Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.
It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
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.
I’d heard of Steven Pressfield’s book Gates of Fire, an epic historical novel about the Battle of Thermopylae (which I image is less Dan Carlin’s King of Kings which looks at the famous Persian Wars from the seldom sung Persian perspective, and more Frank Miller’s 300, but that’s just me guessing).
It seems that apart from historical battles, Mr Pressfield can also make an epic story out of the clash that’s forever raging on inside each one of us: the battle against Resistance.
What kind of Resistance, you’re asking? Like a force as real as gravity, friction and actual electric resistance, this is the power that stops us from doing what we need to do, more specifically create what’s aching to be born of us, and more specifically (for Mr Pressfield’s case), write. Just simply write.
Resistance is like the Alien or the Terminator or the shark in Jaws. It cannot be reasoned with. It understands nothing but power. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object only: to prevent us from doing our work. Resistance is implacable, intractable, indefatigable. Reduce it to a single cell and that cell will continue to attack.
This is Resistance’s nature. It’s all it knows.
This work is a very short motivational book that gave me a feeling very similar to the one I get when I listen to or read Jordan Peterson’s work: “alright kiddo, go clean your room. Do the work.”.
Peterson would continue with “only then can you stand to criticize society — only then can you look at the face of your father”, but Pressfield’s message instead is “you will doing us all a favor by becoming who you’re truly meant to be and creating a better world in the meantime”. It’s less a message of tough love and more one of much-needed empathy. We all have this Resistance, after all.
We’re wrong if we think we’re the only ones struggling with Resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance.
It’s quite reminiscent of one of my favorite Jung quotes: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” It’s something to live by.
I felt good by reading this book. But the rest, of course, is up to me.
I also recommend Mark Manson, Julien Smith and yes, Jordan Peterson in the “do the work” genre.