When I was planning to come to Nashville this summer for a Story Grid event, I knew that Steven Pressfield was going to be in attendance. Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl had arranged for Steven to give a short presentation, followed by a longer Q and A session.
I won’t go so far as to say Pressfield was the only reason I’d gone to Nashville for that trip, but I will say I had an unseen obligation that compelled me to head south from Cleveland.
Many years ago, I came across The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, and it’s not an understatement to say that the short book changed my life. I’ve read it multiple times since, and that is something I rarely do. In fact, I keep a physical copy of the book on my shelf, an even rarer occurrence as I’m a minimalist, and owning anything causes me some degree of discomfort.
If you’re not familiar with the book (shame on you) or if you have forgotten the premise (impossible), it is that there is a force that exists in the universe that is trying to discourage you from doing what you’re meant to do. I know that sounds a bit ambiguous and woo-woo, but it’s really not. Pressfield calls this force, Resistance, with a capital R.
Resistance is what tells you that it’s fine to hit the snooze button, that you can write tomorrow, that the portrait you’re working on will never make you money, that starting a podcast is a waste of time, etc. Resistance is trying to keep you from your creative outlets and preventing you from finishing the ones you start. And once you can identify Resistance, you’re in a much better place when it comes to battling against it.
I continue to experience Resistance. I had to slay a short bout of it when I opened this very Word document and was staring at a blank page. Resistance told me not to bother writing this post because you wouldn’t read it anyway. It told me that people ignore or delete their emails and that nobody reads blog posts any longer. See how that works?
Not long after I read The War of Art for the third or fourth time, I vowed that someday I would shake Steven’s hand and thank him for everything his book had done for me. At the time, it felt like a silly thing to imagine.
Fast-forward to Nashville this past summer. I had Skyped with Steven, but I’d never met him in person.
At one point during the afternoon session, I saw Pressfield sitting in the back of the room, sort of gazing off into space. I was not talking to anyone at the time, and we were at a break in the program.
Can you believe that asshole Resistance appeared in that exact moment? Resistance told me that Steven didn’t want to be bothered, that I was in no position to approach him, that he had way more important people to talk to. It almost convinced me to put my head down and get a refill of my coffee. Almost.
I walked toward Steven, and we made eye contact. He smiled. I don’t think for a second that he remembered our random Skype call and I wasn’t there to test his long-term memory.
I extended my hand and disposed of the, “Do you remember?” line of questioning.
“Hi, Steven. I’m J. I just wanted to shake your hand and say thank you for everything you’ve done for me in my life. The War of Art has been transformative, and I’m eternally grateful.”
He shook my hand and nodded. “Yeah, okay. You’re welcome.”
During the Q and A that day, he said that it is always awkward for him when people show their appreciation. I get it. He’s a humble guy.
Something inside of me shifted. I think it was the power of gratitude. I’ve pledged to do that more often, to thank the people whose words or ideas have helped shaped me. I know what it wasn’t. It wasn’t Resistance.
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