A Brief Note On “The War of Art”

How do you define a critic?  I don’t remember where I first heard it, but here’s the definition I use, though frankly, until recently, I’d forgotten it.

“A critic mediates between an artist and his work.”

Yesterday, I got a note about the latest draft of the my current project.  It wasn’t a note I was happy about, and my reaction to it had nothing to do with the person giving it to me.  It was, frankly, a very, very good note.  But it also made me unhappy (before it was over, read angry) because it landed in a sore spot that has to do with an ongoing conversation I have with myself about my overall life as a writer and a craftsman.  Bottom line: if there’s something in the work that strikes you as false, it probably is.  Don’t screw around with it. Falseness in character and story design, as far as you can discover it, cannot be tolerated, any more than its to be tolerated or encouraged in the daily world.   When an idea first strikes, the jury calling it true or false sometimes takes awhile to come in, and if you build on it without letting it solidify and stand up to some rigorous testing, you can end up with significant and lovely structures you just have to tear down.

There’s re-writing, and there’s having to start all over.

BS is a killer.  Daily ruthlessness is imperative.

That’s why I commented yesterday that Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art came along at just the right moment.   It’s a brutal, refreshing read.   Imagine…a book unafraid to call shame a legitimate motivator for getting on with the work, as if there are some behaviors, even in our day and age, we should be ashamed of.  Imagine…a book that tells you your own personal healing has nothing to do with you getting your work done.   Imagine…a book unafraid to accuse the reader of not yet having turned pro, not matter how many words he’s produced.   Imagine…a book in which you hear (from a man who sounds like he knows) that the war of doing the deep, maybe divine, work of your calling is fought new every day, that no one expects the pain of it to go away, and that “Resistance” is pouring all the resources it has (though its nothing personal, of course) to destroying your work, your heart, and your creative ability to make the world.

Imagine loving being set aright by every word.

I’m not all the way through it, but I have some new tools this morning.

Still waking up, going pro…

2 Comments

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  1. You got my attention when you mentioned “shame” as a motivator. Our culture is driven by political correctness and pop psychology to the extent that it denies reality often. Guilt and shame have a real place in life, but too often don’t exist in our world of self-centeredness.

  2. When I got to that phrase “fought new every day” I paused and read it a few times. I want to make new stuff every day. I love that idea of pushing through and past the ideas we did yesterday and 5 minutes ago.. I love the idea of resistance, too. I stitched the word “resist” on a homemade nametag for myself to wear last year. It’s like building a creative/spiritual muscle. Hard, but good. And yes, when I think about turning pro in light of creative doings I think about water, and, flow…time to flow…

    Loved this short blog, Jeff. It’s just the right size, actually. Bite size. (I’m taking a tip from that).

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