The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Published on Author Zach Ware

This is a book a listen to every other month or so. It’s written primarily for artists but applies to absolutely everyone, especially entrepreneurs. You will find yourself repeating lines from it to yourself constantly.

Feb 2016

Amazon Link

Summary of learning

Resistance is the greatest enemy of creation. Especially of starting. Resistance comes in obvious forms but also in unobvious forms, like drinking, anytime you act out to get attention without doing work (arrest, etc). Resistance is always sitting on your shoulder lying to you. Making up reasons why you shouldn’t do what you are doing.

Be a pro.

What did I learn from this book?

Resistance is a natural element between the thing we want and us. Essentially ourselves and our unfulfilled selves.

A pro focuses on the process because he knows the muse will come. A pro doesn’t tolerate chaos. A pro doesn’t talk about how great he is. A pro separates himself and his work. Failure to a pro is failure to do the work, not failure.

Pros ask people questions because they want to sharpen their tools. They don’t care if they don’t look like pros by asking the questions.

Amateurs are scared to take the leap because they are more concerned with saying they are something than being it. Pros don’t say those things, they just focus on the work and know the success comes as a result of that.

Great passage:

Now consider the amateur: the aspiring painter, the wannabe playwright. How does he pursue his calling? One, he doesn’t show up every day. Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what. Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day. He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake. He does not get money. And he overidentifies with his art. He does not have a sense of humor about failure. You don’t hear him bitching, “This fucking trilogy is killing me!” Instead, he doesn’t write his trilogy at all. The amateur has not mastered the technique of his art. Nor does he expose himself to judgment in the real world. If we show our poem to our friend and our friend says, “It’s wonderful, I love it,” that’s not real-world feedback, that’s our friend being nice to us. Nothing is as empowering as real- world validation, even if it’s for failure.

Pros have territories. They are at ease in their territories. They MUST be there. If they were the last people on earth they would still do it. When they are having a bad day they must do it. It centers them.

Pros are not hierarchical. I do not need to rise above anyone else. I need to do the work. Failure to do the work and to hone my craft is failure. Pros love the work.

Do not compare your position to that of others. Relative doesn’t matter. At all.

The amateur is paralyzed by fear of what people will think of his work before doing it. And then never does it. The amateur considers what people will think before doing it and shapes everything he does around it.

The pro focuses on his territory and lets the muse drive him. The pro puts his work out there and keeps moving.

Love the work. LOVE it.

Highlights:

– Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Location: 85

– They may become moody or sullen, they may get sick; they may accuse the awakening writer of “changing,” of “not being the person she was.” The closer these people are to the awakening writer, the more bizarrely they will act and the more emotion they will put behind their actions.
Location: 196

– The reason is that they are struggling, consciously or unconsciously, against their own Resistance. The awakening writer’s success becomes a reproach to them. If she can beat these demons, why can’t they?
Location: 199

– The awakening artist must be ruthless, not only with herself but with others. Once you make your break, you can’t turn around for your buddy who catches his trouser leg on the barbed wire.
Location: 203

– The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration.
Location: 205

– When someone sleeps with us, we feel validated and approved of, even loved. Resistance gets a big kick out of that. It knows it has distracted us with a cheap, easy fix and kept us from doing our work.
Location: 217

– afterward. The more empty you feel, the more certain you can be that your true motivation was not love or even lust but Resistance.
Location: 219

– It goes without saying that this principle applies to drugs, shopping, masturbation, TV, gossip, alcohol, and the consumption of all products containing fat, sugar, salt, or chocolate.
Location: 220

– We get ourselves in trouble because it’s a cheap way to get attention. Trouble is a faux form of fame.
Location: 223

– Creating soap opera in our lives is a symptom of Resistance. Why put in years of work designing a new software interface when you can get just as much attention by bringing home a boyfriend with a prison record?
Location: 232

– I once worked as a writer for a big New York ad agency. Our boss used to tell us: Invent a disease. Come up with the disease, he said, and we can sell the cure.
Location: 242

– Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification and hard work, we simply consume a product.
Location: 247

– Doctors estimate that seventy to eighty percent of their business is non-health-related. People aren’t sick, they’re self- dramatizing.
Location: 250

