The Artist’s Journey, #22
Today is the final installment of The Artist’s Journey. Thanks again to everyone who stayed with us from the start. The book officially goes on sale today in all three formats—audiobook (read by me), eBook, and paperback. You can get the paperback from Amazon or other online booksellers. The ebook and audio are on sale now (in bundled version as well) at www.blackirishbooks.com. As I said a few episodes ago, the publication book is a bit different from this serialized version. Shawn came in and made it better.
P.S. Are we crazy to serialize this book for free and then put it up for sale for money? Probably. In any event, to catch up on any missed chapters (for free), click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10.Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16.Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21.
103. WHO YOU ARE IS WHAT YOU WRITE
The artist discovers herself by the work she produces.
Who are you?
Dance and find out.
Sing and find out.
Write and find out.
Between 1995 and 2015 I wrote fourteen books, most about the ancient world, many centered in one form or another upon warfare. Why these subjects? I have no idea.
Where did this stuff come from? I knew nothing of it before I started. I had no idea I was even interested in it. Yet once I began, I couldn’t stop.
Writing, like life itself, [Henry Miller again] is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself …
From the very beginning almost I was deeply aware that there is no goal. I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because I am digging deeper and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future. With the endless burrowing a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief. I become more and more indifferent to my fate, as writer, and more and more certain of my destiny as a man.
There is a dimension of reality above (or below) the material dimension we live in.
If you’re an artist, the search for that dimension is your life.
104. “THE BENIGN, PROTECTING POWER OF DESTINY”
Do you believe we’re not alone on our journey? Do you subscribe to the notion, as I do, that help appears from sources we can neither name nor explain?
Here’s Joseph Campbell from The Hero With A Thousand Faces:
For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the [hero’s] journey is with a protective figure … who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass. What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny. The fantasy is a reassurance—promise that the peace of Paradise … is not to be lost; that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as in the past … [that] protective power is always and ever present within or just behind the unfamiliar features of the world. One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side. Mother Nature herself supports the mighty task. And in so far as the hero’s act coincides with that for which his society is ready, he seems to ride on the great rhythm of the historical process.
In other words, the artist and the hero are working individually and collectively on a “mighty task” supported by Nature and protected by forces, not only of the unconscious, but of the real world, in real time.
105. HOW I WORK
Before I sit down at the keyboard each day, I stand and say a prayer to the Muse. I say it out loud, in absolute earnest.
Why do I do that?
Because when I enter my office, I cross the threshold into a different dimension, a sacred dimension. I’m not being fatuous or facetious when I say this.
I have no idea what I will write that day. I have an intention. I have an object. But I don’t know what will appear from one sentence to the next.
I need help. I need the participation and the aid of forces from that different plane of reality. I don’t know what to name these forces so I call them “the Muse.” It’s a concept that’s congenial to me. I like it. I can relate to it.
Maybe that realm is the unconscious, the superconscious. Maybe, as Jung suggests, that part of the psyche lies adjacent to the “Divine Ground,” in other words to some higher realm of consciousness, of being, in which, I hope and assume, death does not hold sway, nor time or space, and no individual is separated emotionally or spiritually from any other. In this dimension, I’d like to believe, the future already exists. It is known or can be known.
Can any of this be true?
I don’t know.
But I act (in fact I live my life every day) as if it were.
To me it is true.
This is the world I live in.
So I invoke the Muse. I subordinate myself to the goddess. I seek her aid. I place myself before her in the posture of a soldier, a servant, a supplicant.
When I sit down to work, I draw the bowstring the same way Eugen Herrigel did and, like him, my object is to let the string release itself without my conscious participation.
It took me thirty years to learn how to do this. That time, or the greater part of it, was my artist’s journey, an adventure that continues to this day.
And you know what? It works.
I have said many times that the Muse is the only female to whom I have always been faithful. This is true.
And she has always been true to me.
106. THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY IS THE HERO’S JOURNEY OF THE HUMAN RACE
You may wonder as you sit in your cubicle designing a gundown scene for Call of Duty Black Ops IV if you’re really advancing the cause of humanity.
Your artist’s journey is unique to you. You alone are on your path. Your job is only to follow it and be true to it.
Who knows what heights it may eventually bear you to?
You’re an artist. Your journey—however humble, however fraught, however beset with thorns and thistles—is part of a noble, cosmic cause. It is not meaningless. It is not in vain.
It is a portion of a grand adventure.
The artist’s journey is the hero’s journey of the human race.
107. THE GREAT ADVENTURE
What is “the benign, protecting power of destiny,” if indeed there is such a thing?
I think it’s the evolutionary pull of all humankind, which seeks, like the hero, to return to the start of its journey—in other words, the great-circle trajectory of the race arcing home to Eden.
If mankind is indeed on a collective hero’s journey, then Creation itself is on our side.
The Ego is the enemy.
Resistance is the force that it uses against us.
