Resistance

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You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it 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.

– Steve Pressfield in The War of Art

Resistance, according to Steve Pressfield, is the force inhibiting us from pursuing what our genius begs us to reach for. It’s a feeling we’re all familiar with: the sinking fear of failure, the nagging worry that others will judge us, or the greasy panic of not knowing if we’re good enough.

It’s easy to assume that the great minds of the present and past somehow avoided these feelings. That’s bullshit. For me, that’s one of the beauties of social media. I can see the writers and creators I most admire occasionally ooze with the same worries I have. The thing that sets them apart from the rest of us is their ability to overcome those feelings.

I’m in awe every night my wife gets home from an 8, 9, 10, 11-hour shift. She grabs a bite to eat, cracks open her laptop, and continues working. I asked her the other day how she continues to work after a full shift. Her eyes glazed over and her head tilted as she pondered my question. “It’s my routine. I can keep working as long as I don’t stop. It’s when I stop that it’s hard to get going again.” Her dedication to education and her career are so ingrained in her daily routines that she doesn’t even consider the alternative. That’s where genius lives.

As part of my MFA, I’m required to submit monthly writing packets of around 7,500 words. I was a wreck my first month. I’d somehow faked my way into an MFA full of real writers, and it was time to pony up. I wrung my hands, bounced my leg, and pulled at my beard worrying over how I could fake my way through 7,500 words that would end up in the hands of my mentor, a seasoned, published YA author. After a certain point, the pressure of the deadline overwhelmed the pressure of my own Resistance, and I started writing.

I told myself to stay after work each day and just get 50 words on the page, and that’s where I learned my secret. Fifty words is a piece of cake. EASY. That’s 32 words right there. I could do that. Here’s the trick: I never stopped at 50. Never. In fact, more days than not, I’d crank out between 600 and 1,000 words, which brings me to the quote at the top of this post.

Pressfield’s allegory about Hitler might feel hyperbolic, but the subtle truth of it is unavoidable. It’s so easy for us to fill our time with things other than our passions that we eventually obscure our goals with the monotony of our own routines. To break out of our habits, we need to introduce a new one, preferably with a low barrier of entry. Every painting starts with a stroke that, on its own, looks ugly.

The War of Art

 

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There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. — Steven Pressfield in The War of Art

For years I dreamed of writing the types of books I love reading – gritty stories of characters fighting impossible odds. My only problem was that I never put my ass in a chair and got started. It wasn’t until January 2017 when my mother passed away that I experienced the cliche epiphany everyone experiences at some point: life is too short to wait for our dreams to come true.

On the 10-hour drive home from my Mom’s funeral, my wife and I discussed the possibilities the future held. I could continue working jobs that didn’t offer me creative fulfillment or take action to start moving toward something bigger. We googled writing programs, and I found out Regis University offered a low-residency MFA program in Denver, CO. It sounded perfect. I could start moving toward my goal of becoming a writer, surround myself with lovely, creative people, and visit my sister in Denver every 6 months.

I’ll enter my third semester of the program in July, and I’m 175 pages into my first novel-length manuscript. Here’s to sitting down and getting started.