Ever read one of those life-changing books?
While in the early stages of trying to write my latest book I did. Thanks to my dad’s sister, my dear Aunt Kay.
She kept insisting I read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield, turns out had written many books—at least one of them was a best seller.
Remember The Legend of Bagger Vance? No matter. I wasn’t the least bit interested. I knew how to overcome resistance. I had already written one book and had started another. And what about the stack of books I needed to read for research?
The way she described the book added nothing to the enticement. “It’s a book for artists—writers, painters, creators—who need help overcoming resistance. It’s written by some guy who writes historical fiction.”
No thanks. The book was solving a problem I didn’t have.
But she persisted. In the end, she handed me her copy. “It will only take one afternoon for you to read this.”
Finally I caved. I picked up the book and started reading.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Although I had been somewhat productive at the time (who am I kidding?), I still wondered about direction. I felt compelled to write a book for mothers of adolescent girls.
But I found myself constantly questioning. “What do I know? What do I have to tell? Why does anyone care what I have to say? Why do this?” These questions stopped me. These questions identified as resistance by Pressfield prevented me from doing the work. Basically I had stopped writing because of excuses. When I did write, I couldn’t find the words.
Pressfield asked us, “Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? …
Have you wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment?”
While reading I found myself nodding my head. Yes. Yes. Yes. He continued, “Then you know what Resistance is.”
Oh yes, I do. I most certainly do. Before ending his take on things he shared this…
One night I was layin’ down,
I heard Papa talkin’ to Mama.
I heard Papa say, to let that boy boogie-woogie.
‘Cause it’s in him and it’s got to come out.
—John Lee Hooker, “Boogie Chillen”
And then nothing else mattered. Nothing. Yes this book was in me, and it had to come out.
There would be no stopping. There might be some slowing, but there would be no stopping.
“’Cause it’s in me. It’s got to come out.” That’s’ what had happened with my first book. To create more resistance, I convinced myself this time was different. I no longer wrote from pain. Writing without pain was a new experience. Confused, I mostly didn’t do anything. Countless battles went on in my head. “Write.”
“Oh, it’s summer. Take it easy.”
“I’m behind. I need to work. What about money?”
Besides not writing I also was taking a hiatus from speaking and promoting my first book.
Something bad was about to happen. If I did not take up pad and pen (okay, pounding a keyboard is more accurate), I would succumb to resistance. The symptoms of resistance would find me. And then I would be writing from a new pain—the pain of not doing what must come out.
Pressfield called it feeling like hell. “A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored. We’re restless. We can’t get no satisfaction.”
Truthfully, by the time I read the book misery hadn’t found me. I had been having way too much fun for misery to catch up.
Mostly I played. Work happened in small surges. Very small surges. As the months sailed by so did my deadlines.
Instead of writing, I shoved down the anxiety and did something else. Then along came the solution to a problem I didn’t have: The War of Art. Perfect timing. For on the verge of unknowingly trudging towards my unlived life I found redemption.
The book captured me. I nodded in agreement. The words were powerful. I was taken in.
Near the end of the book, Pressfield said: “Let’s ask ourselves like that new mother: What do I feel growing inside me? Let me bring that forth, if I can, for its own sake and not for what it can do for me or how it can advance my standing.”
This freed me. Something deep inside needed to come out. Resistance danced with me. Toyed with me. Tried to stop me. Resistance didn’t win. And that’s when I really started. That’s when what was in me came out.