Having a Practice, #2

I was thinking about the activities that come most immediately to mind when we think of “having a practice.”

Meditation.

Yoga.

Martial arts.

I would certainly include running, fitness training, biking, in fact all athletic endeavors from Spartan races to Brazilian jiu-jitsu to dressage to golf. Advancing into the more esoteric, we can’t leave out calligraphy, swords training, flower arrangement, and the tea ceremony.

In my own lexicon, I would include any artistic endeavor—writing of all kinds, dance, filmmaking, photography, acting, all comedic pursuits, videogame design, etc. And I would not exclude crafts—everything from quilting to furniture making to blacksmithing… any aesthetic activity that takes place in your studio or your home office or out in the garden or the corral.

What do these activities have in common? Why do they seem ideal candidates for a practice?

  1. All involve, as an aim or intention, the effacement of the ego.
  2. All require, to achieve their highest levels, a form of psychic surrender.
  3. All are—however we might define this—”spiritual.”

The aim of a practice, in my view, is to seek the spirit by way of the body. In other words, using the physical to attempt to reach the ethereal.

In Downward Dog, we put the body into a certain alignment, a specific posture with regard to gravity. The point is, yes, to stretch and strengthen. But more than that, it’s to take the mind out of the ego “I” and into the “Witness I.” And from there, to higher versions of consciousness.

That’s the point, I think, of any pursuit in the arts or the crafts (and entrepreneurship as well.) 

For sure, I consider my own writing a practice.

I’m trying produce a “work,” yes. And I want the work to be good and even to “succeed.” But the real intention is to seek a form of “the zone,” to achieve a state of “play” that is beyond effort and exertion and beyond the constraining and limiting ego.

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.

do the work book banner 1

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.

noboybookcover

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

42 Comments

  1. Janine on January 10, 2024 at 1:42 am

    The state of play, yes! Being in the zone where the ideas come alive and the words and scenes flow. Thanks for your inspiration!!

  2. Ann Isik on January 10, 2024 at 2:34 am

    Thumbs up.

  3. sarahjohn on January 10, 2024 at 2:36 am

    Building a regular practice is critical to growth and mastery. It forms the basis of case study writing service excellence in all fields. Keep honing your skills and enjoy the ride.

  4. Galina on January 10, 2024 at 3:21 am

    This is very valuable. I hope this will help me. Thank you very much.

    • Jan Yardley on January 10, 2024 at 12:01 pm

      Too true oh king …. Great words of wisdom x

  5. Lee Bodkin on January 10, 2024 at 3:30 am

    So well put. I have danced with the idea of using the physical act of writing to reach the ethereal spirit but I have never been intentional about it. Thank you.

  6. John Arends on January 10, 2024 at 3:34 am

    Slaying the dragon. Yes.

  7. Paul Walker on January 10, 2024 at 3:42 am

    The effects of any practice pulls one into the present moment.

  8. Erica on January 10, 2024 at 3:46 am

    Why are you including wonky AI photos in your blog posts? One of those children has three feet.

    • Anonymous on January 10, 2024 at 11:24 am

      I wondered that too.

  9. Tolis on January 10, 2024 at 4:10 am

    Thank you vey much dear Steve.

    In the book Good to Great, mr. Collins found two qualities that the leaders of the impossibly anodic organizations had in a period of decades, in contrast to the leaders of just good organizations. They were *almost all* humble and low key, and they were focused entirely on the organizations’ success –not on their own, although they had their ambitions too. In many instances they abandoned enormous opportunities for money making for them and the other members of their organizations, if that would make the organization a subordinate of others –if that would undermine their values also. On the other organizations though, the ones who remained at about steady levels of development in the decades, the leaders would sometimes be larger-than-life characters and some of them would create enormous organizations too, but even then the organizations would fall apart after their departure –something that would not most possibly happen to their low key equals.

    So the practice that focuses on the results of a dream or a creation and not on the ego is the best practice one can have in numbers too, perhaps. The effacement of the ego is at work here through being humble and focusing on the work –although one should treat themselves with great respect in order to be able to work on those results: there is a somewhat vague difference in my mind between bad ego (focusing on one’s wants and needs with little inclusion or non-inclusion of others and the world, or with a great amount of the energy of the individual on his/hers non-inclusive wants/needs) and good ego (focusing on one’s wants and needs as a mean to reach out for the creations and the dreams, in such way that they lead to the greater good of the world). Could ego have two sides too, just like Resistance and Assistance, or like a force that compells us from the blank page and a force that draws us towards that blank page? I haven’t determined that yet. It is I. And if I is strong and inclusive, it can be also the world, no?

