Book 1&2 of 22 The War of Art stephen Pressfield
Why read these books?
These books The War of Art and Do the Work were written you can tell by a very intelligent, kind person. When you go online to YouTube and see Stephen Pressfield in interviews etc. you’ll instantly get a feel for who he is. He's a giver and these books is a gift. In these books he outlines, once and for all what we all have experienced as artists. The challenge to self-actualize our creative impulses to get access to the muse and allow the art to come forth and manifest itself. His argument is there is an invisible Resistance that is within everyone but it can be overcome through ACTION and faith in the muses.
I truly was moved by these books and certainly use them as a handbooks to remind myself that the creative energies that want to be born from my personhood can be born, they just need to be fostered and developed by a mindset that is aware of the energy he calls Resistance and the combatting benevolent, helpful nature of the muses. Again, very thankful for his writing these two books. Highly recommended for all creative people who have ever doubted themselves and wondered why it was so hard to create at times. And conversely, how much can truly be born if we stick with things. I give it 10 out of 10!! A very necessary book to read for all artists.
Below here firstly are the notes on this original The War of Art. As well, for this first blog entry I read a second book, his companion or follow up book called Do The Work. My Coles notes and three takeaways from that book along with its Coles Notes follow below as well.
Firstly, my top three takeaways from The War of Art.
You must become who you are meant to be - work in your “territory” and not live in the hierarchical world of society. ( wake up to your own path)
The energy of the universe ( angels) are real and will help you if you tap into them. Honour them with whatever ceremony you can dream up. ( lucky shoelaces. :-) )
It’s in the doing that love and life is made. You will get find your inspiration and all that you need “along the way”.
Here are some teachings from The War of Art.
Book One Resistance - Defining the Energy
It is not the writing part that's hard, what's hard is sitting down to write.
Most of us have two lives; the lives we live in the unlived life within us, between the two stands resistance. It's dances and makes us less than we are and what we were born to be do. You think resistance isn't real? Resistance will bury you.
Resistance is like snow in burying you with excuses. It's an energy field; a repelling force. It's negative and aims to sabotage and distract us and prevent us from doing our work. It's internal, insidious, has no conscience, always lying and full of crap; it will assume any form to deceive you, it's implacable, it doesn't know you and he doesn't care about you; it's malevolent, it's as indifferent as the rain.
It must be fought every day, it aims to kill our soul, our genius, our precious gift and it is fuelled by fear. Master the fear and we master Resistance.
Resistance is most powerful at the finish line. It will recruit others to sabotage you; ie you will be reproached by others.
Procrastination is it most obvious form “I'm going to write the symphony, I'm just going to start tomorrow.” You can turn the tables on it - just sit down and do the work.
It has many forms shopping ,TV, gossip, alcohol, consumption of fat, sugar, salt ,chocolate, trouble that we get into, self dramatization, self medication, victimhood. Even the choice of a mate can be a form of resistance. Resistance loves unhappiness, embodies fundamentalism.
If you find yourself criticizing other people you're probably doing it out of resistance. People who are beating resistance in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak it all it's to offer encouragement. Watch yourself. Of all the manifestations of resistance, most only hurt yourself, criticism and cruelty harm others as well.
The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident, the real one is scared to death. If you ask “Am I really a writer? am I really an artist? Chances are you are. The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. Is he scared? Hell, yes, he's petrified. So if you're paralyzed with fear it's a good sign as it shows that you have to do; it shows you the Way.
Professional's realize that happiness is a byproduct of work. They concentrate on the work and allow rewards to come or not, whatever they like.
Resistance makes us want to think that we are alone but really we are not alone, we are with our muse. Regarding support, the more energy we spent looking for support from colleagues and loved ones the weaker we become and less capable of handling our business. Beware: what better way of avoiding work then going to a workshop.
Rationalization is resistance right hand man. It's job is to keep us from feeling what we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing the work. It's basically a spin doctor. Remember Tolstoy had 13 kids and wrote War and Peace. Lance Armstrong had cancer in one the Tour de France three years in a row. Women having babies for 50 million years.
Book Two Combatting Resistance - Turning Pro
Professionals versus amateurs are like day and night, full-time versus part-time, seven days a week versus “whenever”. Professional dedicate their lives to it, commits full-time, they have a routine. They only write when the inspiration strikes and fortunately it strikes every morning at 9 o'clock sharp!
