You might think that doing something that you love (like art) would be easy. That, because it matters so much to you, it would fuel you and make you leap out of bed everyday excited to work. That is absolutely NOT true. In fact, doing work that truly matters to your heart and soul is tremendously difficult. It's difficult because it requires that you dig deep inside of yourself and unearth the most fragile and precious parts of your mind and heart and bring them out into the light. You have to actually show them to people and allow them to comment on them. You have to listen as they critique. Sure, you can hide away and make work that is protected and free from critical eyes but, let's be honest, that doesn't really work either. At some point, you have to face the fear and the resistance.
I've been reading a new book and it's a life changer. It's called The War of Art (by Steven Pressfield). It's spot on and should be required reading for all artists. His chapters on resistance are changing my life. I've always thought about the fear and vulnerability in art making as inherent to the process. While I still acknowledge that part of the process, I also see that the fear is a form of resistance. It's one of the many forces that are hard at work keeping you away from the work you need to be doing.
People who know me well will say that I have a gypsy spirit and that I'm restless. I would say it too. I love a good move...a new house, a new town, a new studio (I've had 5 in 9 years). I like travel, change and motion. I like to repaint and redecorate. I rearrange my studio every few months. I like new things and I love to shop. I can get to a place where I have so many things on my plate that it's hard to do any one of them well. While I think that part of this restlessness is positive and keeps me moving forward and inspires curiosity and exploration, part of it is resistance. The urge to go-buy-change-acquire is, in part, the voice of resistance in my ear trying to pull me away from the work I need to do. So when I came across this paragraph, I was frozen...
"What makes it tricky is that we live in a consumer culture that's acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it. By selling us a product, a drug, a distraction. As artists and professionals it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. In this uprising we free ourselves from the tyranny of consumer culture. We overthrow the programming of advertising, movies, video games, magazines, TV, and MTV by which we have been hypnotized from the cradle. We unplug ourselves from the grid by recognizing that we will never cure our restlessness by contributing to the bottom line of Bullshit, Inc., but only by doing our work."
Seriously...this is not just about art, right? I mean that paragraph applies to us all. It's about anything that requires heart and bravery. It's about doing something meaningful with your life and your work and pressing the mute button on the culture at large that just fuels the fires of resistance.
What this makes me think is that these fragile bits, those warm and fuzzy places inside of our hearts are where we will find what we need. When we nurture them in spite of the fear and pay attention to the myriad of tiny distractions that stand in our path like huge mousetraps. When we acknowledge that moving into the fear is the only way we can get anywhere meaningful...that is when the good work will be done.
"Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it."