    Ah! Writing about great insights but not being able to work on the dream many hours every day because of Master thesis, families’ responsibilities, urgent priorities -my God they are infinite-, knowledges of all great forms, ballances, failures, temptations blah blah blah. Crawler at the most important thing of my heart, or perhaps Resistance kicking my ass, or perhaps the Ego or perhaps like you said “The field is level only in Heavens”, or perhaps simple pressure from everyone and from inside because I must survive. Strangely, and thankfully for your role on it, I feel there is only one thing that will implement the creation: *To do whatever one can for that hour or hours on the chair.* And to keep that exact sentence in mind when you “cross the valley of Death”. Strangely, it seems like it’s the only way that ensures an end. It is the expression of the law of causality and a law is a law. And still, I feel that that sentence is only (but enough for) the basis, but it is not enough to get to a “worldly” dream. Of course not.

  10. April on January 10, 2024 at 4:28 am

    A big yes to transcending ego while being fully present and making beautiful things!

  11. Linda on January 10, 2024 at 5:04 am

    The practice of writing is still a struggle…I’m wildly rebellious and give in to Resistance too often. But as a plant-based chef , teacher, and recipe developer…I am aware that I find my zone in the kitchen, alone—-unleashing the magic of what came from the ground. I notice that when my Ego tries to take the knife, her results fall flat. In the zone, surrendered, I weave a tapestry from scarlet beets, deep green kale and collards, ebony black beans, and when I’m done, I often wonder about the Master Chef who worked silently within me to produce the results. After reading your blog, I’m reminded that I cannot summon her to the kitchen and demand a performance. Instead, I’ll invite her in and stand aside with my Ego making room for her to work her magic.

    • Nom de Plume on January 10, 2024 at 2:41 pm

      Wow! Well said, Linda! And thought-provoking: I’ve been trying to Ego my way through a significant problem lately but I now sense that I should have let my Genius (in the Greek sense) step in.

      Thank you for that realization!

  12. Carol on January 10, 2024 at 5:11 am

    Thank You for such a wonderful written post. As life and work life throws challenges at us each day, to focus on the “state of play” applies to all aspects. The world is becoming more scarier, and in my view uncontrollable, with AI being forced upon us, losing human connection, and now the political season – being fully present is more sacred than ever before. Thank You again for reminding us to stay in the present moment! I just picked up your book, The War of Art and can’t wait to dig in.

  13. Ron on January 10, 2024 at 5:34 am

    The ego acts as a ceiling to our practice. Our ego tells us when its enough and we miss out.

  14. Tony on January 10, 2024 at 6:23 am

    A very necessary reminder that it’s not about the final product but the act of working itself, finding that special place where the muses are called. I feel silly saying it after reading your work for so many years but this hit me like a thunderbolt. One would think I’d be using that point of view consistently already lol. I always put the idea of a finished product first and that can be very limiting. Now I know why I am a subscriber. Thank you and best wishes for the new year.

  15. Dr. Nate Zinsser on January 10, 2024 at 6:32 am

    As usual, Steve has put into words the very ideas that have been swirling thru my brain for years, but have never found adequate expression. Almost 50 years ago I “surrendered” to a karate practice and I feel its pull and pulse every day. We all need, as Michael Murphy put it in Golf in the Kingdom, “a strong and beautiful discipline that can take us beyond ourselves.”

    • Dr Diane Dreher on January 10, 2024 at 10:29 am

      I agree with you 100 percent. I began training in aikido years ago and that practice has shaped my approach to life ever since.

    • Steven Pressfield on January 10, 2024 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Nate! And thanks for referencing Michael Murphy. The best!

  16. Jackie on January 10, 2024 at 8:41 am

    Spot on once again. And Steve thanks for TK. I’ve been hamstringing myself and stuck on chapter sixteen trying for perfection. Time to soldier on, cover the pages, and just finish for crying out loud! Kick resistance’s ass, then return to polish the piece. How kind of you to entend a hand up. I highly recommend the Daily Pressfield. It’s a book of magic with a kick in the butt.