They understand the principle of priority “you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important then you must do what's important first. What's important is the work. Just shut up and keep pumping.
You have to learn to be miserable you have to love to be miserable. Like the US marines.
Characteristics of a pro.
We show up every day, we show up no matter what, we stay on the job all day, we don't go home till the whistle blows, we are committed over the long haul, the stakes are high for us and are very real, we affect renumeration for labor, we do not over-identify with our jobs. The amateur on the other hand over identifies with his artistic aspirations; an amateur takes things so seriously it paralyzes him. Pro’s master the technique of our jobs, we have a sense of humour about our jobs, we receive praise or blame in the real world. They are thankful they are in the arena; pros play for pay but in the end they do it for love. You have to be patient and steal yourself for the long haul, it’s a marathon not the 100 yard dash.
Professionals seek order so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.
The professional demystifies. She acts in the anticipation of its aberration and the professional shuts up, she doesn't talk about it. She does her work.
The professonial knows that once he gets started fear will recede and he'll be OK. Henry Fonda used to throw up every time before he went on stage. You have to be prepared mentally to confront your own self sabotage.
Professionals work has style distinctly his own. The style serves the material. He does not use it as a means of drawing attention to himself. He recognizes those that came before him and does not hesitate to ask for help. He distances himself from the Muse. As in Madonna does not identify with Madonna, Madonna employees Madonna! Takes criticism, failure, humiliation rejection, criticism, external reflection of an internal resistance. She thinks “better to be in the ring with the ball than on the stands or in the parking lot”. Tiger Woods is a great example of a professional.
Professionals recognize their limits and hire other professionals and reinvent ourselves as time goes on. A gun recognizes another gun. It's a good idea to be think “You Inc.”. A good mentality. Become a pro; it's as simple as that; make your mind to be a Pro.
Book 3 Beyond Resistance - The Higher Realm
Angels are all around us. They are allies and they are real. Just as resistance is real, equal and opposite powers counterpoised against it are real.
Nothing matters except sitting down every day and trying. Its’ the artist code; the warriors way; it’s an attitude. Say a prayer before you sit down to engage the muse; have respect for the energy that is available to us.
When you finish one project say to yourself. OK, what's the next and then move on.
The muses were nine sisters daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne which means memory their names were Cleo, Erato, Thalía, TerpsIchore, CallIiope etc. Their jobs were to inspire artists. Each muse is responsible for a different art. There are streets in New Orleans named after these muses.
The gods travel as “swift as thought”. Where did Hamlet come from? Where did the Parthenon come from? Where did Nude Descending a Staircase come from?
William Blake - “Eternity is in love with the creations of time”.
When invoking the muse there is magic. Goethe- “whatever you do or dream you can begin it, boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now. “
Angels are agents of evolution; the entire human race is one super angel crying “Evolve, Evolve!”. They are on the other side of the pain of glass shouting to get our attention but we can't hear them were too distracted by our own nonsense.
When we face our fears something wonderful happens, a crack appears in the membrane. Angels, midwives congregate around us they assist us as we give birth to ourselves; to that person we were born to be into the one whose destiny was encoded in her soul our Damien, neour genius.
When we make a beginning we get out of our own way to allow the angels to come in and do their job. They can speak to us now and they make us happy; it makes the muses happy. Eternity has opened a portal into time. This is why the artists heart is so modest they know they are not doing the work they are just taking dictation. “Largo” was a name Pressfield had a dream: of on a sinking boat a captain was needed and then someone looked at him and said “what do we do captain?” and it brought to his attention that he was in control of his life no one else.
We need to shift from the ego to the self; the part where the angels are in. Angel Land the archetypes of the unconscious dwell there. The sphere of the soul is the seed of our consciousness once we do that will be healthier.
What the self realizes and the ego doesn't: death is an illusion, time in space are allusions, all beings are one, the supreme emotion is love, God is all there is. Demolish the ego.
The alcoholic collapsed in the gutter, the voice that tells him “I'll save you”, comes from the soul. Where there a deepest pain - it’s united to God and is incapable of falsehood and speaks for the future.
The ego hates the self and doesn't want us to involve. It like things just the way. The more awake we become the less we need the ego. Resistance feeds on fear and one of the biggest fears there is is the fear “we will succeed”. When we do, we find ourselves tapping into the unquenchable, inexhaustible, source of wisdom, consciousness, companionship.
