Today’s column is going to be all about me. And a little bit about you, if you’re ready for it. I recently experienced a major shift, and I blame Steven Pressfield‘s The War of Art for it (and I blame my friend Helenna Santos for wedging the book into my life at the exact right time). And by “blame,” I mean “credit.” Now, this is not a new book. I’d been hearing about it for years.
But as I sat across from Helenna for a too-infrequent lunch date, I noticed her glowing. She looked younger. Healthier. Stronger. Gone was any complaint about what wasn’t working. Gone was any real nuts-and-bolts strategizing about getting on track. It’s like she’d gone to a place where there are no roads… she was soaring.
I wanted that. I thought I had gotten close to that a month or so before. I’d had a moment of clarity and got very clear about some goals and the strategy for reaching them. And then I started dealing with some more urgent things in my life and my career — tending to fires that were about to rage — and dammit if I didn’t lose my way. Again.
It was time. I was angry. And Helenna made it clear that she was angry before reading The War of Art and that was the perfect place of readiness. One day and three bookstores later, I had my copy in hand. I got to page 12 and said, “Oh, shit,” and stopped, brought my husband into the room, and said, “I have to start over and just read this whole book aloud. Because I could do this alone, but it’s going to affect our relationship if I do. If we do this together, we’ll be okay. But if I go through this door and you don’t, every fight we’ll ever have from here on out will be about our being on opposite sides of this door.”
Cut to me, here now. Every meeting I’ve had with someone I knew before I read The War of Art asks me, “What’s going on? You look so…” and the sentence is ended with words like “vibrant,” “young,” “healthy,” “focused,” “thin,” “gorgeous,” “happy.” Yes. All of it. I am on purpose. I’m done dickin’ around. And The War of Art has been my “DDA Guide.” I’ve become evangelical about it, when I hear anyone talking about their blocks. I actually did everything short of driving to my friend Ben Whitehair‘s house to make him start reading the book during one of our late-night email exchanges. Sure enough, he’s gotten on the DDA train too. Of course, Helenna was there last year, talking about it, reading from the book and I wasn’t ready for it.
It’s like when I went to the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program before my senior year of high school. Six hundred 16- and 17-year-old kids working with top coaches and instructors at the highest tier of their game, each majoring in whatever it was we did best. I went for acting, along with 29 other kids. I got the best, most intense training available in six weeks (and minored in poetry while there) and I wasn’t ready for much of it.
When I went back into my journal, years later, I saw some of the exact resources I had discovered “on my own” written in my handwriting, during a visit from one of the southeast’s top agents. I had been told about this resource that would change my life in my 20s, but wasn’t ready for it when I was 16. I was more ready for the cool Bobby McFerrin cover of Blackbird we used at the end of our morning meditation to start our improvisation exercises. I was more ready for deconstructing and performing Shakespeare. I was more ready for staying up and watching Letterman in the common room with the cute boy I would end up dating on and off for the next two years.
I wasn’t ready for a list of actor resources that would change not only how I would pursue my career in the minor market of Atlanta when GHP was over. I had to discover those resources, one by one, on my own, years later. At the moment of realization, I emotionally beat myself up over not having heard what I clearly heard enough to write down in a journal for myself!
The War of Art has taught me that any of that noise (self-hatred, criticism, medicating, losing things, lack of preparation, all of it) is called Resistance. And there is no value to figuring out why it exists (I spent a lot of my life examining my blocks to figure out why they existed), when what we should be doing is just putting it into a box and doing the work. Sure, work out the kinks, learn the lesson, grow from it so you don’t repeat the patterns that keep you from your best self, but get to work FIRST. That’s the best way through whatever the block may be. It honors your muse. It honors the work you were put here to do. It honors yourself.
If you feel yourself cock-blocking your own success, ever, read The War of Art. Focus on the important, not the urgent. Those seven words right there summarize a major turning point for me. I was spending a lot of time prioritizing: “Urgent stuff first, then the rest.” That’s Resistance keeping you from the important stuff. And the important stuff is everything when you’re a creative, like us.
Not ready for The War of Art yet? No stress. You’ll know when it’s time. You’ll be blocked and angry about it, rather than frustrated with yourself, irritated by distractions, annoyed over dips in your career and personal life. You won’t feel sorry for yourself; you’ll feel angry that you’re not where you know you’re supposed to be. And then you’ll pull the book off the shelf, read a few hundred words, and feel your heart shift. Then your mind will follow. You’ll still have Resistance, because those muscles are well-developed and they throw up a lot of hurdles when they feel you getting stronger. Good. That means you’re right there. Go through that door. When you’re ready for it.
On the other side of that door, we’re recreating what this town is all about. It is lovely. It’s a community of support, creation, and fulfillment. It’s what the word “Hollywood” will someday come to mean.
Who’s with me? Are you ready for it? Pop your declaration in the comments below and let’s jam for this new Hollywood we’re building! Right now!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001377.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.