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Posts Tagged ‘Creative Block’

How to Be Miserable Steven Pressfield 1



In my younger days dodging the draft, I somehow wound up in the Marine Corps. There’s a myth that Marine training turns baby-faced recruits into bloodthirsty killers. Trust me, the Marine Corps is not that efficient. What it does teach, however, is a lot more useful.

The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable.
This is invaluable for an artist.

Marines love to be miserable. Marines derive a perverse satisfaction in having colder chow, crappier equipment, and higher casualty rates than any outfit of dogfaces, swab jockeys, or flyboys, all of whom they despise. Why? Because these candy-asses don’t know how to be miserable.

The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.

― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle



I have been feeling creatively blocked as of late. Nothing is coming easy. Just making that first mark is hard and I find myself spending most days just looking at blank surfaces and not seeing much. 

Oh, and being miserable.

It made me go looking for something that might point me in the right direction to something that could possibly break up this blockage. I’ve been doing this a long so I’ve been blocked before and have obviously overcome it. But I find that there is no one way that works all the time in getting past this. Sometimes it’s a matter of just getting away from the studio for a few days and work on something outside the world of art. Or maybe changing up what I am listening to or watching.

Or reading what others have done in this situation and trying to apply it to my own. 

This search brought me to a book, The War of Art from Steven Pressfield. He’s the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance which was made into a major motion picture as well as a number of historical novels.

In the The War of Art, Pressfield introduces a mythical concept that he calls The Resistance whose sole mission is to keep things just as they are, to prevent anyone from doing anything that affects change in any way. The Resistance achieves this mission through  the creation of distractions and by instilling fears and doubts.

By doing whatever it must to stop one from moving forward.

The passage from his book above, titled How To Be Miserable, doesn’t have anything to do with overcoming The Resistance but it made me laugh. But not because it was ha-ha funny. It was because I recognized myself in the description and the idea that my willingness to accept and tolerate my own misery should be an important aspect of my chosen career struck me in a funny way.

I mean, I am doing something that I might describe as my dream job, getting to create work from my mind and get paid for it. I work in relative solitude and on my own schedule. I have nobody to answer to but myself.

I could go on and and on with the positive attributes of doing what I do. I love what I do and at this point cannot even imagine doing anything else. But even so, I am often utterly miserable. It is like continually existing, as Pressfield puts it, on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

That doesn’t sound like it should be funny but the irony of it– that something that makes me so happy also often makes me absolutely miserable–just makes me laugh. 

I think Pressfield is right, that anyone who chooses this life has to understand and have a tolerance for their own misery. And interestingly, just recognizing and acknowledging this helps me see the current blockage as simply part of what I do.

It’s a torment that comes with the territory. I don’t like it but I will deal with it and might even use it to my advantage. It might be there just for that purpose.

The tormenting yin to my creative yang.

I don’t know if that’s true but for coming off a time when I have been feeling especially blocked, it feels pretty darn right. I will try to run with that.

 

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