12 Tips to Get Past Your Blocks And Make Art

A  fter succumbing to Resistance for a shamefully long period, I have finally discovered the greatness that is Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art. (Thank you @garymo for the recommendation, many years ago.) My journal is filling up with awesome quotes and segments. The entire book is worth your time regardless if your art is, to paraphrase @johnwoodall, in the studio, on the ball field, or in the boardroom. Here are a few choice quotes:

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

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

Pressfield gives a name – Resistance – to the force inside each of us that keeps us from doing what we are meant to do. He writes for artists but it applies to everyone, as each of us has something which we’re made to create. When we attempt to exercise our God-directed creative calling, we meet Resistance.

Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves. We locate it in our spouses, jobs, bosses, kids. “Peripheral opponents,” as Pat Riley used to say when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers. Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.

Critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy.

We think of others when we look for scapegoats for our unrealized aspirations. The real problem isn’t other people but the gravitational pull within us.

When we drug ourselves to blot out our soul’s call, we are being good Americans and exemplary consumers. We’re doing exactly what TV commercials and pop materialistic culture have been brainwashing us to do from birth. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work, we simply consume a product. Many pedestrians have been maimed or killed at the intersection of Resistance and Commerce.

Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer resistance.

The only way to overcome resistance is to create, and creating is hard work. It’s awesome and aweful and awful.

Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North — meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

When we’re so passionate we sacrifice sane human activities such as rest and sleep, when we cannot help but obsess – these are indicators of the thing we’re meant to make.

The professional self-validates.

As a pro, we may take pride in our work, we may stay late, and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amatuer, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it terrifies him.

The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will. The professional has learned, however, that too much love can be a bad thing… Playing for money, or adopting the attitude of one who plays for money, lowers the fever [to a workable level].

The professional does not permit himself to become hidebound with one incarnation, however comfortable or successful. Like a transmigrating soul, he shucks his outworn body and dons a new one. He continues his journey.

Someone who overcomes resistance is a pro. As Steve Jobs supposedly said, “real artists ship.” The pro has learned how to beat back Resistance with a broom handle, and the way you do it is 500 words at a time, late night or early morning. it is what Jim Collins calls the 20 Mile March.

What is your art, and how are you making it happen?

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).