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peonies_bookWhile preparing a talk to deliver to the university art students in my hometown of Minot, ND, I re-read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a thought-provoking take on why making art is hard.

Here is a quote from the beginning of the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” Oh, yeah!

Pressfield writes that Resistance (the devil with the capital R) can arise in response to anything that might be good for us: making art, music, writing, dieting, any act of bettering our lives spiritually, educationally or otherwise. Resistance can take many forms, some as deceptive as deciding to clean the kitchen cabinets instead of working on our stuff.

I am not immune to Resistance. But I have found ways to work around it. One factor is responsibility to others. In my work as an artist, I have often been involved with a group (there have been several over the years) that meets monthly to discuss new work. We give ourselves an assignment and then meet to discuss. The combination of the assignment and responsibility to others forces me to overcome my critical internal dialog about not being good enough, not having enough new ideas, not having a clue about what to do. At some point in the month, I do the work. Oh, it can be sooo hard!

When I finish a piece, I feel wonderfully alive. Even if the work is not as good as I imagined or doesn’t quite convey the sentiment I had in mind, I did it! It is something out of nothing! And sometimes, to my amazement, it turns out better than I ever hoped; maybe it even leads to bigger projects, such as a book or an exhibit. But the best part is overcoming the gravitational pull of Resistance! Forget the kitchen cabinets. They can wait!

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