I started The War of Art with this thought:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

What does that mean? In the deepest metaphysical sense?

It means that our lives exist on two levels.

The first level is the material plane. The practical world. The level of kids and cars and mortgages and taxes.

The second is the plane of potentiality.

The unlived life within us.

The books we might write, the enterprises we might initiate, the realized self we might become.

Pete Townshend of The Who. The “new boss” and the “old boss” are both within us.

Are you unhappy? Frustrated? Do you engage in rants on Facebook and Twitter? Do you take your anguish out on loved ones, on rivals at work, on shoppers in the produce aisle at Piggly Wiggly? Are you planning on building a bomb-proof shelter? Is QAnon starting to sound reasonable to you?

I’m not saying things aren’t crazy out there.

I’m not saying that dark energies haven’t been loosed upon the world.

I’m as freaked out as the next guy.

But what I am saying is that some of our angst, a portion of our anguish comes not from the travails of the moment, however dire they may be, but from something deeper.

I mean the gap between our lived lives and our unlived lives.

I mean Resistance.

When you and I know … when we feel in our bones the unrealized self we are or could become and know that we’re not living it out … the result is pain. The result is shame and mortification and self-reproach.

What we hate is not our fellow citizens across the political aisle.

What we hate is our own failure to step up to that unlived level. 

I’m not saying the time of action isn’t imminent. It may be inevitable that you and I, as citizens of a constitutional republic, will have to stand up and defend the principles our country stands for.

But when that fight is over and we find ourselves still as pissed off and miserable as we were before it started, we might remind ourselves that our deeper struggle—our “war of art”—is against that invisible, insidious, indefatigable negative force whose sole aim is to block the part of us that resides on the Material plane from reaching out and opening itself to the part of ourselves that participates in the Plane of the Potential.

Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

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TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

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47 Comments

  1. Peter Brockwell on October 7, 2020 at 4:31 am

    Great post Steve. Timely with your US crisis approaching. We have our own unfolding Brexit fiasco here in the UK, but of course what happens in the US affects the rest of the world. In many senses, your next president will be our president too, so please choose wisely!! (The anglo-saxon world has gone crazy the last few years.)

    With your reference to the material and the potential realities, I’m reminded of Joseph Campbell talking with Bill Moyer about us living in the temporal sphere but myth leading us to contact with the eternal.

    Big across-the-pond hugs and best wishes.
    Peter

  2. Mary Doyle on October 7, 2020 at 5:41 am

    The truth in this post will hit many readers squarely between the eyes this morning. Aside from my own private involvement in supporting people and causes that I believe in, I have been reminding myself every day that focusing on what I can control i.e. sitting myself down in the chair to write, is the most immediate antidote at my disposal to the craziness that abounds out there in the world. Freaked out? You bet! But connecting with the “new boss” every day is the only dependable remedy. When I get up from the chair, I am always, always at peace with myself. Thanks for your wisdom – here’s to better days!

  3. Joe Jansen on October 7, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Woof. Takes the value of WoA up from “how to quit distraction and sit down to work” and makes it existential.

  4. Michael Esser on October 7, 2020 at 8:08 am

    The next step in this train of thought is that we can see this gap between the lived and the unlived life better in others than in ourselves. That we can see it does not mean that we should address it, at least not directly and in terms of criticism. But what we can and should do, when we see the gap, is to gently and patiently show this other person the first steps on a possible way from here to there.
    The miracle that can happen then is that the more we help others along the way, the better we can deal with our own gap.

  5. Andrew lubin on October 7, 2020 at 8:08 am

    Keep Moving Or Die!!

    • Curtis on October 7, 2020 at 8:14 am

      Yes! As it has been said, ” If all you can move is your little finger… move it!”

    • Morgenholz on October 7, 2020 at 1:52 pm

      Or, biologically, if you are not growing, you are dying.

  6. Lucy Weir on October 7, 2020 at 8:12 am

    Fabulous. Timely. Yoga says the same thing? Do I do anything about it? Yes, but the battle wages more ferociously the more you bring the light of awareness to it. Like turning on a light in a room full of wolves tearing one another’s throats out. It doesn’t necessarily calm them down. Somehow, you have to find a way to let them get out of there, get space. That’s the tricky bit. Creating space around the resistance, and the pain, and the shame. Today’s one of those days. Thanks for this.