– When I began this book, Resistance almost beat me. This is the form it took. It told me (the voice in my head) that I was a writer of fiction, not nonfiction, and that I shouldn’t be exposing these concepts of Resistance literally and overtly; rather, I should incorporate them metaphorically into a novel.
Location: 270

– What finally convinced me to go ahead was simply that I was so unhappy not going ahead. I was developing symptoms. As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.
Location: 275

– First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless.
Location: 278

– Unalleviated, Resistance mounts to a pitch that becomes unendurable. At this point vices kick in. Dope, adultery, web surfing.
Location: 281

– What makes it tricky is that we live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it. By selling us a product, a drug, a distraction.
Location: 284

– We unplug ourselves from the grid by recognizing that we will never cure our restlessness by contributing our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., but only by doing our work.
Location: 289

– The artist is grounded in freedom. He is not afraid of it. He is lucky. He was born in the right place. He has a core of self- confidence, of hope for the future.
Location: 301

– The fundamentalist entertains no such notion. In his view, humanity has fallen from a higher state. The truth is not out there awaiting revelation; it has already been revealed. The word of God has been spoken and recorded by His prophet, be he Jesus, Muhammad, or Karl Marx.
Location: 303

– The fundamentalist (or, more accurately, the beleaguered individual who comes to embrace fundamentalism) cannot stand freedom. He cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past. He returns in imagination to the glory days of his race and seeks to reconstitute both them and himself in their purer, more virtuous light. He gets back to basics. To fundamentals.
Location: 312

– To combat the call of sin, i.e., Resistance, the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts.
Location: 324

– If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.
Location: 337

– Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are.
Location: 342

– The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
Location: 344

– Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Location: 347

– Grandiose fantasies are a symptom of Resistance. They’re the sign of an amateur. The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work.
Location: 362

– The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.
Location: 364

– Sometimes we balk at embarking on an enterprise because we’re afraid of being alone. We feel comfortable with the tribe around us; it makes us nervous going off into the woods on our own. Here’s the trick: We’re never alone. As soon as we step outside the campfire glow, our Muse lights on our shoulder like a butterfly.
Location: 366

– Friends sometimes ask, “Don’t you get lonely sitting by yourself all day?” At first it seemed odd to hear myself answer No. Then I realized that I was not alone; I was in the book; I was with the characters. I was with my Self.
Location: 377

– Have you ever spent time in Santa Fe? There’s a subculture of “healing” there. The idea is that there’s something therapeutic in the atmosphere. A safe place to go and get yourself together.
Location: 389

– What are we trying to heal, anyway? The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free. He has to play hurt.
Location: 393

– Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against true healing. We all need it. But it has nothing to do with doing our work and it can be a colossal exercise in Resistance.
Location: 408

– Have you ever been to a workshop? These boondoggles are colleges of Resistance. They ought to give out Ph.D.’s in Resistance. What better way of avoiding work than going to a workshop? But what I hate even worse is the word support.
Location: 412

– Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work.
Location: 415

– What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly. Tolstoy had thirteen kids and wrote War and Peace. Lance Armstrong had cancer and won the Tour de France three years and counting.
Location: 450

– Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.
Location: 460

– The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation. The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week. The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love.” The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time. That’s what I mean when I say turning pro. Resistance hates it when we turn pro.
Location: 465

– Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.” That’s a pro.
Location: 473

– I wake up with a gnawing sensation of dissatisfaction. Already I feel fear. Already the loved ones around me are starting to fade. I interact. I’m present. But I’m not. I’m not thinking about the work. I’ve already consigned that to the Muse. What I am aware of is Resistance. I feel it in my guts. I afford it the utmost respect, because I know it can defeat me on any given day as easily as the need for a drink can overcome an alcoholic
Location: 480

