I spent the last few days in a cabin in the woods with some incredible people, and one of those incredible people brought along the only book I will ever need to read. The War of Art.
Kyle and I were invited to come along on a working mini holiday to a friend's holiday cabin right on the Sandy River near Mt Hood.
Picture this. Driving down a little windy road to pull into a leafy driveway, and hiding in the trees is this gorgeous little wood cabin. As you walk through the front entry you can see directly through the cabin to the backyard, where you can peer through the trees and see the flowing river. The entire area is shaded and cool, and the sound of the running water blocks the usual noises of any local traffic or neighbours.
The perfect place to relax, to work, to connect, to tell stories, to be rejuvenated.
I spent most of my time there reading Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. And it has totally kicked my arse!
Pressfield claims that creativity is a mystical AND practical process. While there may be a source of inspiration, an endless stream of creativity, a muse, or a divine spark of imagination, in order to actually call yourself an artist or a writer or creative you can't just expect to sit around waiting for one of these things to miraculously take over your body and do the work for you.
YOU must show up to do the work. And in order to show up and do the work you must overcome resistance.
I have often said to people that I love art and I want to contribute something meaningful to the world with my skills, but I also often say my inspiration ebbs and flows. Sometimes I feel inspired and lose track of time in the work, fall in love with art all over again. Other times I refuse to pick up a pen or paintbrush and simply use the excuse that I don't feel inspired.
What Pressfield is trying to get across to my resistance addled brain is that inspiration comes from showing up and doing the work.
My resistance is fear, and fear leads to procrastination. Resistance is anything that rationalises not doing the work, like cleaning the bathroom and washing the dishes. It's Facebook and email and "to do" lists. It's fear of not having the skills I need just yet, and the ever niggling thoughts like "I just need to learn more about this other really important, but totally irrelevant skill", "I need to do more of what that person is doing", "I need to attend more workshops to learn how to heal before I can get any work done". It's fear of failing. It's fear pf succeeding.
I use these excuses ALL THE TIME.
The only thing I didn't agree with so much in Pressfield's book was the assumption that you must defeat resistance.
As Kyle phrased it, if you and resistance are both magnets, you just continue pushing against each other. A better way to deal with resistance is to flip your magnet, so that resistance and you are connected as one. You have to accept and embrace resistance in order to move forward. You can't make something better by ignoring it.
As Tara Sophia Mohr would say "Thanks so much for your input (resistance, inner critic, voice of reason)! But I’ve got this one covered! You can relax.”
So if the book is so useful, what now?
In two weeks I am heading to Camp Good Life Project (you can read more about that here if you're wondering what the hell that is!), and a few days ago all the attendees received an email encouraging us to do some pre-camp work in three important areas of our lives - Vitality, Connection and Contribution.
Think of these three areas as buckets which can be filled. The bucket with the least amount of attention can offer a reflection of your overall success and fulfillment.
Vitality includes the things which contribute to our feeling of health and wellness. For example:
- Quality of food
The next bucket is connection. Part of connection is knowing yourself, and the other part is how you connect with those around you. You can break connection down into:
In the third bucket is how we contribute to the world around us. It's showing up and doing the work. We often get stuck in our own thoughts and ideas, but fail to make tangible steps towards contributing our time and good will to others.
Often we claim something as being important to us, however our actions sometimes don't reflect our stated sentiment. We get stuck rationalising our resistance. So the idea is to keep your three buckets even. A change in routine shouldn't signal the emptying of one of our very important buckets.
This last year has been a time of significant change for both me and Kyle. While it's hard to imagine we will be leaving in less than a month to go home to Australia, being in the US this last 2 months (and living apart from Kyle for 8 months before that) has given me the opportunity to contribute to each of my buckets. I have made new lifelong friends, had amazing opportunities to be inspired and I'm currently in my 4th consecutive summer (heading back to spring in Aus.. Yessss!). The problem is, I have used a lot of this time to rationalise not doing the work. There's too many other things to do!
Making a commitment to the work.
In the two weeks leading up to camp I'm making a commitment to doing the work, to balancing my buckets and embracing my resistance (over and over again, because you know it comes back every single day).
Here's a few things I am committing to in the next two weeks:
- Actually using my calendar and scheduling my work time (while I was writing this I was at cafe co-working with a bunch of awesome people). I do this on Mondays and Wednesdays, and this is time for working on my blog. Ta-dah!.
- Scheduling creative time every day of the week (at least 2-3 hours without interruption, so either morning or afternoon).
- Scheduling learning time - yesterday I actually scheduled going to the park to finish reading The War of Art.
- I am already in the middle of a 30 day challenge to meditate for at least 3 minutes every day. So far I have missed one day, but I am increasing a little each day.
- I am making an effort to re-establish an exercise routine. This morning I got up early so I would do my workout first thing.
- Making an effort to drink less alcohol! Portland is the city of delicious cider and I love it, but I totally need a rest. I'm not banning it, because that just doesn't work for me, I'm just making an effort to have alcohol free days.
- Co-working at least once a week
- Saying yes to invitations
- Being open, reconnecting more with new and old friends
- Asking myself "What would I really like" in situations that make me uncomfortable
I would love for you to follow along on my two weeks leading up to camp. You can see what I am up to by subscribing to my email list or liking my Facebook page.
Thanks for reading,