  7. Becky Blanton on October 7, 2020 at 8:18 am

    Interesting. Recently I’ve been decluttering my entire life – car, apartment, friends, social media, etc. I’ve found, as millions have, that “aspirational clutter” is the hardest to get rid of. Aspirational clutter tends to be the things, people, events, tools, etc. we collect for our “fantasy self” – the self we IMAGINE ourselves being. The “resistance” of getting rid of the kayaks we never paddle, the camping gear we don’t use, the copywriting courses we don’t finish, the book we dream of writing is just this spot – the point between the life we imagine, the life we lead, and the resistance to leap in and tie them together, or get rid of them.

    When I acknowledge I’m never going to swoosh down another black diamond hill in Colorado, or cross-country ski and winter camp, then I can sell the equipment, telling my new self I can rent what I need if I ever decide to actually do that in the future. (I’m 65 with health issues, not likely). As we “declutter” we force ourselves to FACE, no, CONFRONT, that fantasy self you call “resistance.” And when we let go of all those fantasy selves then we can look at the one or two or three points of resistance and actually take action.

    Great description…

    • Ann Riley on October 7, 2020 at 8:33 am

      “Get rid of the kayaks we never paddle” Love this!!!! Brought a smile to my face! This time in history has provided an opportunity to examine every corner of our existence. Going forward, we all have to decide what to bring along to the future and what to discard.

    • Greg Taylor on October 7, 2020 at 8:36 am

      Becky: what you said just here in the first paragraph made my hair stand on end, and you know why because you unpacked it in the second. Wow. Thanks.

    • Peter Brockwell on October 7, 2020 at 9:27 am

      Your comment has really hit me between the eyes, especially the mention of camping gear I never/rarely use! I didn’t have a concept for it all, but now I do. Also makes me realise that I need to deliberately discriminate my accumulated writing notes, for potential novels, from that aspirational clutter. Thanks.

    • Morgenholz on October 7, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      Incredibly well said. I too have discovered this, as the Swedes call it, “Döstädning;” I’ll let you all look it up. Suffice to say that my own internal struggle between the materialistically minimal being I am, and the aspirational museum-of-myself curator that I have become, is sufficiently monumental to negatively affect me sleep, every single night.

    • Maureen Anderson on October 8, 2020 at 7:02 am

      The Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin had a friend who once told her, “I finally cleaned out my fridge, and now I know I can switch careers.” She knew exactly how that felt. I do, too.

      In preparation for moving from Minnesota to New York, I recently pared down all of my belongings to what fits in the trunk of our Honda Accord. Such clarity! I’ve saved only what I want more of — things I’ve written, recordings of fun we’ve had on the radio, and souvenirs of the fun we’ve had as a family.

      And Steve, I can’t think of another post you’ve written that better sums up what’s left now. I either take more risks in that writing and radio work, or die with regret.

      This is the only online community I’ve found that keeps me on track versus distracts me. Thanks to all of you!

      • Sharon on October 14, 2020 at 6:37 am

        I have fought this second life realization for as long as I can remember. As a child while not living the gender norm. As a young woman being free to own my body for myself and not be told how it should or shouldn’t be. And now as an adult, the life I live with my family and community that gives me so much love to share but the struggle to live a free independent life away from the responsibility of everyday life. I wonder if I will ever fulfill the dreams of travel, adventure and new experiences I’ve longed to live.

  8. Kerry Nissen on October 7, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Was hoping just for some writing encouragement, disappointed in having to deal with your opinion on the world. Just like Professional Sports, where can one go, and not have political views pushed in our faces? I am a big fan and have read all your books. Disappointed.

    • Sionnach on October 7, 2020 at 8:52 am

      1. Professional sports should not be capitalized.
      2. Trying to expel racism is not a political view. It’s a moral one.
      3. Get over it.

