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War the

Art of

- by Steven Pressfield

The Professional A

Artist is .....

a soldier

.... this is what a professional sees of themself when they look in the mirror ... a grunt, a mercenary.

The sign of the amateur is over glorification of and preoccupation with the mysteries of the creative process. This is not because we believes art is devoid of a mystical dimension. On the contrary. We understands that all creative endeavors is holy, but we doesn’t dwell on it. We know if we wait for it, it will paralyze us. So we concentrates on technique. The professional is acutely aware of the intangibles that go into inspiration. Out of respect for them, we lets them work. We grants them their sphere while we concentrates on ours. By performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, we set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration. To think of yourself as a fighter, a gun for hire, implants the proper humility. It purges pride and preciousness. Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Why we do it

The professional artist accepts money for work, but does the work out of love. You have to love it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have devoted your life to it. The payoff of playing-the-game-for-money is not the money. The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude.


The professional understands that rationalization is resistance’s spin-doctor. Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us), resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work. What particularly insidious about it is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate. Indeed it may make sense to put of finishing your book, at least till after the baby’s born. What resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly. Tolstoy had 13 kids and wrote War and Peace. Lance Armstrong had cancer and won Tour de France 3 years and counting.


The only support you have is your intuition. It’s the only thing worth value when you sit down, alone, to do your work. Block out the voice of the critics and even those of your friends. Don’t talk about it. Don’t dilute its power. It’s between you and your Muse. Shut up and use it.


As artists, it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. In this uprising we free ourselves from the tyranny of consumer culture. We overthrow the programming of advertising, movies, TV and MTV by which we have been hypnotized from the cradle. We seperate ourselves from what our parents or society deems we should say. We unplug ourselves from the grid by recognizing that we will never cure our restlessness by contributing our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., but only by doing our work.


A amateur is overambitious, and plunges into a project with an unrealistic timetable. We know that level of intensity can’t be sustained. A professional, on the other hand, understand delayed gratification. We are the tortoise, not the hare. The professional arms itself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in our careers, but to keep ourselves from flaming out in each individual work. We know that any job takes twice as long as we think and costs twice as much. We accept that. We recognize it as reality.


The professional is tough minded. It takes tremendous strength of character to not take rejection to harshly and be too tough on ourselves. The professional loves the work, is invested in it wholeheartedly, but does not forget that this artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolation insider you. The next will be better, and the one after than better still.


I’m not talking about craft; that goes without saying. The professional is prepared at a deeper level. We are prepared, each day, to confront our own self-sabotage. The artist wakes up in the morning already recognizing resistance, the gnawing sensation of uncertainity and doubt, the whispering voice of procrastination. The professional is ready to combat it.

Agents of the Infinite

At the end of a day’s work, their is a hill I hike atop. I take a pocket tape recorder because I know that as my surface mind empties with the walk, another part of me will chime in and start talking. It tells us corrections, it edits, it finds solutions we had not seen before. This process of self-correction is so common we don’t even notice. But it’s a miracle. And its implications are staggering. Who’s doing the revising anyway? What force is yanking at our sleeves? What does it tell us about the architecture of our psyches that, without our exerting effort or even thinking about it, some voice in our head pipes up to counsel us on how to do our work? Whose voice is it? - Are they muses? Whatever it is, it’s smarter than we are. A lot smarter. It doesn’t need us to tell it what to do. It goes to work all by itself. What can we conclude by this? Clearly some intelligence is at work, independent of our conscious mind and yet in alliance with it, processing our material for us and alongside us. That is why artist acquire modesty and humility. They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public, but alone with the work they are chaste and humble. They know they are not the source of creations they bring into being. They are only facilitate. They carry. To labor in this way, I believe, conforms most closely to Higher Reality. In fact, we are servants of the Mystery. We were put here on earth to act as agents of the Infinite, to bring into existence that which is not yet, but which will be, through us.

In the end, we arrive at a kind of model of the artist’s world, higher planes of reality, about which we can prove nothing, but from which arise our lives, our work, and our art. When Blake said Eternity is in love with the creations of time, he was referring to those planes of pure potential. The artist is a servant of that intention.

the war of art 5  

the war of art 5