The War of Art
Over the weekend I figured out why I have not yet penned a masterpiece: I do not have enough lucky items. Take Steven Pressfield, the successful author of two historical works of fiction, that heartwarming novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and a little book called The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Mr. Pressfield has lucky boots and lucky cufflinks, a lucky charm and a lucky nametag. On his desk he has a lucky miniature cannon that he points towards his chair so it can fire inspiration into him, and he also has a lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae. For good measure, before he starts work, he recites a lucky prayer, T. E. Lawrence’s translation of the Invocation of the Muse from the beginning of The Odyssey.
The War of Art is an inspiring book, teaching us that every Artist is a Warrior battling Resistance. Resistance is whatever stops the Artist-Warrior from creating his Art—whether self-doubt or dirty dishes. You may think you have a sensible reason for not pursuing your art—an empty bank account, for example—but you must banish it, for Rationalization is the spin-doctor of Resistance. As if sent by the Muse herself, this book entered my life at exactly the right time. On Friday night I was cursing my chosen profession, childishly shouting at Jordan, “But I don’t WANT to have a good attitude!” On Saturday a friend lent me this book, which I read in an afternoon. And today I am a Warrior marching into battle.
The final section of the book has a plot twist akin to that in the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia, in which Aslan reveals that he is actually Jesus. Pressfield tells us that the ultimate goal of the Artist-Warrior is to summon the Muses—and these are not metaphors for the imagination, but actual angels, emissaries from above. Ultimately, works of Art are created not by the Artist-Warrior but dictated by God Himself. Angels? I felt betrayed, much as when I get absorbed in some made-for-TV movie, only to realize I am watching PAX. Then I realized that my sense of betrayal was merely a form of Resistance. After all, it is surely not for me to say that if God, the Son or the Holy Ghostwriter were to pen a novel, it would not be The Legend of Bagger Vance.