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.

How My Writing Process Saved the Day, and How it Can Save Yours

More about planning and process: a guest post over at Bane of Your Resistance. Drop by and say hello, and watch for details about the process (new and improved over my previous version, I might add) in next week’s guest post.

Let’s Build a House! (Why Planning will Make Your Writing Life Better)

Fair warning: if you are committed to the spontaneous pantsing version of writing, please don’t read this. You won’t benefit, I won’t benefit. If you’re open to having assumptions challenged, read on. To the end. Don’t read the first 80% and quit or you won’t get the point.

What is a House?

Though wildly different around the world, all houses share certain characteristics. Let’s explore the ins and outs.

  1. Roof — Without a covering, it’s a yard, not a house.
  2. Floor — It may be dirt, but it’s not water or air. If your residents are standing in a pool up to their waist, or swinging in hammocks 30′ aboveground, you’ve built something other than a house.
  3. Privacy — Roof but no walls = carport or equivalent.
  4. Toilet — Yes, in some parts of the world this is not inside the house. If you live in one of those places, you may dispute this requirement.
  5. Services — Electricity. Running water. Drains. See above note for quibbles.
  6. Egress — Without a door suitable for us humans to enter through, it’s not a house, it’s something else.
  7. Lighting — Even if it’s windows and skylights, there’s a way for light to come in.

You may dispute any of these if you choose to live in the house yourself.

If you plan to sell the house, or even sell time using the house (called “renting”) I defy you to leave any of these out and still succeed.

build-a-house
… more … “Let’s Build a House! (Why Planning will Make Your Writing Life Better)”

Macabre Dance with Your Unconscious

Have you ever done something, or thought something, you’re ashamed of?

Uncomfortable as it is, dredge up that memory. We’ll be using it for today’s exercise.

The purpose of our experiment is to demonstrate the effect on our conscious when we try to write something our unconscious doesn’t want written.

Find a place you feel safe. Sit by the fire, if you can, or if that’s not possible, have a shredder under your desk. You’ll want access to methods of rapid complete destruction.

Are you sitting uncomfortably? Good. Let’s begin.

this is where the wicked writing goes

… more … “Macabre Dance with Your Unconscious”

Guest Post at ‘Bane of Your Resistance’

I made a comment at Rosanne Bane’s blog about letting go of what others thought so I could create better art.

She asked if I’d write a post on the concept.

I did, and it’s live over at Bane of Your Resistance.

Writers and Their Emotions

I’m going for a 60s health-ed movie feel in the title, in case you missed it.

sunriseWriting without emotion is pointless. If you don’t move your readers to feel something, you accomplish nothing. Even with non-fiction, teaching a topic requires moving your readers to care enough to latch on.

With fiction, emotion is everything.

It’s no wonder, then, that we fiction writers are a moody lot.

I have days of euphoria. I also have days in the doldrums. (Like when we have the rare phenomenon of 10 gloomy days straight here in the frozen north.)

A dear friend commented this morning that they were feeling down about their writing.

Steven Pressfield posted about the pure unadulterated panic induced by the research for his latest book.

It’s gonna happen. … more … “Writers and Their Emotions”

Limits Are Not Limitations

hit the wallAfter 7,000 miles, a good chunk of it in a single week, I am spent. (I realize all my posts lately seem to be “life lessons from Joel’s traveling and how it affects his work” and now that we’re settled, er, settling, watch for real life genuine content again soon.)

(Aw, this is real live genuine content. It applies to your art and mine. Just watch.)

I finished the text for one book. Editing is in progress, but slowly.

Sue’s business life changed significantly for the better, opening new possibilities for us. Still, it’s change. Even good stress is stress. Try having a child. Most glorious event in human life. Also on the short list of most taxing, physically and emotionally.

Am I behind on this, that, and the other thing? Yup.

Am I frustrated about it? Nope.

… more … “Limits Are Not Limitations”

The Clash at the 23rd Mile

and the winner isMarathon runners hit a wall of physical failure near the end of the race. The will may be strong, but the human body has limits, and one of them arises at about 23 miles of constant forward movement. Issues with glucose and other chemicals I don’t know the names of shut the legs off, make the arms refuse, turn the trunk to oatmeal.

I don’t know if it’s that my allergies are especially bad (curse you, California plant life!) or the broader concept of approaching the senior discount at the movie theater, but I’m tired. We have 2,152 miles to get home, and I’m tired. Today we drive from Newport Beach to Surprise, Arizona. Not a bad day for us. Six hours door to door. We’ve done 16 at times. But I’m tired. I’d stay right here except that I’m 2,152 miles from home. I keep hearing The Clash doing Should I Stay or Should I Go? except the answer is obvious.

Nearing the end. That’s one of the times Resistance is strongest. … more … “The Clash at the 23rd Mile”

Resistance vs Reality vs Reasonableness

is it about the work or is it about the wrench thrown into it?Homeless, wandering the desert, the intrepid writer of Chandleresque cozies inched toward the final chapter of his book.

There he’d been, plugging away, over 4,000 words a day, when the house he lived in was sold, with circumstances forcing his family to move out and plan for a month-long “workation” in only 5 days.

They did it, and drove south.

It was warmer than he likes in Phoenix.

He picked up a cold in Santa Barbara.

He’s generally been busy enough, disrupted enough, tired enough to stop writing for a while. Wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable, right?

One of the places Resistance shows up is at the end of a project. … more … “Resistance vs Reality vs Reasonableness”