These foes are mighty indeed. But opposed to them always, and equal if not greater, is this great-circle “destiny,” to use Joseph Campbell’s word. That is the wind at our backs.
Therefore be of good cheer, brothers and sisters.
A powerful destiny lies coiled inside you. This force is neither a dumb, robotic tape or some dusty hieroglyph left from millions of years ago, but an active, dynamic, intelligent presence—-endlessly creative, ever-mutating, responsive-in-the-moment—supporting and guiding you as you evolve and advance.
Nor does this force operate only inside your mind. It is not solely cerebral or abstract, nor is it bound by the limits of your consciousness or your physical body.
It operates in real time and in the real world. It is connected to forces unconstrained by time and space, by reason or by nature’s laws. It is capable of summoning allies and assistance and of concentrating them on your behalf and in your cause. These forces are not only of the imagination—ideas, insights, wisdom, breakthroughs in your life and work—but also practical and material apparitions like friends and allies, connections, places to stay, money.
Flesh-and-blood individuals will enter your life at precisely the time and place you need them. These persons will play the role of archetypes—mentors and lovers, boon companions, even animal spirits, tricksters—as will corresponding foes and antagonists, tempters and temptresses, enemies, shape-shifters.
The hero’s journey and the artist’s journey are real. They come with the promise of change, of passion, of fulfillment and of self-actualization, and they come with the curse of Eden—”henceforth shalt thou eat thy bread in the sweat of thy face”—which mandates unrelenting toil and labor. The struggle never ends. It never gets easier.
This is what you were born for.
Nature has built you for this.
The artist is a role ordained by Creation. Even if you know nothing of this mandate, or refuse to believe it, or have forgotten it entirely, even if you flat-out reject it, this living force remains vital and irresistible inside you. You cannot run from it. You cannot stand against it. It is more alive inside you than your own blood and more impossible to resist than the urge to survive or to procreate or to find love.
A great adventure awaits you.
Ready or not, you are called.
Thanks for this great series in advance of the book – can’t wait to see what’s next!
Thank you so much for inspiring all of us and leading us out of resistance or rather teach us out to fight it so we can enter into the Hero’s journey.
That last sentence gave me chills and goosebumps. Thanks for this, Steve. I hope I can shake your hand someday.
Thank you. Got the e-bundle, and I love listening to your audiobooks read by you. Even the brilliant George Guidall isn’t the same as listening to you.
“It is connected to forces unconstrained by time and space, by reason or by nature’s laws. It is capable of summoning allies and assistance and of concentrating them on your behalf and in your cause.”
Was thinking about this phenomena over the weekend. How flow or presence…I used to say, “you know, when you lose time…” serendipity/coincidence and how those are actually feedback mechanisms to let us know we are on the right path. Jordan Peterson writes that we know we are ‘following our highest star’ physically, but never uses the term flow. He says we are evolutionarily adapted for this feeling.
I was thinking that serendipitous meetings are indicators that at least two people are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, and the universe/God/Benign Protecting Power brings them together.
It occurred to me that I need to pay attention to these like beacons. Do not dismiss them. Coincidence isn’t accidental, it is reinforcement.
My gratitude for this site, your work, and the insight I get from everyone here is beyond my capacity for words.
Marine ONE, once again, you have outdone yourself…you are a national treasure…LT
“I like to believe the future already exists. It is known. Can be known. Can any of this be true. But I act as if it is.” What IMPORTANT WORDS. What PERFECT TIMING. It is how I am living regarding Fearrington Village.
Fearrington Village? I am intrigued.
Pam: Fearrington Village is a wonderful Community in Pittsboro, NC (8 miles from Chapel Hill) that is my dream and on My Vision Board to be able to move there from Sun City Hilton Head, SC. Jack Canfield in his book, The Success Principles, writes to live and act if “what you want” already is and the reason it was so great to read what Steve had written and was like OH GREAT – I am not crazy.
Wow! I can’t wait to reread it all in Steve’s book.
Thank you, Mr. Pressfield. All of your work is thoughtful and inspiring. This series has hit the target as well.
Thanks, brother. Already ordered the book on Amazon. Keep on keeping on.
WOW—what a finish! Amazing ride and I’m very grateful. And once more I am reading and find myself crying—this is SO moving and so clearly hitting at a core human truth.
I am also looking forward to reading the final version and seeing how it’s been morphed—hope to learn more about the editing process in the coming weeks: it will be another whole education!
THANK YOU THANK YOU!
Your insight and clear expression have been that Divine gift of a protective force on my artist’s journey. Your words have continually inspired me, unveiled the enemy, trained and armed me for the battle. Thank you from my whole heart.
This was absolutely beautiful! So well said sir.
I have been an artist my whole life, it is what I was born to do. At an early age I loved drawing, didn’t know why I just did. After High School I fought it, stupidly. I finally went to Design school, graduated and started my career. It has not been easy, nor should it be. I have been in and out of work many times, as I write this I am unemployed and my wife worried about bills. I am older now and it is difficult to find a full time job in my profession. People and my wife are saying maybe I need to do something else, but I know I was born, destined to create art.