Or job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we are to be but to find out who we already are and become it.
HIERARCHY VERSES TERRITORY
We need to find our “territory” versus the hierarchical position society pressed upon us. So much of culture tells us what to do and who we should think and should be etc. That works with a small crowd but when you get into a bigger crowd you find you've become anonymous again and so you must find your own territory. Arnold Schwarzenegger's territory was the gym. John Mayer’s is his guitar etc. Avoid the hierarchy. Love the work and work within yourself. Don’t compare or compete with others, don't judge and don't manipulate to gain favour etc.
Do your own thing be happy.
The territory provides sustenance, it sustains us without any external import. Our role is to put in effort and love. The territory absorbs us and gives it back to us in the form of well-being.
A territory is only be created alone.
The territory can only be claimed by work.
A territory returns exactly what you put in.
When do we know we're operating hierarchically?.. When we're seeking the good opinion of others. If we were the last person on earth would we still show up at the studio the rehearsal hall or the laboratory?
Contempt for failure is a cardinal virtue.
Do it for God as an offering to God.
We are servants of the mystery, every breath we take, every heartbeat, every evolution of every cell comes from God and is sustained by God.
Every second just as every creation invention every bar of music or line of verse; every thought ,vision, fantasy and even dumb ass flop or stroke of genius comes from the infinite intelligence that created us in the universe in all its dimensions.
In conclusion there exists a higher power which longs to bring visions here.
The enemy is the smalltime ego which begets resistance the only way you can do things is ACTION. If you don't do it you're cheating the world give us what you got!
Do the Work
by Stephen Pressfield
Why Read this Book?
If you are looking for advice on how to push through and keep going on a project this will be good for you. Stephen Pressfield is the guru of helping creative people get things done. It’s the follow up book from his classic The War of Art (which I will also be reading). Just a great short booster shot of “get er’ done!” from an acclaimed author. I give it an 8-10. It reminds me of a Tom Peters Book.
My 3 Big Takeaways
“All” things can thought of as a story and can be broken down into a beginning, a middle and and end.
2) There is something inside up that is constantly acting like an antigravity and tries to keep us from acting creatively; once acknowledged one can work though it more easily.
3) Do things against the tide if need be, trust the cosmic soup and start before you're ready.
My Synopsis. I found this book kind of a wake up call to what is called Resistance. That thing that is hinders us from moving forward on a project. It is part of nature in the same way we have natural “thought” chatter in our thinking, there is a natural resistance to do things. Once you recognize it and push through it you can have faith “in the soup”( as in quantum soup). I found this book motivating and quite clinical, actually in regards to all creative things have a beginning, middle and an end. The advice is to first start with the main idea structure and then fill in the blanks.
Specific notes from the book
Your enemies are resistance, irrational thought and friends and family.
Resistance is impersonal, invisible, insidious, never sleeps and plays for keeps.
It’s infallible, it's universal, and goes in for the kill every time.
Your friends and family want you to stay the same - push through, you will meet new friends.
Rational thought comes from the ego - instead work from your instinct, your unconscious.
Trust the soup; the quantum soup.
Stay stupid like Charles Lindberg flying across the ocean in a plane solo.
Be stubborn once you commit to something.
Have blind faith and have passion.
You will get help and it's called Assistance.
Start before you're ready.
Don't prepare just begin.
Don't research too much - just go for it.
Don't overthink your project.
Outline it; create a 3 act structure.
Discipline yourself to boil down your story into a single page.
Love your idea, ask does it feel right on instinct.
Are you willing to bleed for it?
Start at the end and with the question - what is this about?
Thoughts are generally chatter - reflective regurgitation, they are rambling and resistance.
Get ready to roll - stay primitive - trust the soup; the quantum soup.
Swing for the seats and expect and be ready for resistance.
Once you have your structure fill in the gaps.
Respect the resistance and beat it.
Never do research in your PrimeTime.
Research can become resistance - soak up what you need to fill in the gaps and keep working. Screen writers pitch; generally create : opening scene, two major pieces in the middle, killer climax and concise statement.
Momentum is everything!
Everything can be broken down into a beginning middle and end.
Fill in the gaps then fill in the gaps between the gaps.
Don't stop. Don't look down.
