It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Resistance, or Death Wish, is the destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that’s actually good. The day-by-day, step-by-step campaign of the professional: preparation, order, patience, endurance, acting in the face of fear and failure—no excuses, no bullsh*t. First, last, and always, the professional focuses on mastery of the craft. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us . . . we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete. Talent: the innate power to discover the hidden connection between two things—images, ideas, words—that no one else has ever seen before, link them, and create for the world a third, utterly unique work. How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance. If you believe in God you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius. Genius is an inner spirit, holy and inviolable, which watches over us, guiding us to our calling. Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a higher station morally, ethically, or spiritually. Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance. Everyone who has a body experiences Resistance. Resistance is not out to get you personally. It doesn’t know who you are and doesn’t care. Resistance is a force of nature. It acts objectively. The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work. The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work. The working artist banishes from her world all sources of trouble. She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it into her work. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work, we simply consume a product. 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 our disposable income to the bottom line of Bullsh*t, Inc., but only by doing our work. The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them. Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death. The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like. In order for a book (or any project or enterprise) to hold our attention for the length of time it takes to unfold itself, it has to plug into some internal perplexity or passion that is of paramount importance to us. The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free. He has to play hurt. When your deeper Self delivers a dream, don’t talk about it. Don’t dilute its power. The dream is for you. It’s between you and your Muse. Shut up and use it. Rationalization is Resistance’s right-hand man. Its job is to keep us from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work. The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”. The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first. I’m done with my chores now. It’s time. I say my prayer and head out on the hunt. Set one foot in front of another and keep climbing. The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. We show up every day. We might do it only because we have to, to keep from getting fired. But we do it. We show up no matter what. In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger into the factory. We might do it only so as not to let down our co-workers, or for other, less noble reasons. But we do it. We stay on the job all day. Our minds may wander, but our bodies remain at the wheel. We pick up the phone when it rings, we assist the customer when he seeks our help. We don’t go home till the whistle blows. We are committed over the long haul. Next year we may go to another job, another company, another country. But we’ll still be working. Until we hit the lottery, we are part of the labor force. We do not overidentify with our jobs. We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him. We master the technique of our jobs. We have a sense of humor about our jobs. The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will. A professional is patient. The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods. The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work. The professional's goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily and steadily as he can. A professional dedicates himself to mastering technique. A professional seeks order. A professional acts in the face of fear. A professional accepts no excuses. A professional plays it as it lays. A professional is prepared. A professional does not show off. The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come. A professional does not hesitate to ask for help. A professional distances herself from her instrument. A professional does not take failure (or success) personally. A professional schools herself to stand apart from her performance, even as she gives herself to it, heart and soul. The Bhagavad-Gita tells us we have a right only to our labor, not to the fruits of our labor. All the warrior can give is his life; all the athlete can do is leave everything on the field. The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still. The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still. She’ll work harder. She’ll be back tomorrow. The professional cannot let himself take humiliation personally. Humiliation, like rejection and criticism, is the external reflection of internal Resistance. The professional endures adversity. He lets the birdsh*t splash down on his slicker, remembering that it comes clean with a heavy-duty hosing. He himself, his creative center, cannot be buried, even beneath a mountain of guano. His core is bulletproof. Nothing can touch it unless he lets it. It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot. Control your reaction and govern your emotion. Don't take it personally. Do your job. The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality. Nothing matters but that he keep working. Short of a family crisis or the outbreak of World War III, the professional shows up, ready to serve the gods. Resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. It wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason for being, on the response of others to our work. The professional learns to recognize envy-driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had had the guts. Every Monday, I sit down and go over my assignments. Then I type it up and distribute it to myself. There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our minds to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that. As Resistance works to keep us from becoming who we were born to be, equal and opposite powers are counterpoised against it. These are our allies and angels. The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying. “Eternity is in love with the creations of time.“ – William Blake. Before I sit down to work, I’ll take a minute and show respect to this unseen Power who can make or break me. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now. When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears, something wonderful happens. A crack appears in the membrane. Like the first craze when a chick pecks at the inside of its shell. Angel midwives congregate around us; they assist as we give birth to ourselves, to that person we were born to be, to the one whose destiny was encoded in our soul, our daimon, our genius. The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake. We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause. We are servants of the Mystery. We were put here on earth to act as agents of the Infinite, to bring into existence that which is not yet, but which will be, through us. To acknowledge that reality, to efface all ego, to let the work come through us and give it back freely to its source, that, is as true to reality as it gets. Artists over time acquire modesty and humility. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.