So I will do what I need to do to pay bills, but I will still create. If I don’t I think I would go crazy, my soul would die. Resistance has been strong, so now I need to really dedicate myself to my calling, I need to turn pro, serve my Muse.
Thank you for reminding me of the forces that surround me to help me in my calling. Your books, these articles have been life changing, thank you so much!
Question for anyone who listens to books:
Which app do you use for Black Irish Books? I’m an iPhone user, and the default is iTunes. I use Audible/Overdrive for all other books. The reason I ask is that iTunes isn’t as well designed for books as it is music (increasing speed, reversing 30 seconds, etc).
iTunes works, I’m just looking for another option. Thanks.
Am I the only one who read the end, mentally crying “Huzzah!”? Steve, as always, your words are powerful, inspiring, and necessary at this season. Thank you for them. Now on to the trenches where the war is being fought.
Thank you from all my lifetimes past and those to come. Thank you.
Steve, for years people told me about “The War of Art”. I even bought it. I read a few chapters and essentially said, “Go to hell, Steve.” Why should a nice guy like you get that response? Because of RESISTANCE. That word is in caps for a reason. I have had a wall of it my whole life. As an actress/singer/speaker I have broken through it many times, but when the MUSE called me to write? REBELLION! But I have done it on a number of projects. I wrote a tv pilot script (which got praise from some Emmy winners). Of course, the powers that be haven’t discovered my brilliance yet, so I then moved on and wrote/produced/performed my own solo show here in NYC, then a cabaret show with the libretto. All went well, but went nowhere. And now, for the past 5 years, I have been nudged by said MUSE to write my memoir. Recently an agent asked me to send my book proposal to him. You can imagine what that did. I wanted to go hide in a cave. Instead, I wrote to him that I am revamping it, and he is good with that. My old buddy RESISTANCE has been on my shoulder, but I am doing it…and praying…because I know I’m just a channel for whatever shows up.
Meanwhile, as I spoke my frustration this morning on a call, a friend sent me this. I had recently watched your interview on Oprah and really enjoyed it. So when my friend emailed this to me, I paid attention. This time I didn’t run or call you names. This time, since my resistance is down for a few moments, I just want to say, “Thank You”. This is beautiful and so much in keeping what I know (when I let it in an don’t hide in fear). I needed to be reminded and inspired. The MUSE brought you via email. Thanks for constantly reminding us. And if I ever get the courage, I may have to totally read “The War of Art”.
This last installment is perfect. Just what I need right now. Balancing along the top of the rolling wave and looking forward instead of down. Listening to you read your work will be a treat.
You guys… Steve, Shawn, Callie, Tim and the unseen others who help make it happen are setting a memorable example for us all to follow. Your generosity and accessibility are as exquisite as the words and ideas you serve up to a hungry crowd, gathered as we are around our solitary digital devices, longing for connection. Thank you for feeding us in so many ways!
“A powerful destiny lies coiled inside you.” Thank you for sharing all of this. I’m grateful that your artistic path crossed my own. I’m a better artist because if it. Cheers!
This last piece, above all others has left an indelible mark upon me. Bravissimo, Steve! I’m just returning from a life-changing trip to Europe, where it was full of serendipitous experiences and all kinds of “chance,” meetings with messengers. Truly a critical part of the Hero’s and the Artist’s journey. Now it is time for me to sit it down and make some art with this story that resides within – as I embark on discovery myself.
I have just read all of your series.
Great work. Breathtaking!
Kudos on the book! Well done, sir!
You have the most amazing ability to call us out—to engage us forward in participation.
Thank you for seeing us, hearing us and reminding us we can be more…because we’re already more than we realize. Ditto to you too, Steve. Namaste.
I love you Steven <3
Thank you, Steven, for The Artist’s Journey. I’ve now read the entire e-version, and have a paper copy on its way to me.
This is a road map, a guide stone, a faint light that illuminates otherwise unseen paths in the forest. Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going? I’m a photographer. Is there any value in that? I have to do it anyway. I’m lost without it. I write code, 44 pages of meticulously finished, working code in the last week, replete with structure, rhythym, and yes, even a touch of beauty in something where beauty isn’t supposed to exist. It’s akin to sculpture where details really matter. I get paid to write code, not to create beauty. Without the beauty though, who cares? I write short stories, sometimes sharing them with others. I get to play so many characters in this world!
I now know a little more about myself and this journey. As with The War of Art and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, The Artist’s Journey is a life reference book I’ll revisit.
Again, thank you!
I’ll be purchasing this important book immediately. The Ego, with Resistance, continue to be my nemesis. Your words touch the depth of my soul and give me strength to keep on my journey. Thank you for all you do for us artists of all stripes
Wow. THANK YOU. 🙂 smiles and appreciation to you…