Rituals

I just finished reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and I had a couple of thoughts.
First: “I’m doing alright based on what I read.”
Then: “Shit! I have a lot of work to do based on what I read.”

I do go to war regularly with Resistance for the sake of art. I often put creative endeavors first. I feel good about this. In fact tonight, I received a text from a friend and she asked if I could to go for coffee
tomorrow. I said I could only go if I finished a post for the blog. I’ve done this before, putting my writing work before a social outing and I don’t feel guilty about it. I mean you wouldn’t leave your job at the office to go for a coffee or you’d get behind in your work or worse, fired.

I also know that participating in the creative process keeps me happy and pleasant to be around which makes it a win/win for those around me. And to be honest, the thing I’m creating keeps me company. I don’t feel lonely if I’m creating.

In the section Resistance and Isolation, Pressfield says “the thing I do is the thing that keeps me company.” Years ago, I was working on a large painting of a woman and I caught myself talking to her. Not in a crazy, psych-ward sort of way but just verbally problem-solving what I was doing and she, the painting, was there listening. I felt I had company. Pressfield is right.

I try and be professional. When I say I’m going to sit down and do work, I stick to it as best I can. If I have to meet with Dave and I’m going to be late I call or text and let him know. This isn’t fluff. I take it seriously. I’m at war. But the thing I think I need to polish after reading this book is the idea of ritual.

Pressfield starts the book with a detailed description of a routine before writing. He mentions his end rituals as well. I read this and my “inside head” voice began:

  • What’s my time line look like on a creative work day? Or a day when I have to teach?
  • What do I do before I start?
  • What do I drink while I’m working?
  • How do I handle interruptions?
  • What music do I listen to?
  • He prays before he starts. Should I pray? Should I have a mantra at the very least?
  • What happens at the end of it all? Should I go for a walk? Have a shower?
  • Do I have a special sweater I should wear? Do I need a special sweater? A special chair to sit in? Incense to light?

I don’t know if I have answers for these questions but I feel like I should, if for nothing more than the comfort shifting into the activity and executing the process. The photographer-painter Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” But I wonder if Chuck Close had a lucky sweater, a bowl of almonds or a short prayer before he started. Maybe.


**originally posted in parts December 31 2015

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