The Belly of the Beast

It’s a metaphor that’s been around since Jonah.  Writers talk about it as the state of being deep in the middle of a work as the wheels are coming off, your faith in your talent and in your ideas crashing head-on into failed structures and dead-end choices.   In Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield, “the belly of the beast” is where projects, dreams, and lives are won and lost.

The belly of the beast is either where I’m at with my current project (a play called Lost Cause), or I’m coming to it.

So here are a couple of things Pressfield’s  Do the Work has to say about getting through this part of the process,which again, for Pressfield is all about a very serious war.

  1. Resistance is an enemy who is is implacable, malicious, and out to destroy the work.
  2. The voice of Resistance is inside you, but is not you.
  3. The only possible scenario is to do battle with Resistance like a knight facing down a dragon.  It’s kill or be killed.

At this point, Pressfield now, finally, turns to the place most people start:  the dream, the vision, the initial explosion of energy that leads to attempting anything in life.   I find it so interesting that Pressfield puts this idea here, after he’s pounded the idea of war into our heads.   He hooks us into the vision side of the equation like this:

  1. Resistance arises second, after the initial urge to create.   He calls Resistance “the shadow cast by the innovative self’s sun.”
  2. The urge to create comes first, and it is based in love.   The opposite of fear is love.
  3. When we take up the battle with Resistance through love of the work, the idea, and the people we offer it to, “Assistance” will come.

And then, he asks a very simple question: “How bad do you want it?”

If you answer anything other than “totally committed”, he says “put this book down and throw it away.”

And now we’re back to Peter Block’s The Answer to How is Yes.

So with Lost Cause, I’m pretty much in the belly of the beast, and yes, it’s a war.  No sympathy here–it’s just the work.   Even as I wrote this blog post, what felt like a major salvo landed in my psyche, an interruption with the potential to disrupt in pretty negative ways.   Pressfield’s warrior stance has helped me with this, as has my ongoing research into the Civil War.   I was at a Men’s Breakfast event this morning in which the notion of “Spiritual Warfare” was discussed.  For whatever reason, themes of battle and war have been brought to my attention as they relate to the creative process, and the overall processes of living.   Disruptions are not as strategic as they are simply the way life goes.   My job is to meet them with grace and force, and continue working.

How badly do I want it?

Totally committed…

9 Replies to “The Belly of the Beast”

  1. This is a great post, Jeff. When I was teaching a playwriting class, students would often ask me “how long does it take to write a play” and my best answer was “until the play is done with you.” It is a battle, and like all mortal battles it takes the measure of your character, your resolve, and your conviction. Totally committed…

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jerry. “Until the play is done with me.” Oh, no! I was hoping one more week at the most. Just kidding…

      Yes, it’s a battle, after all.


  2. Jeff: I know I’ve gleaned this from many of the Faith & Arts authors I read, but I’ve long believed that the question of; “How badly do you want it?” is something God asks us in the midst of the “hard-work.” I believe that first He entrusts us with His creative vision/inspiration do make meaning, and then tests our resolve to see the thing through. When I remain faithful to the work He’s given me, I often hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” In this struggle I have grown, and He is glorified.

    Lew /

    1. Lew,

      So fascinating how God goes about the whole “testing” thing. It was God that sent the fish after Jonah in the first place, after all. Yes, he tests our resolve. Thanks for the reminder.



  3. Jeff, This post reminds me that God created man in his image and has prepared a place for him. Somehow, in order to finish, Jesus had to come, show us how to live, and then die for us and rise again. I’m reminded that Jesus showed himself to Saul who was trying to stamp him out of existence, and commisioned him to spread the good news. Saul, now become Paul, later said, “I have remained true to the heavenly vision.” We know it was not easy. I pray when my work on earth is finished, I can say with Paul, “I have remained true to the heavenly vision.” The vision God gives you is unique to you and one no one else may see, but it will be known by its fruit. May God bless.

  4. Neita,

    Thanks for the reminder that’s its the vision we hold on to. And I love the word “true” there as a synonym for faithfulness and fidelity. Remain “true” to the vision.


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