– I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.
Location: 485

– 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.
Location: 509

– What exactly are the qualities that define us as professionals? 1) We show up every day. We might do it only because we have to, to keep from getting fired. But we do it. We show up every day. 2) We show up no matter what. In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger in to the factory. We might do it only so as not to let down our co-workers, or for other, less noble reasons. But we do it. We show up no matter what. 3) We stay on the job all day. Our minds may wander, but our bodies remain at the wheel. We pick up the phone when it rings, we assist the customer when he seeks our help. We don’t go home till the whistle blows. 4) We are committed over the long haul. Next year we may go to another job, another company, another country. But we’ll still be working. Until we hit the lottery, we are part of the labor force. 5) The stakes for us are high and real. This is about survival, feeding our families, educating our children. It’s about eating. 6) We accept remuneration for our labor. We’re not here for fun. We work for money. 7) We do not overidentify with our jobs. We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him. 8) We master the technique of our jobs. 9) We have a sense of humor about our jobs. 10) We receive praise or blame in the real world.
Location: 515

– Now consider the amateur: the aspiring painter, the wannabe playwright. How does he pursue his calling? One, he doesn’t show up every day. Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what. Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day. He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake. He does not get money. And he overidentifies with his art. He does not have a sense of humor about failure. You don’t hear him bitching, “This fucking trilogy is killing me!” Instead, he doesn’t write his trilogy at all. The amateur has not mastered the technique of his art. Nor does he expose himself to judgment in the real world. If we show our poem to our friend and our friend says, “It’s wonderful, I love it,” that’s not real-world feedback, that’s our friend being nice to us. Nothing is as empowering as real- world validation, even if it’s for failure.
Location: 533

– My friend Tony Keppelman snapped me out of it by asking if I was gonna quit. Hell, no! “Then be happy. You’re where you wanted to be, aren’t you? So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.” That was when I realized I had become a pro. I had not yet had a success. But I had had a real failure.
Location: 551

– To clarify a point about professionalism: The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will.
Location: 555

– The writer is an infantryman. He knows that progress is measured in yards of dirt extracted from the enemy one day, one hour, one minute at a time and paid for in blood.
Location: 564

– Resistance loves pride and preciousness. Resistance says, “Show me a writer who’s too good to take Job X or Assignment Y and I’ll show you a guy I can crack like a walnut.”
Location: 568

– Technically, the professional takes money. Technically, the pro plays for pay. But in the end, he does it for love.
Location: 569

– A PROFESSIONAL IS PATIENT Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash.
Location: 571

– The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare.
Location: 574

– The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality.
Location: 578

– The professional steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul. He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep those huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome.
Location: 580

– A PROFESSIONAL SEEKS ORDER When I lived in the back of my Chevy van, I had to dig my typewriter out from beneath layers of tire tools, dirty laundry, and moldering paperbacks. My truck was a nest, a hive, a hellhole on wheels whose sleeping surface I had to clear each night just to carve out a foxhole to snooze in. The professional cannot live like that. He is on a mission. He will not tolerate disorder. He eliminates chaos from his world in order to banish it from his mind. He wants the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept, so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.
Location: 583

– A PROFESSIONAL DEMYSTIFIES A pro views her work as craft, not art. Not because she believes art is devoid of a mystical dimension. On the contrary. She understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. So she concentrates on technique. The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods. Like Somerset Maugham she doesn’t wait for inspiration, she acts in anticipation of its apparition.
Location: 589

– The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preoccupation with the mystery. The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.
Location: 594

– A PROFESSIONAL ACTS IN THE FACE OF FEAR The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.
Location: 596

– A PROFESSIONAL ACCEPTS NO EXCUSES The amateur, underestimating Resistance’s cunning, permits the flu to keep him from his chapters; he believes the serpent’s voice in his head that says mailing off that manuscript is more important than doing the day’s work. The professional has learned better. He respects Resistance. He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow. The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished. The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work.
Location: 601

– A PROFESSIONAL PLAYS IT AS IT LAYS My friend the Hawk and I were playing the first hole at Prestwick in Scotland; the wind was howling out of the left. I started an eight-iron thirty yards to windward, but the gale caught it; I watched in dismay as the ball sailed hard right, hit the green going sideways, and bounded off into the cabbage. “Sonofabitch!” I turned to our caddie. “Did you see the wind take that shot!?” He gave that look that only Scottish caddies can give. “Well, ye’ve got t’ play th’ wind now, don’t ye?” The professional conducts his business in the real world. Adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls, even good breaks and lucky bounces all comprise the ground over which the campaign must be waged. The field is level, the professional understands, only in heaven.
Location: 607

