“Books are dangerous. The best ones should be labeled: ‘This could change your life!'” Helen Exley, author of several little books about wisdom, is credited to have penned that statement. However, I could have written it from my own experience.
Most recently, I’ve had my life completely wrecked by a book. I warn you now, dear reader, should you decide to read any further, you may find your life irrevocably changed as well.
The book is Steven Pressfield’s, War of Art, and although a friend of mine has already written a great newspaper column praising Pressfield’s ideas, I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject too–especially as I’m the one who told him to read it in the first place.
The War of Art is designed to help you, “break through your creative barriers.” I should mention that by, “break through creative barriers,” Pressfield really means, “Give you that Incredible Hulk punch in the face you know you deserve.” I’m not going to lie, it’s an agonizingly painful read. If Pressfield’s book were a Sunday sermon, everyone would heed the altar call and promise to tithe faithfully. Have you decided to read it yet? I shall try to persuade you further.
Pressfield’s book is aimed at writers, artists, and the like, but I’m certain that anyone who reads it will come away a changed person. The idea he conveys is that we are all driven to do something creative and important; something that could potentially change someone’s life, if not the world we live in. If we don’t accomplish this, we cheat all of humanity from the beauty we were born to give the world. Sounds light and encouraging, right? Wrong. Pressfield also states that there is a malevolent force at work keeping us from our destiny. He calls this force, Resistance–with a capital R–and I promise you, not only are you already intimate with this enemy, it is most likely kicking your tail. That’s why reading this book hurts so much, you realize that you’ve been letting Resistance win, and you haven’t even fought back! Listen to Pressfield here:
“Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”
If you’ve ever made a resolution, decided to get in shape, chosen to open that cupcake store, start that novel, finish that degree, learn to knit, trace the genealogy of your family, or any number of self-bettering goals, I promise you, you have felt the icy force of Resistance fighting your chosen venture. Resistance, according to Pressfield, takes all shapes and forms; from procrastination and laziness to other’s negative comments disguised as unsolicited advice, but take heart; Resistance can be fought and used against itself. Pressfield suggests using Resistance like a compass of sorts.
“The more Resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you –the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.”
It was that statement that wrecked me.
You see, three years ago I wrote a piece detailing how I planned to pursue the long-shelved dream of getting my master’s degree in library science and become a librarian. At the time, I still had not yet finished my bachelor’s degree. I’m proud to say that less than a year later, I had not only achieved my bachelor’s, but was working as the Children’s Librarian at Lannom Library.
All seemed right in my world, that is until I read this blankety-blank book.
During my stint as Children’s Librarian, I would often have misty thoughts about continuing my education and finally acquiring my master’s degree, but I always had a convenient excuse. My excuses were valid, of course, but that’s how Resistance works! Resistance is a sneaky little devil!
You’re already working in a library, why do you need the master’s degree?
Getting your bachelor’s was enough. Be happy with that.
There’s no way you can keep working full-time, be the mom and wife you need to be, and get your master’s.
You can’t afford it.
There’s no way you’ll do well on the GRE.
There it was. Resistance manifested in my biggest fear, the GRE.
When I read Pressfield’s words about completing the thing you feel Resistance fighting the most, I knew what I had known for three years but coldly chose to ignore. I had to continue my journey.
Tuesday, February 24 was my last day as Children’s Librarian at Lannom. While I was teary-eyed and understandably sad to leave my co-workers and storytime kids, I can’t help but be filled with bouncy excitement about starting my master’s program this August. I’m scheduled to take the blood curdling GRE in April and plan on knocking it out of of the park. Exterior Resistance has already manifested by others offering advice; saying things like, “Shouldn’t you have waited until you took the test/ got accepted into the program before leaving your job?” What they don’t realize is, I’ve given myself no other option but to follow through on this gut-tugging calling. Having eliminated Resistance’s excuses and armed with a super-supportive spouse, I’m moving toward my goal.
I know my enemy won’t be vanquished long and will rear its foul head in boredom, procrastination, fatigue, distractions, fear, and those dreaded naysayers. I’m planning, however, to fight Resistance daily with all that I have, because as Pressfield says,
“This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.”
Who’s ready to start fighting?