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You, yes you!, are the problem. (I read a book.)

Finished “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. The book was broken down into three parts. The first two parts are a categorical breakdown of all the ways in which you fail.

These spoke to me personally and I did not like it.

The idea he was presenting was that of Resistance. Mr. Pressfield identifies Resistance as that force within ourselves that distracts, rationalizes, and perpetually, relentlessly, works to keep us on the couch. To keep us sedated. To ensure we simply maintain the status quo and coast.
Resistance takes many forms and all of them are comfortable and seductive. Resistance is soma.

It was enlightening to have these methods spelled out so plainly. And aggravating, for Resistance isn’t just for creative types, it’s for anyone attempting to accomplish a task, to work toward a goal, or improve themselves. No one is immune.

And yet with all his efforts toward categorization his advice basically came down to “Stop it! If you aren’t succeeding, it’s you! You’re just an amateur and not a professional. You don’t have what it takes to be a professional.” Or perhaps I’m just projecting?

There was a strong “bootstrap” vibe coming from the text. And while bootstraps are useful, they often ignore the lives onto which they are affixed. To his credit he admits in his pursuit of being a professional writer he lost a marriage and several good jobs. Only later in life did he find that balance, and yet, it seemed that balance only came after he was no longer hungry for money and had been well established as a writer.

There I go again. My resistance rationalizing my procrastination. I’m so weak! Agh! Steven would be proud of this self-flagellation. Or he would at least write a couple paragraphs about it.

The third part of the book was more personal and provided insights into his positions regarding one’s Resistance (ego) and himself.

This section basically said humans are merely conduits for God. Everything created by Man is a reflection of a power greater than ourselves and angels driving us to “evolve”; to be better than our nature.

In the beginning of this chapter he couched this idea by permitting us to call it the Muse, if we felt more comfortable. But it was clear he doesn’t really think that. His point was all of man’s creative energies are a reflection of God. The purpose of our endeavors are for God’s grace and glory and without this higher power we would still be animals living in caves.

I’m paraphrasing but not by much. Granted, near the end I was so exhausted from identifying with EACH AND EVERY EXPLANATION on how Resistance keeps me down, and how this is all my fault, and I’m just a lowly amateur writer, I may have mentally checked out. My reception of his thesis is misunderstood, but I my resistance says “not”.

I thoroughly disagree with his assessment of where creativity comes from. Ascribing creativity to the realm of the supernatural only serves to belittle and dismiss the genius of some, and the efforts of many.

But maybe I’m wrong? Sometimes even I feel a force beyond myself driving my ideas. Where do these random thoughts emerge? Are we spirits in a meat suit? After all, from what we can tell, the universe is nearly infinite. Who’s to say furry porn fan-fic isn’t divinely inspired?

Time to check out my book list and see what’s next on the schedule.

Until then, I hope everyone is doing well, and resisting the lesser angles of our nature.


PS (I purchased the book directly from his website. I have no affiliation with the author.)

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Book List

As part of the 1000 Days to an MFA program I’ve developed this book list. Feel free to read along with me and please recommend new titles, in the comments, that may not be on the list. My preferred genres are science fiction, fantasy, and anything really good. Thank you.

I have included links to all these titles. Where possible I’ve included free versions (Project Gutenberg) of the books, otherwise assume they are Amazon Affiliate links.

If you know of a legitimate free source for any title send it to me and I’ll update the link.

Crafting Book – Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (My post about this book.)
Classic – Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (PG) (Did not finish. Couldn’t get into it. Wasn’t interesting to me.)

Novel – Red Rising by Pierce Brown (Read. Decent pop-corn fiction. 3/5 stars.)

Crafting Book – Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin
Classic – A Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

Novel – Consider Phlebas – Iain M. Banks

Crafting Book –The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (My post about this book.)
Classic – Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

Novel – Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Crafting Book – Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Classic – A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Novel – All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Crafting Book – How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas C. Foster
Classic – Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Novel – To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Crafting Book – TBD
Classic – Neuromancer by William Gibson

Novel – Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Extra Titles (if time or next year)
Novel – Exo by Fonda Lee
Novel – Recursion: A Novel by Blake Crouch
Novel – Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Novel – Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Novel – We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
Novel – City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams
Novel – Shards of Honor (Vorkosigan Saga) by Miles Vorsokigan
Classic – The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
Classic – Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke