The Artist’s Journey, #12
I’ve spent part of the past couple of weeks recording the audio version of The Artist’s Journey, as well as copy-editing the eBook and the paperback. Sometime in July, we’ll have all of them ready to go. As Black Irish Books we can’t compete with Amazon or B&N on shipping prices but one thing we can do is offer discounts on bundles (paperback, eBook, and audiobook together at one low price) and on bulk purchases (55% discount on orders of 10+ copies of the same book). We will do the same for The Artist’s Journey. And now back to the ongoing serialization of The Artist’s Journey. If you missed any of the prior posts, you can get to them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11.
51. A QUICK NOTE RE RESISTANCE
The stages of the artist’s journey share one aspect in common.
They are all battles against Resistance.
Resistance meaning fear.
Resistance meaning distraction.
Resistance meaning temptation.
Resistance meaning the aggressive self-perpetuation of the ego.
Resistance meaning the terror the psyche experiences at the prospect of encountering the Self, i.e. the soul, the unconscious, the superconscious.
On the artist’s journey we develop skills. Skills we did not have before.
We teach ourselves these skills.
We apprentice ourselves to others wiser than we are.
We are fortifying ourselves, training ourselves against fear, boredom, laziness, arrogance, self-inflation, complacency.
Our aim is to make ourselves masters, not just of our craft, but also of ourselves.
When we underwent our original hero’s journey we were neophytes. We had no idea what we were doing.
Now we are different.
We return to the fire determined to do it better this time.
52. AN INDEX OF BASIC SKILLS
What follows is my own idiosyncratic inventory of the fundamental (mandatory) skills that the artist acquires on his or her artist’s journey.
53. THE ARTIST LEARNS HOW TO START
This sounds so obvious, so self-evident. And yet …
Not one aspirant in a hundred, in my experience, is capable of pulling the trigger, jumping out of the airplane, diving head-first into the icy pool.
54. THE ARTIST LEARNS HOW TO KEEP GOING
The phrase “Act Two problems” has become a cliche. Why? Because the winnowing scythe of Resistance cuts down so many aspiring artists right here, in mid-odyssey. Here’s David Mamet from Three Uses of the Knife.
In his analysis of world myth, Joseph Campbell calls this period in the belly of the beast—-the time which is not the beginning and not the end, the time in which the artist and the protagonist doubt themselves and wish the journey had never begun.
… How many times have we heard (and said): Yes, I know that I was cautioned, that the way would become difficult and I would want to quit, that such was inevitable, and that at exactly this point the battle would be lost or won. Yes, I know all that, but those who cautioned me could not have foreseen the magnitude of the specific difficulties I am experiencing at this point—difficulties which must, sadly, but I have no choice, force me to resign the struggle (and have a drink, a cigarette, an affair, a rest), in short, to declare failure.
55. THE ARTIST LEARNS HOW TO FINISH
Notice please that these first three skills exist in relation to Resistance. They are about overcoming Resistance.
Before our hero’s journey, we had never even started a project. (We had fabricated some excuse to put it off.) Or if we had started, we bailed in the middle or choked at the end.
But now we are different. We have been toughened by our real-life hero’s journey. We will not yield this time. We will find our way over, under, around, or through the obstacles, no matter what.
Note too that these first three skills are aspects of professionalism. They are the same skills that are mastered by the professional athlete, the professional businessperson, or anyone (including Moms and Dads and their own kids in school) who is committed to an aspiration or a calling.
These skills and others we’ll delineate in subsequent chapters constitute the infrastructure of the artist’s power. They are the tracks along which his locomotive rolls and the foundation upon which the edifices of his city rise.
56. THE ARTIST LEARNS HOW TO HANG ON
I worked on a movie that took seventeen years to get made. When the Writers Guild opened the arbitration process for screen credit, more than thirty screenwriters filed.
One writer, the originator of the project, had been on the picture from the beginning. Even when he was fired and other writers or other teams of writers were brought in, he stayed attached as a producer. (He made half a dozen other movies in the interim, by the way.)
He was brought back four different times as a writer. He was there at the finish. He got the credit. He saw the movie made.
Was he crazy?
But this writer over his career has been the originator of three big-time artistic and box office hits (an incredible feat), including one film that’s a legitimate Top Fifty classic.
The artist learns how to hang on.