The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I read this book in one night. It was that good. It was also that short; about 160 pages.

Pressfield offers wisdom on how to overcome creative blocks. Resistance is the term he uses to encompass everything that gets in the way of you completing your creative process.

The book is separated into three smaller books. Book one deals with defining the enemy—Resistance. Book two is about turning pro and combatting Resistance. The final book deals with a higher realm.

The first two books are full of poignant insights. The third is useless to me. Maybe you’ll find some meaning there.

If you’ve ever experienced a block in your creative process, this book has something to offer you.

 

Try Something Different: Dealing with Distractions

We can’t all function at 100% productivity all the time. Some of us are merely human. My Praxis advisor and I talked about this during our meeting earlier today. We theorized that it might be something in my subconscious that is holding me back from maximum productivity. We came up with a method to tap into my subconscious.

He challenged me to keep a journal every day for the next two weeks. Just by writing out my thoughts each day, a pattern might begin to emerge. Some fear or bias might appear on the page. That’s what we’re both hoping for anyway.

Be creative in your attempts to ignore distractions.

There’s no one way to cure laziness or procrastination. The distractions in your life are far outnumbered by the ways in which you could overcome them. The journal method will at least help me learn about myself and my motivations. And that can only be a good thing.

Five Years without Christopher Hitchens

I won’t say Christopher Hitchens is a hero of mine—he believed having heroes to be a dangerous business—but I will say that he’s a person I think about every day. He was a brilliant writer, perhaps an even more brilliant orator.

It’s men and women like Hitch that make me feel lucky to exist in the years of YouTube. Though we never corresponded while he was alive, and I doubt that we ever will now that he’s dead, it’s as if we did. So much of my worldview comes from him.

The rebel. The contrarian. The freethinker. Defender of the little guy. The antitotalitarian. Champion of Orwell and Jefferson and Paine. A principled man, right till the very end. All of these monikers and more belong to him.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of his death. It pains me that he’s no longer here to offer his political commentary. How many times would Chancellor Trump have been Hitchslapped over the next few years if Christopher were alive? It’s cruel that we’ll never know the answer.

Hitch believed that his opinion deserved to be shouted just as loudly as anyone else’s. Who can argue with that? It was the opinions themselves that made him such a polarizing figure. Like the book he wrote which eviscerated Mother Teresa’s character. Or when he stepped out of William F. Buckley’s funeral when Henry Kissinger got up to speak. (He didn’t want to be counted as being among Kissinger’s audience.) The man hated his enemies, but never without reason. He told you why; he never dodged a question.

We should all strive to be more like Hitch—full of life, incredulous, freethinking, always willing to debate, unapologetic in our beliefs.

The closest I can get to knowing him is reading what he wrote and listening to what he said. And that’s fine with me. But I can’t help wishing for more; wishing that I could shake his hand one day.

Here’s a compilation of some of his best moments.

The Writer’s Razor: You’ve Got to Hate Your Own Words

Who or what pops into your mind when you read the words tortured artist?

For me, it’s Vincent van Gogh. Imagine that that ginger genius had been a writer instead of a painter. A man like that would have worn his writer’s razor down as dull as it could go. His what?

The writer’s razor is what I call that self-mutilating voice inside our heads that tells us what to slash from our own writing. The best writers are constantly shaving. (Then why do so many of them have facial hair?)

Greg Kinear plays a best-selling author in Stuck in Love. In one scene he says, “I’m not a great writer. I’m a great re-writer.” I think about that line almost every day.

You should be your own harshest critic. Go back and read your sentences aloud. Do they sound perfect? Are they missing anything? Are there words that can be cut out? Is your writing brimming with fluff and cliché? Are you using the active voice?

Criticism sucks, but it sucks much less when you’re the one catching your own mistakes. Not many things in life offer second chances, but writing gives you a second and a third and a tenth chance.

Our job is to communicate what we mean as efficiently and beautifully as we can. Without our razors, we would get nowhere.

You’ve got to hate your own words. Scrutinize, analyze, realize, revise. Take your time. Get it right. It can be done.

Stephen King went through several razors when he was preparing The Stand for publication. He sliced about 150,000 words from the original manuscript. That’s nearly two Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stones!

Maybe Vincent van Gogh came to mind because he lived a tragic life. If he screwed up a painting, he had to throw the whole thing away. That’s tragic in itself. We writers don’t have to do that; we get to pull out our razors when we notice a blemish on our canvases.

Lucky us.