– A PROFESSIONAL IS PREPARED I’m not talking about craft; that goes without saying. The professional is prepared at a deeper level. He is prepared, each day, to confront his own self-sabotage. The professional understands that Resistance is fertile and ingenious. It will throw stuff at him that he’s never seen before. The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them. His aim is to take what the day gives him. He is prepared to be prudent and prepared to be reckless, to take a beating when he has to, and to go for the throat when he can. He understands that the field alters every day. His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily and steadily as he can.
Location: 614

– A PROFESSIONAL DOES NOT SHOW OFF A professional’s work has style; it is distinctively his own. But he doesn’t let his signature grandstand for him. His style serves the material. He does not impose it as a means of drawing attention to himself.
Location: 620

– A PROFESSIONAL DEDICATES HIMSELF TO MASTERING TECHNIQUE The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back.
Location: 625

– A PROFESSIONAL DOES NOT HESITATE TO ASK FOR HELP Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer in the world. Yet he has a teacher; he works with Butch Harmon. And Tiger doesn’t endure this instruction or suffer through it — he revels in it. It’s his keenest professional joy to get out there on the practice tee with Butch, to learn more about the game he loves.
Location: 630

– A PROFESSIONAL DISTANCES HERSELF FROM HER INSTRUMENT The pro stands at one remove from her instrument — meaning her person, her body, her voice, her talent; the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological being she uses in her work. She does not identify with this instrument. It is simply what God gave her, what she has to work with. She assesses it coolly, impersonally, objectively.
Location: 636

– Does Madonna walk around the house in cone bras and come-fuck-me bustiers? She’s too busy planning D-Day. Madonna does not identify with “Madonna.” Madonna employs “Madonna.”
Location: 641

– A PROFESSIONAL DOES NOT TAKE FAILURE (OR SUCCESS) PERSONALLY When people say an artist has a thick skin, what they mean is not that the person is dense or numb, but that he has seated his professional consciousness in a place other than his personal ego. It takes tremendous strength of character to do this, because our deepest instincts run counter to it. Evolution has programmed us to feel rejection in our guts. This is how the tribe enforced obedience, by wielding the threat of expulsion. Fear of rejection isn’t just psychological; it’s biological. It’s in our cells.
Location: 643

– A PROFESSIONAL ENDURES ADVERSITY
Location: 663

– The professional endures adversity. He lets the birdshit splash down on his slicker, remembering that it comes clean with a heavy-duty hosing. He himself, his creative center, cannot be buried, even beneath a mountain of guano. His core is bulletproof. Nothing can touch it unless he lets it.
Location: 671

– A PROFESSIONAL SELF-VALIDATES An amateur lets the negative opinion of others unman him. He takes external criticism to heart, allowing it to trump his own belief in himself and his work. Resistance loves this.
Location: 677

– The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality. Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page. Nothing matters but that he keep working. Short of a family crisis or the outbreak of World War III, the professional shows up, ready to serve the gods.
Location: 695

– The professional learns to recognize envy-driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had had the guts.
Location: 703

– A PROFESSIONAL RECOGNIZES HER LIMITATIONS She gets an agent, she gets a lawyer, she gets an accountant. She knows she can only be a professional at one thing. She brings in other pros and treats them with respect.
Location: 705

– A PROFESSIONAL REINVENTS HIMSELF Goldie Hawn once observed that there are only three ages for an actress in Hollywood: “Babe, D.A., and Driving Miss Daisy.” She was making a different point, but the truth remains: As artists we serve the Muse, and the Muse may have more than one job for us over our lifetime.
Location: 708

– A PROFESSIONAL IS RECOGNIZED BY OTHER PROFESSIONALS
Location: 713

– YOU, INC.
Location: 715

– Making yourself a corporation (or just thinking of yourself in that way) reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates the artist-doing-the-work from the will-and- consciousness-running-the-show. No matter how much abuse is heaped on the head of the former, the latter takes it in stride and keeps on trucking. Conversely with success: You-the-writer may get a swelled head, but you-the-boss remember how to take yourself down a peg. Have you ever worked in an office? Then you know about Monday morning status meetings. The group assembles in the conference room and the boss goes over what assignments each team member is responsible for in the coming week. When the meeting breaks up, an assistant prepares a work sheet and distributes it. When this hits your desk an hour later, you know exactly what you have to do that week. I have one of those meetings with myself every Monday. I sit down and go over my assignments. Then I type it up and distribute it to myself.
Location: 721