      • David on October 7, 2020 at 5:17 pm

        This wonderful piece by Steven brings to mind the famed quote from Hippocrates: :

        “Art is long, life is short, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, decision difficult.”

    • Jim on October 7, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      I have to admit, I am very sensitive lately to any politics being injected into anything and will immediately unsubscribe. But I don’t really see it here. Politics is mentioned, but if this was all I ever read of Steven’s I’d walk away from it having no idea who he voted for.

    • Morgenholz on October 7, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      Hey Kerry, it is all politics now, whether or not we wish it to be so.

  9. Ann Riley on October 7, 2020 at 8:27 am

    “What we hate is our own failure to step up to that unlived level.”

    Steven- thank you. I feel like you wrote this post for me, personally. Thanks for the wake-up call…again…

    Michael’s comment “what we can and should do, when we see the gap, is to gently and patiently show this other person the first steps on a possible way from here to there” is spot on as well.

    Steven, thanks for giving me the nudge to the first steps from here to there.

  10. JariusE on October 7, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Thanks Steve – this was SO timely! I have one concept I learned from you and I write it down each and every day to ingrain it in my bones: “I don’t have to feel like writing in order to write, I don’t have to feel motivated in order to do what needs to be done; I don’t have to feel brave in order to act bravely”.

  11. Kenneth N Proudfoot on October 7, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Brilliant and insightful as always. Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for the gentle kick in the butt to re-think how we move forward into that unlived life.

  12. Sionnach on October 7, 2020 at 8:55 am

    The Art of War saved my life. Thank you! I do hate my neighbors across the political isle, but I’m trying to focus on my unlived life more.

  13. Rock on October 7, 2020 at 8:58 am

    Big love for this one. Well said, as always. Thanks

  14. Mel on October 7, 2020 at 9:26 am

    This speaks deeply to me! Thanks, Steve
    Whether it’s the War of Art or Turning Pro, these books are definitely game changers.
    It is as simple as you wrote above: we have to unravel the struggles in our mind and step into our unlived lifes.

  15. Brian Nelson on October 7, 2020 at 9:29 am

    Steve,
    “Do you take your anguish out on your loved ones?”

    I have come to refer to that as ‘Stray Voltage’, and it is the energy of self-loathing that accumulates whenever I betray my own values, avoid difficulty, and/or give into my basest desires. All of it is self-betrayal.

    It occurred to me that I never told a Flag Officer to go f@&k himself, but I have repeatedly been unkind to those closest to me. It is truly insane behavior when I can step back and honestly reflect.

    I agree 100% that when I am living upto my highest ideals–which, I”m sure are sent from the field of potentiality, I am cool as the other side of the pillow–no matter the external circumstances.

    The feeling of doom and gloom, while real, I believe is mostly by design from unethical media magnates and foreign intervention.

    My capacity for forgiveness, compassion, and non-judgmental acceptance are directly tied to how tightly I live upto my ideals. Thank you for the reminder.
    bsn

    • Morgenholz on October 7, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      This. Thank you.

  16. Bethany Reid on October 7, 2020 at 9:40 am

    Thank you for this — I get so focused on my family of origin and their racism and politics that I forget my own mission and potential. It’s dark, archetypal stuff and its not “outside” me.

  17. Bobette on October 7, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Truth. Deeply earned and expressed. And, truly inspirational.

    Thank you, again, Steve, for sharing your wisdom and incisive encouragement.

  18. Bane on October 7, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Steve! I literally wrote on a piece of paper “Higher Realm” 1/2 hour before I read this. This is how we will make it through the labyrinth. Redeem ourselves and make it back to Ithaca.

    “They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group.

    Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path…”

  19. Chuck DeBettignies on October 7, 2020 at 11:20 am

    “But what I am saying is that some of our angst, a portion of our anguish comes not from the travails of the moment, however dire they may be, but from something deeper.

    I mean the gap between our lived lives and our unlived lives.”

    Deep psychological truth there.

    Universal (We all have it)
    Transcendent (Transcends our current situation)
    Ever-present (It’s always there)

    Life changing insight there . . .

