Friday, August 29, 2008

The War Of Art, or Turn That Poor Angel Loose

by Mary Saums

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me a book I'd never heard of, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Though it's mainly written for writers, the core of its message applies to anyone who has ever wanted to do something but never quite got around to actually doing it. Ever wanted to lose weight? Bought the Slimfast, a few health magazines, maybe even some exercise DVDs and a huge plastic ball that takes up half the basement? I have. That ball sure does the trick. Not. Well, maybe it would if I ever figured out how to ride it or jump on it or whatever I'm supposed to do.

The real problem with the ball, and with stalled writing projects or other creative plans, isn't in the ball itself but in my inability to put my plan into action. In The War of Art, Pressfield talks about our inner struggles in which we are both highly motivated and highly resistant to creating something new. He does an excellent job of presenting his ideas on how resistance shows up in our lives and our writing and does so in simple terms.

Sure, a lot of how-to writing books deal with this issue. Two things set this one apart for me. First, it delivers on the promise of its subtitle: "Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles." This book won't gather dust on the shelves. I've found myself referring to it many times already.

The second is pretty amazing. Not everybody can handle this. Brace yourselves. Okay, ready? The author believes in angels. Call it the Muse or Divine Inspiration or The Strange Workings of the Invisible Universe if you wish. Pressman doesn't strike me as being nuts. He makes a very good case near the end of the book that rings true to me.

Help comes to us at the moment we take the first step. This is his concept of angels and our creativity in a nutshell. He believes they are there for us, wanting to help, but unable to until we move first. Here's a quote in the book from The Scottish Himalayan Expedition by W.H. Murray that illustrates his point:

"Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way...."

Does that sound familiar? It does to me. We hear about this sort of thing happening all the time. Pressman adds that it is facing what we fear that opens the door for this phenomenon. A baby step in the direction of doing what is right, or toward writing a book that will in turn inspire others, is all it takes to unleash our angelic helpers.

So please, take the dog collar off of that poor angel who wants to help you. If Pressman is right, our resistance is like shutting a friendly Golden Retriever in a room while you stand outside, feeling afraid because you're alone. Maybe you're not alone. I'm going to open the door, just in case there's a big fuzzy slobber-kissing friend out there who wants to tag along.

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