– The essence of professionalism is the focus upon the work and its demands, while we are doing it, to the exclusion of all else.
Location: 736

– There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our minds to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.
Location: 746

– Why have I stressed professionalism so heavily in the preceding chapters? Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
Location: 766

– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”
Location: 879

– Here’s what I think. I think angels make their home in the Self, while Resistance has its seat in the Ego. The fight is between the two. The Self wishes to create, to evolve. The Ego likes things just the way they are.
Location: 982

– Resistance feeds on fear. We experience Resistance as fear. But fear of what?
Location: 1031

– These are serious fears. But they’re not the real fear. Not the Master Fear, the Mother of all Fears that’s so close to us that even when we verbalize it we don’t believe it. Fear That We Will Succeed.
Location: 1038

– We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us.
Location: 1043

– We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us. What will become of us? We will lose our friends and family, who will no longer recognize us. We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, with nothing and no one to hold on to.
Location: 1047

– Another way of thinking of it is this: We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be.
Location: 1061

– We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
Location: 1063

– If we were born to paint, it’s our job to become a painter.
Location: 1065

– It’s only later in life, usually after a stern education in the university of hard knocks, that we begin to explore the territorial alternative. For some of us, this saves our lives.
Location: 1075

– Let’s examine why. First, let’s look at what happens in a hierarchical orientation. An individual who defines himself by his place in a pecking order will: 1) Compete against all others in the order, seeking to elevate his station by advancing against those above him, while defending his place against those beneath. 2) Evaluate his happiness/success/achievement by his rank within the hierarchy, feeling most satisfied when he’s high and most miserable when he’s low. 3) Act toward others based upon their rank in the hierarchy, to the exclusion of all other factors. 4) Evaluate his every move solely by the effect it produces on others. He will act for others, dress for others, speak for others, think for others.
Location: 1092

– The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately, scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting. He’s afraid it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling word) wants, then gives it to them.
Location: 1110

– In other words, the hack writes hierarchically. He writes what he imagines will play well in the eyes of others. He does not ask himself, What do I myself want to write? What do I think is important? Instead he asks, What’s hot, what can I make a deal for?
Location: 1113

– can pay off, being a hack. Given the depraved state of American culture, a slick dude can make millions being a hack. But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.
Location: 1116

– The artist can’t do his work hierarchically. He has to work territorially.
Location: 1123

– What are the qualities of a territory? 1) A territory provides sustenance. Runners know what a territory is. So do rock climbers and kayakers and yogis. Artists and entrepreneurs know what a territory is. The swimmer who towels off after finishing her laps feels a helluva lot better than the tired, cranky person who dove into the pool thirty minutes earlier. 2) A territory sustains us without any external input. A territory is a closed feedback loop. Our role is to put in effort and love; the territory absorbs this and gives it back to us in the form of well-being.
Location: 1129

– 3) A territory can only be claimed alone. You can team with a partner, you can work out with a friend, but you only need yourself to soak up your territory’s juice. 4) A territory can only be claimed by work. When Arnold Schwarzenegger hits the gym, he’s on his own turf. But what made it his own are the hours and years of sweat he put in to claim it. A territory doesn’t give, it gives back. 5) A territory returns exactly what you put in. Territories are fair. Every erg of energy you put in goes infallibly into your account. A territory never devalues. A territory never crashes. What you deposited, you get back, dollar-for-dollar.
Location: 1135

– What would Arnold Schwarzenegger do on a freaky day? He wouldn’t phone his buddies; he’d head for the gym. He wouldn’t care if the place was empty, if he didn’t say a word to a soul. He knows that working out, all by itself, is enough to bring him back to his center.
Location: 1159

– Here’s another test. Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?
Location: 1161

– For us as artists, read “failure.” Contempt for failure is our cardinal virtue. By confining our attention territorially to our own thoughts and actions — in other words, to the work and its demands — we cut the earth from beneath the blue-painted, shield-banging, spear-brandishing foe.
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– Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.
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This post originally appeared at Zach Ware's Notebook.