What I Learned From the War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I’ve had this book on my shelf for about 5 years, and its made it through all my downsizing and taking books that no longer served me to sell at Half Price Books. (They don’t pay much, but I like the idea of them being re-homed.) I read it before when I was trying to make my jewelry business work, and I read it from the point of view that resistance is bad, and a thing we must overcome. The title says it all, its a war, and you must break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles.

I’ve had a lot of ease in creating since I read the book, where paintings just flowed effortlessly. Its not really a war to me anymore. I also no longer have the trauma and drama around resistance. I notice ok, I’m resisting, and ask a question like what is this? what’s going on right now? If I need a day off to walk in the park, or binge watch Netflix, I just do it. The more I allow myself to do these things without judging the absolute crap out of myself, the less resistance has power over me. I think we make it bigger and harder on ourselves by resisting resistance. Like fighting fire with fire, you just get more fire. That doesn’t help anything.

So when the War of Art called to me from the bookshelf two weeks ago, I was a bit confused. How can this help me now? Even though I didn’t know, I picked it up and devoured it over the next three nights.

Pressfield talks about the aspects of resistance and how it shows up for him along his journey of writing. Fear, doubt, depression, illness, rationalization, sex, procrastination, even relationship. Oops, I was doing that last one and didn’t even realize it. It helped me start to see the other places resistance was showing up that I hadn’t identified yet.

He also gets himself in a good feeling state before siting down to write. His name tag from a dream reminds him he is the creator, the one with the power. A prayer to the muses to ask for help and get into the flow. It led to questions for myself, how do I already do this and what else can I add to get in this good feeling state?

There are two things I already do that really help with the flow of creation. The first is to tell myself the goal is to finish the article or the painting. That’s the only goal, and cuts down on the amount of judgment along the way. I will create a hundred paintings or a thousand articles, and if this one doesn’t come out quite right or even bad, it doesn’t matter. I learned something, I did it, and I can keep going.

The second is related to the first, and that’s to not take myself too seriously. I am not writing this post at a desk, I am writing this in my comfy, oversized swivel chair with sumptuous pillows and my lap top on my lap. Sometimes I stick my fingers in the paint or when I get stuck ask, how can I really mess this up? It makes me laugh, and I can carry on.

A section near the beginning called “The Unlived Life” had me both enraptured and reeling. Pressfield describes the woman who gets cancer quits her job, does what she’s also wanted to do, and cancer goes into remission. Then he poses some questions: “Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare death in the face to make us stand up confront resistance?” I have another theory on that. Our body gives us clues and messages to guide us, and the body gets louder and louder until we listen. Note to self: listen before it becomes cancer.

This section ends with a story about how young Hitler went to school to become an artist. He took his inheritance and moved to Vienna to study, but never produced any paintings. Then this hit me: “Call it an overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.” Whoa. That’s what resistance can do if you let it.

Ultimately I disagree with Pressfield on the nature of resistance, and don’t think its bad, the enemy, or out to get us. It’s something we use to dynamically avoid creating our lives, or as he calls it our unlived lives. He did, however, provide a space for me to ask some really great questions of myself, and start to look closer at where resistance is showing up that I didn’t see before. Not just with creating my art, but also with creating my life. What would I like to create now? Now that is an excellent question.

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Breathe, Show up, Laugh, You’re on the Right Track

Right before Christmas, I quit my job. Who does, that? The situation I created for myself drug me down like a sinking stone until I recognized that I have been going after jobs that I hate while convincing myself how much I loved them. That’s why its so important to just do it, because you can create a situation where you can see things you never saw before. So Nike was onto something after all.

Loving cars means work in the car industry, right?

I love cars. Seriously LOVE. I drive my Cadillac ATS-V at high performance track events, read Car & Driver, and lust after the McLaren 12C. I even use #cargirl on Instagram. I was a Product Specialist at Cadillac, and loved teaching our salespeople and customers about the technology. I was great at it, but after two years I was a little bored and ready to move on to something else. I didn’t know that something else would be in another field entirely.

I thought my next challenge would be selling cars. So I worked at two different car dealerships. One was for two weeks and I sold a car my first day on the floor! Woohoo, I can do this! The management was an issue, so I found another dealership with great management and wonderful growth potential.

Hello logic, this is awesome! Or is it?

When I found myself trying to hold back tears on the second day, I had to ask myself what the hell was going on. I seemingly had everything I was asking for, but I had convinced myself that’s what I wanted. The fit was all wrong and my emotions were telling me something was off.

I went to my car to let the tears flow and send a desperate text a friend, asking what is going on with me and why can’t I just do this?! She asked me what my heart knew without the whispers from my bank account. The slow realization washed over my brain that I was trying so hard to fight- this is not going to work.