Don't think. Suspend all self judgement.
The crazier the better.
Follow your unconventional crazy heart.
Ideas can come from anywhere.
First year then you retract writing is action and reflection is evaluating
We have to tune in to the frequency of cosmos.
Never doubt the soup.
Never say no.. yes it is always the answer.
Play like a child
Our job is not to control our idea our job is to figure out what our idea is and wants to be and then bring it into being the song we're composing already has an existing potential.
Your work in progress produces its own gravitational field created by your will
Ask yourself what's missing then fill the void.
Seven principles of resistance and then two tests:
There is an enemy inside you the enemy is inside you but it's not you the real you must dual resistance you resistance arises
second you will overcome this by us using assistance
Love for your material love for the work that for your brothers and sisters who you were offering to work as a gift.
You have to ask how bad do I want it? And why do I want it?
The answers: you’re totally committed and I have no choice.
You will have a big crash a big failure you will ring the bell - doesn’t mean you're a loser
Go back and solve the problem
Panic is good to say new growing.
Keep your stupidity stubbornness and Blind Faith
The problem is not us the problem - it’s just a problem
Work the problem the problem is “where did you go wrong”.
Remember Crietien held up in a hotel room and finish this job
If you fail but you still want to proceed “be happy you're where you want it to be you're taking a few blows that's the price of being in the arena and not on the sidelines stop complaining and be graceful.
Resistance will never have power over me again
Be proud of yourself you've done some thing that millions talk about but only a handful actually have done before and if you can do it once you can do it again
Saluting all or anyone who doe it.
Final words: stay stupid ,trust the soup and start before you're ready.
Write like a Pro!
Who is this book for? Songwriters specifically.
Mitchell is a famous songwriter from Nashville who who has had his songs recorded by artists like Kiss, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Art Garfunkel, Olivia Newton John.
Top 3 Takeaways
A song has to be about a single idea and that idea is encapsulated in the title ( and chorus)
The idea is best expressed through time, contrasts, a positive factor and attention to every word.
3) Present tense song lyrics have to be either big, poetic or colourful.
“A song is an idea expressed in words sung by a singer and supported by an emotionally appropriate and supportive melody.”
A song starts is an idea. So is it a song about a car? A game? A fight? Once you have your title and your idea then everything else is a lot easier.
You find good ideas in conversations with friends, other peoples conversations other Songwriters, television and social media, magazines, other songs always be on the lookout for a song idea.
5 building blocks are: 1) a journey through time, 2) dramatic tension, 3) the golden thread, 4) the positive factor and 5) melody magic.
The journey through time you can either be past to the present, present to the future, or past through the present to the future. It's all about change. Change creates dramatic tension; that's what propels a song forward.
If you have a present tense and you will need very big and dramatic lyrics or very poetic or very colorful. One of the three otherwise it's just a dead duck doesn't know there's no energy of changed.
Dramatic tension you either have a contrast or conflict in conditions in periods of time or between people or a contrast in status or values between intentions and results.
Dramatic tension holds your interest you're wanting to see what has happened .what’s going to happen or what should happen. You belong to me by Taylor Swift is a good example day and night by Cole Porter friends in low places too.
The golden thread is that you have to get people on the hook and then every word every verse every musical note has to hold them right to the end of the song. You can't deer off track There's a logical through line and emotional through line everything has to stay in the comfort zone of this song.
Everything is about the chorus and chorus is about the title. This is where rewriting comes in big time.
The positive factor - Generally there has to be a single line in a song that has access a positive factor all songs need one especially sad songs.
So recapping the journey what kind of journey is it. Where is the dramatic tension to things conflict or contrast are your logical and emotional through lines intact and working if your song is dark is there a positive factor in there.
Make sure your song is something that the audience can relate to.
There is chorus songs and then there's refrain songs. A refrain song is what a wonderful world.
If you get stuck on the second verse go internal with the character •
Do something else for 10 minutes
Kill your babies
Every line has to be right
Are your rhymes forced?
Are you using natural conversational language
Is your song easy to sing?
Is there too many words?
Is your melody to rangy?
Does your chorus rise?
Does your chorus have a sense of occasion sense of event?
Is your lyric the same from Chorus to Chorus? Are there any words that are misleading?
Does this song use appropriate chords?
Is there a positive factor?
Does your melody and lyrics sound like they belong in the same song?