Pressfield’s book on pursuing creativity is currently less than $6 in its electronic form, so I used my Christmas money and picked it up on the recommendation of a creative friend. My buddy owns a coffee shop, plays in bands, and generally pursues the finer things in life. A renaissance man! If he said this was worth a read, I figure it was worth a go. I’m glad I did. While there’s probably nothing groundbreaking in this book, the encouragement to create and be yourself is always welcome.
One thing I always wonder about in these kinds of books is whether the author has the credentials to be someone worth listening to. For example, Stephen King is wildly successful by most definitions of success, so On Writing carries some extra weight and gravitas. He also wrote Stand By Me, which is personally a favorite in terms of tone and theme, so his thoughts were especially meaningful for me. On the other hand, Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write is one of my all-time favorite books, but I’ve never read any of Ueland’s fiction or other non-fiction. I just liked it because she seems like a kindred spirit from a different generation. Pressfield is similar to Ueland in that I’m not familiar with his other work (he’s probably most famous for writing Bagger Vance), but he seems like a guy who appreciates the same things I appreciate. So, I trusted his thoughts on creativity.
Rather than writing a how-to book on plotting or characterization, Pressfield hits on the why of creativity. Like Ueland, he is interested in William Blake and Blake’s cosmology of creativity. The three see Creativity as some sort of divine connection. Pressfield uses language of God, Muses, angels. Basically, creativity connects us to higher, better, permanent things. When we deny creativity, we’re living in false selves and siding with destruction over good. It’s basically an Art vs Resistance frame. Here’s a sample quote:
Every breath we take, every heartbeat, every evolution of every cell comes from God and is sustained by God every second, just as every creation, invention, every bar of music or line of verse, every thought, vision, fantasy, every dumb-ass flop and stroke of genius comes from that infinite intelligence that created us and the universe in all its dimensions, out of the Void, the field of infinite potential, primal chaos, the Muse. To acknowledge that reality, to efface all ego, to let the work come through us and give it back freely to its source, that, in my opinion, is as true to reality as it gets.
If that sounds like non-sense to you, skip this one. If it resonates with you and you want some encouragement to sit down and create because you know you love it, then buy this book while it’s on sale!