Creating anything of value requires getting started. But many things can get in the way. Who is the real enemy? What prevents us from achieving our best work?
It’s a problem we all face – getting started. Your idea for a business, a website, a sales letter, a charity, an e-book, a song, a poem, a painting lies dormant in your imagination waiting for you to bring it to life.
Someday you’ll get around to it. Or on the weekend … The weekend comes and goes and you’re still don’t have anything to show for it. What’s stopping you? How can you get started? Why can it be so hard to create what you feel in your bones you can do or long to do?
The answers to these questions and more can be found in a book titled “The War of Art” (not to be confused with “The Art of War, the ancient Chinese book on strategy) by Steven Pressfield (Grand Central Publishing, New York).
Facing the real enemy
In the first part of the book Pressfield defines the enemy: Resistance. “Resistance,” he says, “cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled.” It can be felt and its aim is to prevent us from doing our work whether it is to launch an entrepreneurial venture, pursue any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, a diet or health regimen and even an act that takes commitment of the heart such as to get married, have a child or weather a rocky patch in a relationship.”
Resistance, or self-sabotage, is often fuelled by fear (a good indicator as it tells us what to do) but has many forms such as drugs, shopping, TV, gossip and consuming unhealthy foods. Just about anything can keep us from starting our work. Resistance can involve the choice of a mate, choosing someone who has it or is successfully overcoming resistance. “Maybe it’s easier to endow our partner with the power that we in fact possess but are afraid to act upon,” he says.
Putting things off can be fatal
Procrastination, when it becomes a habit, can be fatal to our life’s work, putting of things until we reach our deathbed. But Pressfield says we are never without the power to alter our destiny. “This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”
Qualities that distinguish the pro
In his chapters on combating resistance, Pressfield covers turning pro which means, among other things, to show up every day, show up no matter what, stay on the job all day, master the techniques of our job and receive praise or blame in the real world. He discusses the qualities of a professional such as acting in the face of fear, accepting no excuses, preparing, not showing off and not hesitating to ask for help. It’s tough advice but turning pro requires discipline and self mastery.
Know the territory
An intriguing concept that Pressfield deals with in some length is that of territory and hierarchy. In a hierarchical orientation an individual competes against others, measures her achievement by rank within the hierarchy and acts for others. The artist, or creator, can’t look for others to evaluate her work. The artist or creator needs to operate territorially which means “he must do his work for its own sake”. Working in the territory, gives birth to the artist’s original creation that add to our lives, regardless of the obstacles faced.
Even though some of the advice can be daunting, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s not only for those who wish to get started on bringing whatever is important to them to life but also for those who work on projects for weeks, months or even years to bring their gifts to the world.