Saturday, January 2, 2016

Favorite Quotes from Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art"

Although this book is a little too Zen and has some colorful language, it was personally inspirational and interprets the spiritual battle of the artist in a new metaphorical way.

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.  (end of intro)

Resistance will come in reaction to any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.  (p.6)

Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within. (p.8)

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. (p.9)

Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.
            We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance. Letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.
            Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. (p.12)

            Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it.
            Master that fear and we conquer Resistance. (p.16)

            Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually.
            So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing…relax. Resistance will give you a free pass. (p.17)

            The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.
            Never forget: this very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to altar our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.
            This second, we can sit down and do our work. (p.22)

            The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death. (p.39)

            The more Resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you---and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it. (p.42)

            Resistance doesn’t want us to face our fears. So it brings in Rationalization. Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor.  (p.55)

            The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare.  (p.75)

            The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contribution of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.
            The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back.  (p.84)

            The author uses and approves of Jungian concepts, and finds helpful a distinction between Self and Ego:
            The Ego hates artists because they are the pathfinders and bearers of the future, because each one dares, in James Joyce’s phrase, to “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”
            Such evolution is life-threatening to the Ego. It reacts accordingly. It summons its cunning, marshals its troop.
            The Ego produces Resistance and attacks the awakening artist.  (p.41)

            The artist is the servant of that intention, those angels, that Muse. The enemy of the artist is the small-time Ego, which begets Resistance, which is the dragon that guards the gold. That’s why the artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility. They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public. But alone with the work they are chaste and humble.  (p.163)