On our screen free day recently, I promised my students I would spend some time reading a book I had seen recommended over and over again – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield is a writer who wants to encourage other artists of all kinds to do what it takes to be successful in their craft. It is often harsh advice – like putting in the hours regardless of health, mood, financial status and so on, and sometimes inspiring – telling you to keep writing (or painting, or cooking…) regardless of the critics and regardless of personal success. Craft takes time and it takes work.
There is a whole section in the book on Resistance – the things we do to give ourselves an excuse to not have to work hard at our craft. It is pretty amusing noticing some of your own thought patterns in there, some of the excuses I make for myself for not quite managing to get out and exercise as much as I should, or eat as well as I should or meditate as often as I should and so on. I think we all have things in our lives like this – things we know we should do and often want to do – but it is just too darn easy to find a way out of them!
One part of the book struck me in particular – and it was the section on Fear as a form of Resistance.
Instead of telling us to get over fear – Pressfield tells us to pay attention to what we fear. Fear tells us what we care about and where we should go. Self-doubt is a natural expression of the worry that we may not achieve something that means something to us.
So like I suggested we could make friends with negative emotions last week, perhaps we could make friends with fear as well?
What if we could look at the things that scare us as the best opportunities. Wow! Look how scared I am! This must mean a lot to me! Or perhaps even: Wow! What a new and radical idea… I’m nervous. It must be the challenge I need right now!
What if this could be applied to other areas of our lives as well?
Of course this doesn’t work for creepy spiders or things that our logic tells us to avoid – but if there is no real risk other than the fear of failure and a bruise to the ego… then it could be the “stretch” we need to get better at something. And every real artist or professional will embrace this.
So next time an opportunity paralyses you with uncertainty, perhaps have a conversation with your fear instead. Don’t listen to excuses – just ask yourself if your fear means you care. And go for it!
Photo by Mochammad Algi from Pexels