The War of Art Mini-Course, Part 5

Shawn Coyne: Hi and welcome to Part Five of The War of Art Mini-Course. My name is Shawn Coyne and I am the publisher of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. All right. Let’s say we understand that everything we’ve talked about in these first four episodes. We know what Resistance is. We understand its own presence in our own lives. We’ve seen how it’s beaten us into submission in the past. We totally understand overcoming and combating it by “turning pro” and we understand how important it is to master our own craft. So at that point, where does that leave us? Is there some magic bullet now? Resistance is not gonna bother us anymore?

So let’s bring in Steve and see. This is Episode Five of The War of Art Mini-Course entitled “Put your ass where your heart wants to be.” Okay Steve. So we’ve explored the notion of Resistance and I’m very clear on what it is and how diabolical it is and we’ve, we’ve discussed turning pro and learning craft and the hero’s journey. And my question to you is . . . Well, you’ve been in this business, in the creative business and screenwriting, in advertising, in nonfiction, creative self-help work and your novels. So let’s not forget the fact that you’ve written so many great novels that are probably one of the most things anybody, most difficult things anyone can do. My question to you . . . You’re a pro. You’ve published 14, 15, 16 books at this point. Now, I have to assume that you have Resistance beat, and is there a point in, when do you know when you’ve taken Resistance down?

Steven Pressfield: You never take it down. I’m sorry, I’m sorry to break the bad news to you. You know  the American way of commercial selling bullshit is, “Here, take this pill and without any pain you will have six-pack abs and sparkling white teeth and da da da da da da da,” right? Was there ever one of those things that ever actually worked for me? Life just doesn’t work that way. So like you say, I mean I’ve been in this business for almost 50 years doing stuff and Resistance is just as strong as it ever was. It never goes away. Like I said, it’s a force of nature. It’s like saying, is gravity going to get any less, you know, after we’ve walked around on the planet for a while? Every morning you wake up and the dragon’s there and you’d have to slay that dragon anew every morning. The only difference is that after you’ve done it enough times you, you now are confident that it can be done, but it never goes away, And there’s no magic bullet.

Shawn Coyne: Alright. So let’s say there’s no magic bullet and I, I would have to agree with you … what, what are the things that we can do that, that can help us understand how to combat Resistance every single day? So if we know it’s sort of like when a boxer gets into the ring, you know, he knows that there’s going to be a big fight coming up, and so he prepares for that fight knowing that there’s a deadline, and what I think you’re saying is that every single day we wake up, we have to get in that ring, like a boxer has to get in the ring. Now, what kind of habits can we use and do to be able to prepare ourselves every single day for that? Is there, are there any tricks to the trade that you can share with them?

Steven Pressfield: Another great question. And again, just like we were saying in Part Two, I think it was, it’s “turning pro.” It’s the professional mindset that the only way to do the work is to sit down and do the freaking work, right? It’s as simple as that. But what gets you there is the mindset of being a professional that you don’t let adversity get to you. It’s mental toughness . . . and the other, the other thing is that we also said, or when I said “Resistance comes second.” To remind you what that was, was that . . . If we’re feeling strong Resistance, the reason is that our dream is just as strong as the Resistance. We wouldn’t be feeling it if that novel, that screenplay, that startup wasn’t burning in our head. So the Muse, the powerful force of our own creativity that’s coming from our soul, is at least as strong as a force of Resistance.

So we have to marshal our professionalism and engage in this “war of art.” Now, let me cite our mightiest ally in this case, in addition to the professional mindset, is Habit. Like I say, an amateur has amateur habits and a professional has professional habits, and as you and I both know, we always talk about the blue-collar mindset, the lunch pail mindset that just says, “Hey, it’s snowing, it’s raining, grab your lunch pail, grab your boots, get down to the steel mill and do your job,” right? There’s this wonderful book by Twyla Tharp, the choreographer, the famous choreographer, called The Creative Habit, and I’m going to read a little passage from her book, talking about habit.

Shawn Coyne: She’s the furthest thing from a steelworker there could be.

Steven Pressfield: You know . . . That’s really great that you said that, because if you look at her, yes, but she’s got that steelworker mindset if there ever was one. Right? Really. She’s tougher than Ben Roethlisberger or any of those guys.

Shawn Coyne: That’s right.

Steven Pressfield: This is Twyla Tharp : “I begin each day of my life with a ritual. I wake up at 5:30 AM, put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym. The ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual.”

Any aspiring writer or artist should read that over and over, till they get that in their brain. Now she goes on, Twyla Tharp does, she says, “It’s vital to establish some rituals, automatic but decisive patterns or behavior, at the beginning of the creative process when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.” So what she’s actually saying, she’s talking about Resistance. Chickening out and she’s talking about the professional mindset. That’s the ritual, that’s the habit.

Shawn Coyne: So it’s sort of like Pavlov’s dogs when you know Pavlov, that famous Russian researcher rang a bell and he would feed the dogs. When he stopped, you know, bringing the meat out, the dogs still would start to salivate. So if you create your own bells, your own rituals, you will do the thing.

Steven Pressfield: It’s the concept of “having a practice.” I mean, my trainer at the gym where I go, I’m just like Twyla Tharp. T.R. Goodman is my wonderful trainer and he says to me, “It’s not habit. It’s your life.” You know what he means by that is it becomes so ingrained that you just do it. Now let’s get back, Shawn, just for a second to what we were talking about in the last episode, which was the hero’s journey,

Shawn Coyne: Right.

Steven Pressfield: The hero’s journey is something that we, as novelists, we may base a story on, but the hero’s journey is our own life as well. We’re living the hero’s journey. Every creative work that we set out to realize, to bring to life is a new hero’s journey for us, and we are the hero of that journey.

Resistance is the villain. We start like every hero in the Ordinary World. We experience a call, quote unquote “the Call” that is the inspiration that we feel inside ourselves, or the book we want to write, the movie we want to do, the business we want to start. And if you’re listening to this tape, you have a Call. That’s why you’re listening. You wouldn’t have sat through five of these things. So when that “refusal of the Call” moment comes up, that’s Resistance again, and what Shawn and I hope to do, not just in this mini-course, but in and this website and the ongoing of books that we’re bringing out in the posts and the website is to be your mentor and your allies, your little spirit animals in this hero’s journey that you’re on. 

And when we say . . . This is kind of a slogan that we have—”Put your ass where your heart wants to be”—and what we mean by that is, it’s the professional mindset, the blue-collar mindset. If you want to be a writer, then sit down at the keyboard. Put your ass in that chair and spend time where your heart wants to be and start doing the work. If you want to be a painter, step up before the easel and start painting. Do you want to make a movie? Get behind the camera. If you want to be a dancer, get into the studio. Put your ass where your heart wants to be, and do the work.

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