I remembered some interesting things that happened the previous week, and all the information was there. While waiting to hear back after interviews, I went to Starbucks and told myself I was a writer for the next hour. I was so happy, it felt so good! Then, I looked at my bank account and accepted the sales position. I just wanted to put my big girl panties on, get a job, pay my bills, and be happy. I was being reactionary. I was not creating.

It became more and more obvious with each passing minute until it was laughable. I thought I was eating the most decadent piece of chocolate cake, only to see that it was actually a pickle with icing on it.

What an aligned choice feels like

I went to clock out for lunch and my employee number didn’t exist in the system. I had used it that morning so if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. I took an hour to think it over. My brain was screaming at me that quitting was the stupidest thing I could ever do.  My heart begged me not to go back. If I thought I could endure, I totally would have. I couldn’t delude myself any longer, and it was painfully obvious this wasn’t going to work.

I quit that day. I told my wonderful manager “I just realized this wasn’t for me and I’m sorry I wasted your time.” He was confused, but ultimately had that human understanding of you have to do what’s best for you. Early on in my consciousness journey, I would have stayed in that job for months or years convincing myself that I liked it, had to do it. Change had come, and the old way wasn’t working. I walked out feeling total peace and breathing relief.

I had no idea how I was going to pay my upcoming bills. It also would have been logical to keep doing that job while finding another. Logical wasn’t really working anymore. I had a passing thought: If I’m going to go 5-6 days a week doing something 10 hours a day, I need to love it. If I was willing to do that for cars, what would it be like to do that for my writing career?

I completely rewrote my resume focusing on the writing aspects of previous positions, really having no idea what being paid to write looks like. I had occasional panic attacks over the next couple days. I found writing jobs to apply for, and I applied for them whether I felt qualified or not. I also painted.

Breathe, show up, laugh, you’re on the right track. 

I applied for eight or so writing jobs on the morning of Christmas Eve, and the phone rang unexpectedly a little before noon. I got an interview! I started the following Monday writing about furniture. When you’re aligned, things can happen really fast. My choice seems so long ago now, and the drama around it so unnecessary. I’m finishing up my third week there, and I have fun and don’t dread going to work. Today, I am a writer.

If you are asking yourself the question “Should I quit my job and do what I love?” no one can answer that for you. You know what’s best for you. I do recommend asking better questions. What do I love to do? What would it take to make money doing that? What would I really like my life to be like? What energies would I like to have in my life? Universe, show me. Then, you can do and move toward things that match that energy. It’s a wonderful and sometimes messy road, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Why I {Don’t} Suck at Meditation

I suck at meditation, at least in the traditional sense. Forms I’ve tried involve watching thoughts like a waterfall without judgment, or counting breaths to try and empty the mind. The truth is I can’t sit still very long, and my main focus becomes the pain in my back. Not very monk-like.

Brian Johnson sold me on meditation is his class How to Meditate without Moving to the Himalayas. He explains that meditation strengthens your mind to help keep the inner gremlins at bay, which is essential for any creative work. Other benefits are increased self-esteem, empathy, trust, and it even improves memory.

So what’s a fidgety, inner-peace seeking artist to do?

I started connecting the dots from people’s reactions to my work. “You sewed those beads one at a time!? You must have so much patience!” To which my reaction is “Patience, yeah, right! You should see me in traffic. Beading is my zen.” Hmmm… I describe it as zen. I can focus for extended periods of time, and I know I’m in the flow. Beading in the morning leads to a happier day with less road rage. Sounds like meditation to me!

I knew I was on to something, but I judged it as not real meditation because it came so easily, so naturally.

Deepak Chopra says that the purpose of meditation is not to tune out, but to get in touch with it all. A way to get to the space between your thoughts, the space of infinite creativity and where you feel everything is connected to everything else. Infinite Creativity! Yes, please!

A friend reminded me of the Tibetan Monks and their creation of mandalas as a meditation. One can simply “google” mandalas and print one out to color, and have that serve as meditation. If I think both of those examples are meditation, then I can extend it to free writing, playing the piano, art journaling, taking a walk, and even dancing. All “active” ways at getting to the space between your thoughts.

So why do I suck at meditation? Because I didn’t see that sewing tiny little beads together, my bliss, as a “real” meditation, and thought it had to be hard. It doesn’t. On days I bead, there is definitely less road rage!

Is there something you already do that can serve as your meditation? Is there something you would like to start doing? Please share with us in the comments.

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5 Secrets to a More Productive Workspace

Whether you are an entrepreneur, office worker, artist, or writer, having an environment that supports you in the creation of your work is essential.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying Feng Shui and how the energy of the decor and other items in your home can influence how you feel in certain rooms.

My combination studio and home office space is the room I love to change, redesign, and play with the most, and I have few secrets to share.

