I was gifted a copy of the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield a couple of weeks ago by a good friend (Thanks Eden Connor!), which inspired today’s post.
It’s an amazing book that breaks down the complex hurdles we put in front of our creative efforts, and it does so in a really simple, yet profound way. I’m not usually big on recommendations, but if you want to write and feel stalled in any way, I’d suggest picking up a copy.
So, why the clip from 300? Well, one of the big components of the book is the idea of an Amateur vs. a Professional. It’s not meant as an insult either. Each does battle with the act of creation and can produce beautiful art. It’s more about the inner struggle to produce it, what it takes to hone that skill everyday versus once in a blue moon when the planets align and the Muse is feeling generous. While one artist balks, defined by the resistance ahead, the other relishes the fight, knowing that half the battle is fought in the everyday minutiae. One isn’t better than the other, but I did have to decide which one I was, and how much I was willing to bleed on the page for this next round of books. How much discomfort was I prepared to feel in order to tap into my ability to write? Hell, how much was I willing to give to any endeavor I undertake in this life. What is my profession?
All of this popped into my head as I sat down to update you guys. Two good things have happened:
- I’ve put my books into Kindle Unlimited.
- After I wrap up Forgotten’s first draft today I’m going to let it sit, marinate, then go back in and get it ready for editing. So it will be available this year, it’s just a question of when. I still have to do my final battle with the edits. And then get back on this merry-go-round for the next book. And the next after that. 🙂
The funny thing about this 300 scene is it illustrates what it looks like from the outside in a lot of ways. The Spartans look good, they are confident, tough, honed, merciless, gleeful in the face of death. The art of war is their profession. You see snippets of them as children, growing through the ranks as soldiers in cruel fashion. What you don’t see is the day in, day out, how they wake up bruised and go to sleep bloody, the meals they eat, the sighs they sigh. You don’t see the absolutely mundane tasks, how boring some of it can be. You don’t see the thousands of punches, kicks, lunges, falls, tears, injuries, screams of frustration.
And you’re not really supposed to. You just see the spears raised high, hear the echo of their synchronized roar and know instinctively that these warriors didn’t sprout fully formed into the world. They were made. All of that is for the love of the fight, all of that skin in the game is so when they get on the battlefield they can trust themselves. And if they fail, well, at least they met failure with a glorious act of defiance.
I’m not a Spartan, so don’t get any ideas about me. I don’t sit in front of this laptop in a red cape or anything. I mean, I can hold my own in a sparring ring, but I’m more apt to evoke Bugs Bunny’s trademark line when talking about writing than I am a glorious fighting machine:
But hey, I’m making strides in this battle towards professionalism. Take my transition to KU, for example. I was resistant to enter KU last year. I was twitching my rabbit nose and stomping my rabbit feet. Every month I read up on the changes going on in the publishing world, and KU seemed to have too many kinks to work out. Then something interesting happened. I signed up to be a part of a huge freebie blitz and put Sunday out there free for a limited time. The response was crazy. Cuh. Razy. I’ve never seen so many downloads (well not since it was a serial on a free site). I realized that I was, as the aforementioned book suggests, putting up walls of resistance that were keeping my books out of the hands of readers. It’s good to try out new things, and perhaps this decision was made at the right time as I move closer to publishing my next book.
Between that and a huge promotion opportunity coming up this month, we’ll see if I can overcome my aversion to pimping my work and help my books find new homes. That is a big part of my battle, the strange balancing act between art and commerce.
Which brings me to Forgotten! The last 10k of rewrites on the first draft get plugged in today. This story has been a struggle to write. It has been my Xerxes, my mammoth nemesis standing in the way of the next phase of my writing career (one day I’ll tell you about my Mt. Everest, the fantasy series I’ve had in mind since I was a teenager). I’ve battled my personal deadlines, my insecurities about the storyline and the genre shift, super personal shit, and writer’s inertia — which is like writer’s block only suckier, because you have all the ideas in the world, and no will to put them down. I’m glad though, because I had every reason in the world to stop writing this fucking book and I didn’t! I also realized I built this thing up too much. As the first in a series, it’s okay not to know everything that is going to happen, to still have more to learn about these characters and grow into this world along with my audience.
It’s one of those rainy days I love so much. A good day to strap on my armor, raise my pen, and go to battle. After all, I’m sure you realized by now, this means war.
How about you, Spartan? Are you ready for war today? What is your profession?