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Book Review: ‘The War of Art’

At a recent work training, a few of my peers and I chit-chatted about various things and we started talking about what we’d really like to do with our lives – what we want to do when we grow up. We each talked about our aspirations and dreams we’ll pursue some day. But when?

How does a person get from the desire to do something to going for it and just doing it? To taking a leap of faith and getting out there?

War of Art CoverSteven Pressfield’s The War of Art answers those questions and serves as a call to action, starting with the section entitled, “The Unlived Life”. He writes, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Pressfield’s book is a non-fiction manual of sorts in which he calls each of us to do what it is we have been called to do, for which we have God-given gifts, and it is our responsibility to use them: write the music; paint the scene; write the work; start the business; improve your health, spirituality, education, etc.

What I love about the book is that he explains his theories with stories, interpretations of other works of art, and personal anecdotes. He also develops a cast of characters in this work of nonfiction: Resistance, the muse, and the person who will bring forth the work (artist, genius, entrepreneur, etc.) and identifies the conflict between them. He writes, “Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.”

Pressfield presents his ideas in a deeply spiritual way so that the reader is left with the understanding and knowledge that whatever calling, gift, talent, inclination to a higher calling we have is not of our choosing. He calls it “genius, in the Latin sense of ‘soul’ or ‘animating spirit’. It is a gift that requires action from a human being to express it, to make it real.

The beauty of this book is that it describes Resistance with the knowledge of experience. He’s identified it, totally called it out for us. Like any formidable foe, Resistance has many devices, disguises, forces that work for it. He knows Resistance because he’s seen it. When I heard his description of Resistance, I knew that I’d seen it too and, in fact, see it every day.

The War of Art is philosophy, psychology, analysis, how to guide, and a little autobiography. Pressfield presents his discovery in an effort to enlighten us all to do our work, to know all about Resistance in all its forms and to get busy anyway.

If you’ve ever wondered why you do what you know isn’t good for you instead of doing what you know is good for you or if you’ve ever procrastinated, caved to peer pressure, talked yourself out of an awesome idea, or been paralyzed with fear that prevents you from getting started, The War of Art will help you battle Resistance so that you can begin living your “unlived life”.

3 Songs and a Message

The other day on my way to work I had an unexpected reaction to a string of songs playing on the radio. The songs were “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten, and “The Heart of the Matter by Don Henley.

When I heard “When I Was Your Man” that morning, I’m not sure what it was, but it’sBrunoMars as if I listened to that song for the first time, even though I’d heard it before. I was touched by the powerful sense of regret and anguish in Bruno Mars’ voice. Even though the song is about a lost love, it got me thinking about regret in my life and brought to mind something I’ve thought about a lot lately. For years, I didn’t listen to something inside that told me, “You want to write. So write.” It made me sad to think that it may be too late for me.

The next song started with the quiet opening line, “Like a small boat on the ocean, sending big waves into motion…” and I knew it was “Fight Song” with Rachel Platten’s amazing message of resilience and belief. I felt encouraged. I cranked up the volume and sang along at the top of my lungs. Yes, I got it! I feel like she does when she says, “I still got a lot of fight left in me.” There’s no time for regret. I have to believe and it’s not too late. Yay! I felt better.

Then Don Henley – “The Heart of the Matter” flashed on my radio info screen and I heard the opening chords and something happened to me at that moment. Now let me say that I know this song very well because when I was going through a particularly rough patch many years ago, this song helped me through it and the message has stayed with me ever since. So when I heard the opening chords and saw the title, something inside me snapped. Suddenly, tears came to my eyes as I drove down a very busy road on a Tuesday morning before sunrise. The tears came and I couldn’t stop them. It was as if a floodgate opened and I could not go on driving.

I pulled into a parking lot and parked under a lamppost as the song played and I cried more. He sings, “I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter but I think it’s about forgiveness.” There it is. My message for the day. My gift that morning. My truth. My comfort. My spiritual hug.

When I was finally able to get myself together, I took a deep breath and got back on the road. The sun had started to light up the sky, making the clouds a fiery red. What a beautiful picture. It looked something like this.Sunrise

I smiled and thanked God for all that had just occurred. I accepted that string of songs as a gift that gave me the message that I needed that day: Forgive myself (and others) for words not said and things not done. Move on. I’m on the right track. It’s only too late when I’m gone, so keep going, stay strong, and believe. 

I’m telling you this story because I thought you might need to hear the message too. I know it’s not easy, but whatever it is you have in your heart, go after it. It can be scary, I know, but that dream, idea, or passion is there for a reason. It’s not too late, and no one else can do it for you. It has to come from you.

Going Gray – Stage 1

Going Gray – Stage 1

About 8 weeks into the "no color" project
About 8 weeks into the “no color” project

I decided to stop coloring my hair. Yes, it will be gray. Or silver. Whatever you want to call it, my hair won’t be brown. Long gone are the days of my natural brunette hair that God gave me.

Years of Color

I think I was in my early thirties when I first noticed a few gray strands. Somewhat unwisely, I used to pay my kids to hunt and pull the grays and they were happy to do it. They got a nickel for each gray strand.

When there were just too many to pull, I figured I’d rather be gray than bald so I stopped that routine and started a new one –  dying my hair. I started off with at-home out-of-the-box dye, then tried the stuff from the beauty supply store, but I never liked doing it myself. The process was messy, smelly, and marginally successful. Eventually, I started visiting the salon regularly to let a professional do the job, until I didn’t want to do that anymore either.

Decide Already!

I’d been thinking about doing it for a while. I’d read articles about going gray and looked at numerous hairstyles for women who kicked the coloring habit. I think I really was looking to see for myself if I thought gray haired women can possibly look “not old”. I decided that I can’t decide what I’ll look like by seeing what other people look like. It’s a personal thing and I’m going to have to see for myself whenever I could muster the courage to do it.

And then I talked to my friend Kathleen who I haven’t seen in a long time and she said that she had stopped coloring her hair. She seemed really happy with the results and she inspired me to go for it.

So I decided to stop coloring my hair.

Here are a few of my reasons:

  • I hated sitting there with goop in my hair while the dye processed. I felt ridiculous.
  • My hair was growing so fast I was having to get touch-ups every 4 weeks or so.
  • I was ready to have healthy, non-treated hair. I hope that it will feel soft and healthy.
  • I’ve seen  women with gray hair who look strong and healthy, even though they’re not young, but not old.
  • Curiosity – I want to see what I look like.

I had my final color touch-up in November 2015.

To help me through the transition, I got a new hairstyle and had about 5 inches cut off. That took some getting used to, but I like the shorter style now. The gray’s starting to come in a little more and I may go for some highlights or temporary color to ease me through the transition.

Truthfully, I’m not sure I’m going to like the new look. I feel determined to see this project through even though it may take a while to get used to