In my advice to writers, there are two books I always recommend. One is On Writing by Stephen King, the other is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Immediately after I first read the latter, I plopped down and wrote my first novel, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, and I re-read it regularly (easy to do, as it’s a short book).
Pressfield’s deal is getting us to overcome the resistances within ourselves and just getting down to the friggin’ work. His book is a self-help book that’s really helpful and not full of homilies and crap like “You are the captain of your own ship.”
(Which a therapist once told me in what was, inevitably, our one and only session because I damn near laughed in her face).
I recently became aware of Pressfield’s blog for writers, Writing Wednesdays, and it should be required reading for anyone wanting to make it in the arts.
Here’s one gem I found there:
The Muse, if she’ll forgive me, is kind of like a mailman. She makes her rounds every day, cruising past our offices and studios and peeking in the window. Are we there at our easels? The Muse likes that. She likes to see us taking care of business. And if we’re there with our hearts breaking or tears streaming down our cheeks, all the better. The Muse says to herself, “This poor bastard is true to me; I’m gonna give him something in return for his loyalty.”
And into our heads pops the solution to Act Two, the bridge to that song we couldn’t lick, the breakthrough concept for our new philanthropic venture.
The lesson is, if you’re not at the place you do the work, at least trying to do the work, the work won’t happen. And if you are there, and getting down to business, you will discover wondrous things, gifts from the Muse, that will surprise you and enrich both you and the work itself.
But you’ve gotta be working for it to work.