These are my top five tips for helping you get things done in your studio or office space. (Also, my favorite is number five!)

 

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Empty out the trash every day– No need to let yesterday’s trash weigh down the success of today
  2. Get Organized– Clear the clutter, and organize what’s important. You will have more clarity and less distractions from your work.
  3. Put your desk in the “command” position in the room– Back to the wall, able to look out doors and windows without turning around. You are now energetically in command of your life and business.
  4. Harmonize your color scheme– Tap into the energy of the room and look around for colors that seem out of place or “off” to you. Replace them if needed, and you will get that “ahhhh, that’s better” feeling.
  5. Touchstone– An object that reminds you of your why, or a reminder of who you would like to be. I have one that reminds me to stop being so serious and have more fun!

If you are having trouble organizing, decluttering, or something seems off that you can’t quite put your finger on, please get in touch with me for a consultation. I would love to play in the energy of your space, and help create the right space for you!

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Experiment with the Art of Consumption

Waterford vase with roses

In our society, many people who have a lot of nice things are judged as materialistic, that they have “too much” and that money could be put to “better use.” I recently listened to an episode of Joy of Business radio show titled, The Art of Consumption, and I started to wonder what it would be like to think about this in a completely different way.

Thinking about materialism and money (or anything else) differently when you’ve always thought your beliefs are absolutely true can be tough for some, but it can also be easy. Being curious about your thoughts and asking questions can help you determine if what you’ve always believed or grew up to believe is really true for you. I’ve had some good practice with this over the years, and I really looked at what my beliefs about consumption and its role in our lives.

What if being surrounded with things that nurture you and bring you joy was not a wrongness? What if these things added to the energy of creating more in the world, being more, and receiving more? What if I didn’t put myself last? What if having more was an art?

The Experiment:

On the show, Christopher Hughes tells the story of how he came to purchase two sterling silver salt dishes, just for him, for joy, and how it was actually a commitment to his life. It’s a cool story, and I invite you to listen to the show if you would really like to get the energy of this.

I asked myself myself, what is something I desire that I don’t really “need” that could cultivate this same energy? The idea came fast, a Waterford crystal vase! I buy fresh flowers a couple times a month, and have several basic glass vases, but a really nice one would be a total delight.

I started searching online and the general range for a new one is $40-$400 depending on the collection. Then, I remembered that Christopher mentioned he got a deal on the salt dishes, and they were worth more than what he paid. I learned about what markings to look for, and how to date the pieces. I went on eBay and scored a pre-1992, signed Waterford crystal vase with Kilrane pattern (the higher collection) for $15!

It came in the mail with cobwebs still in it, probably left unenjoyed in a cabinet and forgotten about. I laughed as I cleaned it, and promised it would be happier and more loved now. I learned that vinegar easily rinses away any cloudiness. Now it’s the first thing I see when I come through the door, and makes me smile.

My next question is how can I expand this into other areas of my life? What would it be like to be surrounded by items that make me smile? I’m excited and looking forward to the process.

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How NOT to Create A Masterpiece

Story time! I’m working on a beaded art doll named Destiny that I plan to enter into a competition. It’s fiercely competitive and the exposure is great.

The nature of the competition, is exactly what’s keeping me from sticking to my daily creative practice with Destiny as my project.

I didn’t come to that conclusion immediately, or for about 2 months to be honest. I told myself there are other business projects and priorities ahead of her, but on the list of priorities- she is there with 30 minutes a day allotted to her. Yes these other things were important, but they could wait a measly half hour.

Destiny in progress

So I had to ask myself- under all the BS, what is the real reason I’m not working on her?

“I don’t know what to do next” was my first excuse, but I know that’s BS, too. When I find myself completing one section, the next step comes to me. It’s almost like a channel, that gives me just enough information to get to the next step, but nothing past that. I would be overwhelmed if it came all at once.

So I asked myself again, what’s the real reason I’m not working on her?

The shocking realization of the answer hit me like a 2 by 4. Whenever I was about to work on her, I imagined her in the competition display case with the award-winning ribbon. What?! Then, I imagined the people looking at her and what they would expect to see from my piece! What?! So, the problem was clearly my approach. 

When Leonardo da Vinici sat down to paint the Mona Lisa, was he thinking: time to paint one of the most recognizable, iconic pieces art in history? No, I speculate he was just doing his thing and painting. Or when Elizabeth Gilbert was writing Eat, Pray, Love? We know she wasn’t thinking, time to write my New York Times Best Seller! She was a woman on a journey, just like me.

New approach: Do what I do. Follow my creative process without considering what other people expect from me or my work. Only after its complete can I release my work to be viewed and judged.

The Lesson: Do what you do. Follow your heart, creative process, and what you already have inside you. Have no expectations on it until its actually completed, only then can it be released.

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