    • Sam Luna on January 10, 2024 at 11:36 am

      Same here Jackie. I recently realized I’ve been stuck around page 100 of something for 3 months and that’s not the point of a first draft. Why does that concept never penetrate?

    • Lin Keeling on January 10, 2024 at 11:48 am

      I’m having the same trouble, Jackie. Revising and revising an early chapter so it’s “just right” instead of pressing on and getting the whole thing written. Deep breath. Jump ahead.

  17. Brian Nelson on January 10, 2024 at 9:02 am

    Typical Pressfield timing! I was at the Y Monday evening. Missed morning run, trying to make it up. Monday and Thursdays are Pickleball night at the Y. The Y was relatively empty–UW Huskies were playing for National Championship. Usually pickleball on Mondays is over crowded. 8 people playing with 16-32 waiting. This Monday there were only 4/5 people playing. I watched while I got my mileage in.

    The games have gotten fairly competitive over the years. Pickleball must be the most accessible sport in the world, people can ‘pick it up’ enough to play with most 4-somes in an hour.

    Anyway, there were 3 men all of equal skill, and one older woman. I played with Paula. We lost 11-2 the first game and 11-9 the second game.

    Afterwards she said, “Thanks for letting me play with you guys. I know I’m not good enough…”

    I answered, “Paula, please do not ever say that again. I always prefer to win, I try to win every shot of every game. That said, it has nothing to do with wins or losses. The entire point is for us to find flow. Those moments in the game when we all lose time, there is nothing other than trying to keep ‘this’ alive.”

    As I was reading this morning’s post I kept thinking–the point is the flow.

    Steven Kotler has written a lot about flow. It has become his Holy Grail. “Rise of Superman” , “Art of Impossible” are a couple interesting reads on it.

  18. Maureen Anderson on January 10, 2024 at 11:25 am

    The more I think of all of life this way — as a work of art in progress — the more likely I am to hit the pillow with a sense of peace. Working out, listening to a long answer someone gives me when I would’ve preferred the shorter version, polishing a paragraph few people will see. This post makes me think we’re all in the same business of focusing our attention on what’s in front of us.

    Talk about needing practice at something!

    But I’m getting there. And I’m learning it doesn’t matter so much where I end up as who I become.

    • Lin Keeling on January 10, 2024 at 11:47 am

      Well said, Maureen.

      • Jackie on January 10, 2024 at 12:14 pm

        Agreed.

  19. Jackie on January 10, 2024 at 12:20 pm

    Lin and Sam,
    I’ ve been painting for 31 years and learned it is best if I fill in all the white space on the canvas. Why that never occurred to me in writing? Who knows? Maybe we need a reminder, a community, and that is why I show up here every week and continue to learn from our generous leader. Good week ahead wished for all.

    • Maureen Anderson on January 10, 2024 at 12:40 pm

      It’s an asynchronous coffee break, the perfect place to compare notes. Best of all? We’re all cheering each other on. Versus with a lot of so-called happy hours (for example), the point is to complain — which I’ve always found ironic 😏

      • Nom de Plume on January 10, 2024 at 2:46 pm

        “asynchronous coffee break” — what a great phrase! And so true!

  20. Judith F Ridgley on January 10, 2024 at 1:32 pm

    So true and something we seek to appease. The spirit needs this practice. All of which AI can not accomplish for it has no SPIRIT. it only can mimick life. If you want spirit and life in your story, do not turn to AI to fullfill that role. The story needs your heart and soul in it

    • Jill on January 10, 2024 at 4:38 pm

      I couldn’t agree more.

  21. Jill on January 10, 2024 at 4:38 pm

    It was when I was first starting out as an artist that I was told about having an art practice. It was kind of hard to explain to like, relatives and folks like that, so I usually say something like “You know how doctors have a practice, and lawyers have a practice? Artists have one, too. And to be considered a ‘practising artist’ you had to have one solo exhibit and join one group exhibit per year or join a lot of group shows per year…” That was almost 20 years ago and right now I’m starting to rethink what it means to have a practice, which is why these particular posts really speak to me. Keep them coming!

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  23. Kim on January 11, 2024 at 9:13 am

    Absolutely. I consider art studio time a practice too. A family member gave me your new book (and al the goodies that came with it1) for Christmas. I’m really enjoying the daily practice prompts. Also listened to your interview with Rick Rubin…thanks for all the great inspiration recently! Wish you a happy 2024.

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