  20. Patricia on October 7, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Haha, so ironic that the thing that seems to be taking up my time these days is also called “Resistance!” I admit I feel paralyzed by our current political situation and spend more time than I should following the news and tweeting. In many ways we are all hostages watching a toddler play with a loaded gun, and it’s hard to look away without feeling maybe THIS is the moment we need to be paying rapt attention. I’m sure some of that is my design. Disordered personalities love the confusion and anxiety caused by their chaos. I do feel people who have been in some sort of abusive or traumatic life situation have a harder time detaching from our national nightmare.

    I also often seem to lack the emotional or concentration bandwidth to write creatively these days. I struggle already to write the work that pays my bills. I’m just hoping this is all over soon, so we can go back to reading books at night instead of doom scrolling. Meanwhile, am I simply practicing appropriate self-kindness when I grant myself a break, or am I being too soft on myself? My brain is like a pinball machine with this issue all day long.

    • Jeep Rosenberg on October 8, 2020 at 7:04 am

      Patricia, call it a “combat nap” if you wish, but, yes, even on a ruthlessly pragmatic basis, you need a break!!

  21. Eleanor on October 7, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Boy, do I ever relate to today’s post. Recently I have been sorting copies if my earliest writing and copies of how to write articles dated in 2015-16 and more . I question discarding my first writing but really what to keep or trash. That means more paper to shred . Which means another decision . I have short stories started but not finalized. But since I’m of a older age, even if I finish them I don’t know what I could do with them. I know Ms. Resistance very well.

  22. Morgenholz on October 7, 2020 at 2:04 pm

    Wow. This post is so universal that it has generated some incredibly insightful commentary. As my own teacher has said, “People will never change; the Heart must change.”

    And thank you, Mr. Pressfield, for daring to inject a little politics into the discussion– the hour is indeed too late to ignore the force of silence threatening to close upon us.
    Best,
    Morgenholz

  23. Andrew on October 7, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    On a community level also, what is our self, our vision, that is yet unrealized? An interesting question to ponder and confront, both personally and as a society today.

  24. Julie Kerr on October 7, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Love it!

  25. York on October 8, 2020 at 7:05 am

    Great!

    As usual. Written just in time. I need to learn to tap into thst ability to be in tune with the moment and create as necessary.

  26. George Carpenter on October 8, 2020 at 7:56 am

    Get up. Fight.

  27. Diane on October 8, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks, Steve. What a powerful wake-up call. We are the only ones who can bring meaning to our lives–by reaching beyond resistance. Nothing external can do this for us. External distractions–and there are many these days from consumerism to demanding relationships to the latest crisis on the daily news–can easily become resistance, pulling us away from doing our work and making our own creative contribution to the world.

    • Franklin Freeman on October 9, 2020 at 4:56 am

      Thanks, Steve, for the reminder that two battles are always raging: the personal and political. Have been reading Artist’s Journey and excited to discover (what I always knew) that each day is a hero’s journey.

  28. Mia Sherwood Landau on October 8, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    My job is to be more indefatigable than my Resistance.

  29. Mariane on October 8, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    BE GRATYEFUL ! It is always MUCH to do – BE – BECOME!

    But, we came a long way…

    PLAN what you MUST have- do! Everything comes is STAGES.

    THE SOUL is the MOST Neglected Part of Us: WORK on you and YOUR SOUL!

    Next!

  30. CJ Schepers on October 8, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    Thank. You.

  31. Linda L Moore on October 9, 2020 at 4:35 am

    Scrolling through such a wide range of comments I’m wondering if you sometimes feel like a therapist. Reading the posts feels like talking to my clients on a daily basis.

    So likely you provide a needed outlet for connection beyond the support and examination of writing motivation. I truly appreciate your work. Dr Linda L Moore

  32. Renita on October 10, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    Steve,
    I don’t always read your posts and get engaged in the comments because you have inspired me to do the work. I believe that my spiritual or vibrational connection with you goes deeper if I do the work. Writing feels like dissipating this power that we share. I know you understand and I am sorry to not always comment and make your numbers lower.
    Renita
    Okay. I will copy and paste this… sheesh.

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