'The War of Art': Overcome Resistance and Write Your Screenplay
If you’re like most screenwriters I know (myself included), you have a shelf full of books on the art and craft of writing. These books do everything from leading us on the hero’s journey, to breaking down the two, three, five or more act structure of a well-designed screenplay, and engendering sympathy with your protagonist early on. But I’ve found one book that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and it doesn’t have a thing to do with crafting story-arcs or “sympathetic” characters. It has to do with Resistance, every artist’s greatest enemy. Click below to find out more about the book that might change the way you look at your craft.
The novelist Somerset Maugham was once asked whether or not he wrote according to a schedule, or only when struck by inspiration. His answer: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
The writer Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, defines the artist’s (and specifically the writer’s) biggest enemy: Resistance. To Pressfield, Resistance (always capitalized) is the force that keeps us from achieving our goals, that sabotages our best instincts:
Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate,falsify; seduce, bully, cajole…Resistance has no conscience…Resistance is like the Alien or the Terminator or the shark in Jaws. It understands nothing but power. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object in mind: to prevent us from doing our work.
According to Pressfield, author of the novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, later turned into the iffy Matt Damon movie, Resistance is the force that urges us to procrastinate, to clean the kitchen, answer emails, make coffee or sharpen pencils: anything except get our work done. And work is the most important thing. Pressfield goes so far as to say that the more we just show up, the more the muse is likely to visit. In other words, the habit of writing cultivates writing; the more and more consistently a writer writes, the easier it will become.
He says that Resistance will be generated by “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” The battle against Resistance isn’t only fought on the page. Here he discusses another point in the creative process:
Are you writing a novel? Be careful with your baby. Don’t talk about it. Are you recording a new album, planning a new product launch, gestating a new philanthropic venture? Keep your mouth shut. Talking too soon is bad luck. It’s bad karma.
No less a personage than Robert McKee, screenwriting guru of all gurus, says of the book, “As I closed The War of Art, I felt a surge of positive calm. I now know I can win this war. And if I can, so can you.”
What do you think? Have you read The War of Art? Would you? How much do you think, if anything, can really be taught about the creative drive, whether you’re a writer, director, cinematographer, or costume designer? Do you encounter Resistance in your own life, and how do you combat it to create your work?