Art & The Professional

the-war-of-artIn the last decade or so, I’ve read several books on the subject of art. I can count on one hand the number that I would call essential. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield is one such book. If you’re unfamiliar, you should immediately read Ron Block’s post on the book from two years ago here, and you can also purchase the book here. Now on to my point.

I’ve hit the wall lately. Projects sit in digital folders, collecting cyber cobwebs if such things exist. Some ideas have come and gone. Excitement wanes over time for what made me feel so passionate just a few months ago. I’m not sure what it is exactly. Pressfield does, however. He calls it The Resistance. Anything and everything that works against you to keep you from creating what it is you’re called to do — be it apathy, Satan, last night’s lasagna — it’s all placed in the same greater category. The Resistance.

I pastor a church on the side (as if, right?), but I make most of my living from writing. With several paid gigs, I should feel like a professional at it. Instead, I’m actually an amateur — at least according to Pressfield’s definition. And he’s right. I’m too preoccupied by things that I’m not supposed to be. I should be more disciplined than this.

One of Pressfield’s quick thoughts in the book hit me squarely on the vocational jaw recently and I believe it worth sharing. He writes:

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 the anticipation of its apparition. The professional is acutely aware of the intangibles that go into inspiration. Out of repsect for them, she lets them work. She grants them their sphere while she concentrates on hers.

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.