Art & The Professional

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In the last decade or so, I’ve read several books on the subject of art. I can count on one hand the number that I would call essential. The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield is one such book. If you’re unfamiliar, you should immediately read Ron Block’s post on the book from two years ago here, and you can also purchase the book here. Now on to my point.

I’ve hit the wall lately. Projects sit in digital folders, collecting cyber cobwebs if such things exist. Some ideas have come and gone. Excitement wanes over time for what made me feel so passionate just a few months ago. I’m not sure what it is exactly. Pressfield does, however. He calls it The Resistance. Anything and everything that works against you to keep you from creating what it is you’re called to do — be it apathy, Satan, last night’s lasagna — it’s all placed in the same greater category. The Resistance.

the-war-of-artI pastor a church on the side (as if, right?), but I make most of my living from writing. With several paid gigs, I should feel like a professional at it. Instead, I’m actually an amateur — at least according to Pressfield’s definition. And he’s right. I’m too preoccupied by things that I’m not supposed to be. I should be more disciplined than this.

One of Pressfield’s quick thoughts in the book hit me squarely on the vocational jaw recently and I believe it worth sharing. He writes:

A pro views her work as craft, not art. Not because she believes art is devoid of a mystical dimension. On the contrary. She understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. So she concentrates on technique.

The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods. Like Somerset Maugham she doesn’t wait for inspiration, she acts in the anticipation of its apparition. The professional is acutely aware of the intangibles that go into inspiration. Out of repsect for them, she lets them work. She grants them their sphere while she concentrates on hers.

The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preoccupation with the mystery.

The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.

Matt Conner is the teaching pastor at Trinity Church in the heart of Indianapolis and the founder of Analogue Media.


8 Comments

  1. Patrick

    Thanks for the review, Matt! Sounds like an absolutely must read! Writing only when I feel inspired makes it very slow going indeed, and it makes sense that if I were just faithful in my calling to write, the inspiration will show up. Thanks!

  2. Lanier Ivester

    Hear, hear, Matt! Thank you for the great (and timely!) reminder from a book I read those two years ago at Ron’s suggestion. (And thank you, Ron! ;))
    Fabulous stuff…

  3. Gail

    This is fantastic. I’m going to order this book … I get so easily distracted and often wait until the mood strikes me instead of making the first move and trusting that the beauty of my work will show itself as I move my pen (or strike the keys, as it were). Thanks for the book recommendation! I can’t wait to read it and I’m hoping it will have some good words of wisdom when it comes to managing time and avoiding distraction…

  4. Ben Rauscher

    Matt, thanks for the great quote. I started reading this a few days ago, based on Andrew Peterson’s recommendation at the Hutchmoot. I’ve only gotten about ten pages in, but that’s not because it’s slow reading. Really, after those first few pages I felt uber-inspired to write despite the “Resistance” of laziness, convincing excuses, fear, and whatever else, and I knew that writing more would be the goal of my reading the book, so I just went and wrote. Somehow that little bit got me inspired to just get going and skip reading the rest.
    I’m sure this mode will only last so long and I will pick this up again (and probably get a lot out of it), but all the same – really good book, going by the first ten pages.

  5. Jenny

    Oh, LOVE that book! And Seth Godin (who also highly recommends it). My husband writes a fantastic blog, and he just brought me tomorrow night’s blog post to review, and it’s about this book. If you’re in a teaching or leading capacity of any sort, you might check out his work: http://www.radicallearners.com.

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