brilliant, it’s the most writerly marketing description I know.

In her latest post she writes that “the customers you keep are not just choosing you—you are also choosing them. The fact that you make this choice means you get to do your best work and not the watered down version for people who might care some day.”

I co-authored a book with Rick Wilson called Hits or Niches. The diagram below outlines our shared perspective on why marketing should always aim at a niche and never aim at becoming a hit.

… more … “Wine into Water?”

Eyes Open

The oak tree keeps its dead leaves through winter, dropping them in spring. Its dark trunk slides through the bronze leaves, gilded by the sunset over the frozen snow-covered lake.

The healing burn on my hand looks horrific now, but at its most painful it simply looked like a large blister.

When I look through the glass of the patio door at this angle, it is so wavy from age that objects beyond it, trees, mostly, seem to move as I adjust position in my office chair.

There’s almost no difference between the ATV tracks in the snow and those you’d see in sand.

As the sun sets, shining slightly in my eyes, the house looks darker by contrast, when in fact it is lighter than at any other time of day.

The knots holding the dining room chair cushions in place are never even; one always off to the side or listing somewhat to port.

snow fence
… more … “Eyes Open”

A Cliché is Worth a Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Diagrams and illustrations make instruction manuals easier to follow.

Gestures can make speech more easily understood.

Metaphors convey ideas it would take paragraphs of words to match.

Shorthand communication. If there’s a quick and easy way to get the picture, feelings, from my mind to yours, it’s my job, even obligation, as a writer, to use the most effective method.

Clichés are shorthand, just as images are.

And both require judicious use.

the bus you just missed … more … “A Cliché is Worth a Thousand Words”

Forget Rules, Follow Principles

http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1209888 http://www.freeimages.com/photo/936476 http://www.freeimages.com/photo/787898Split infinitives.

“That” vs. “which.”

Punctuation inside or outside the quotes or parentheses?

One space or two after a period?

Rules regarding writing are nearly infinite. The Chicago Manual of Style outweighs my youngest child (and, perhaps, my first car.)

Rules are important.

Except when they’re not.

And that’s why principles trump rules.

If you are writing a technical manual, legislation, or medical procedures, you should adhere strictly to the rules.

If you’re writing for your own fans, your chosen audience, it’s far more important to consistently follow a set of principles. … more … “Forget Rules, Follow Principles”

Is There a Market for ‘Clean’ Books?

In the two days chatting with Alex Zabala y’all commented more on language than sales. Interesting perspective into my readership.

what do readers want?He and I, like some of you, choose not to use certain words. I’ll not get into the “they’re just words!” discussion just now. I’m more interested in what makes good writing, and, slightly less important, what sells.

Can you sell a book without profanity in it? Obviously you can. Alex Zabala’s Treasure of the Mayan King has sold 6,000 copies.

Does avoiding (or including) profanity in your book widen your market, narrow it, redefine it? Or is it immaterial?

That’s a question for readers, not writers.

Since all writers are readers, let’s chat.

… more … “Is There a Market for ‘Clean’ Books?”

The Language of Young Adult Fiction (Guest Post by Cheryl Campbell)

Say hello again to Cheryl Campbell, YA author with an unusual perspective I admire.

Burnt Mountain The Monster Within was born from an idea that I wanted to try to write a story that my niece (at the time 5 years old) and nephew (at the time 3 years old) might enjoy as teenagers. I figured this would give me plenty of time to come up with something, and plenty of time to figure out how to get it done. I had never written a book before and had zero clue about how to do it. So I sat down, jotted some notes, typed a few pages, and kept chipping away at it. Many revisions later it started to take on some shape.

As I kept going, the shape became more recognizable as a story. I was watching movies and reading a lot to figure out what made the stories that I loved so great. Lord of the Rings, both the books and the movies were key factors in my research. Star Wars also ranked at the top. What I loved so much about them was the way they crossed all age groups. Anyone, any age could get in to see Star Wars. No profanity. No sex. No graphic violence. Both franchises had movies with some violence, but none of them were rated R.

… more … “The Language of Young Adult Fiction (Guest Post by Cheryl Campbell)”

It’s Just a Song (Not an Autobiography)

Listening to David Gray while we made pancakes together I found myself wondering about some of the things he believes.

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/951615 by ilco http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ilcoWhich makes no sense because I know writers of all kinds have their characters or the voice of their song saying or doing things that aren’t necessarily aligned with their core beliefs. While Web Martin and Jake Calcutta are more like me than they ought to be, I know I’ve written things in my songs that aren’t beliefs I put into practice every day. In fact, the more I allow myself to put words in my character’s mouths or express opinions in my songs which aren’t my own, the more depth and breadth my writing will take on and possibly the more I will understand people who think and feel and say those things.

… more … “It’s Just a Song (Not an Autobiography)”

Meta-Limerick

For 7 years I participated in February Album Writing Month. Short version: a bunch of loonies (over 10,000 last year) get together online and write a whole album of music.

limerickEach.

That’s 14 songs in 28 days. It’s crazy.

So crazy that the forums are filled with thousands of songwriters talking about it. As if writing 14 songs in 28 days wasn’t busy enough.

Eventually the FAWMku tradition arose. (February Album Writing Month = FAWM = the prefix for everything about the event.) Someone always started a forum thread with haiku about songwriting.

And every year, … more … “Meta-Limerick”