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The Artist’s Journey: Steven Pressfield On How To Show Up & Do The Work

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Crack. P O P ! Clickity-clack. As I’m writing, my deck (and house) is being pelted with falling acorns. An audible, yet comforting, signal that fall is on her way.

As a kid, I was obsessed with acorns. Every September, I’d spend hours hauling a neon pink wheelbarrow up and down my block, collecting as many acorns as I could.

My parents thought I was a little weird (still do), but I thought these tiny, hat-wearing nuts were simply irresistible (still do). I imagined each acorn contained some secret, magical treasure. Little did I know how true that really was.

Metaphorically speaking, the acorn is a fitting representation of the notion that each of us is coded with unique genius. It holds a sacred blueprint of your one-of-a-kind gifts — your soul’s destiny.

With cultivation and nourishment, those gifts take root. With massive effort and dedication, the seeds of your potential blossom into greatness. You grow strong and majestic, like a mighty oak.

My life’s work is to encourage that growth.

Both in myself and others. To nurture and fuel. To share ideas, inspiration and support so our roots can collectively deepen as we climb ever higher.

This week, that nourishment isn’t a MarieTV episode. Rather, it comes as an answer to this oft-asked question: “Hey Marie, what are you reading right now?”

While 90% of my focus is on writing my next book (and will be for a bit), there is something I read this summer that’s too good not to share. My beloved acorns make a cameo, too.

That book is called The Artist’s Journey by the one and only Steven Pressfield.

Steven is the genius behind my all-time favorite book, The War of Art. He’s authored a whopping 18 additional titles, both fiction and non-fiction. We had a fantastic conversation about the value of Turning Pro a few years back and you can catch that timeless MarieTV interview with Steven here.

The Artist’s Journey is short, punchy and inspiring. It’s about the path we all take when we move past self-sabotage and begin to live our authentic calling. It’s about what happens when we buckle up, pull down the lap bar and create the work that we were put on this planet to create.

On the back cover Steven writes, “You are an artist too—whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not—and you have an artist’s journey. Will you live it out? Will you follow your Muse and do the work you were born to do? Ready or not, you are called.”

You can devour The Artist’s Journey in a few hours. (I’ve already read it twice.) His prose is both transcendent and bullshit-free. What I learned continues to serve me as I soldier on with my manuscript.

Like all treasured books, my copy is marked with highlights, folded pages, underlines and margin notes. Here are a few takeaways.

The Distinction Between Self-Expression and Self-Discovery

This is a valuable theme that repeats throughout The Artist’s Journey. On page 41, Steven writes,

“I’ve read many times that art is self-expression. I don’t believe it.

I don’t believe the artist knows what he or she wishes to express. The artist is being driven from a far deeper and more primal source than the conscious intellect. It is not an overstatement, in my view, to declare that the artist has no idea what he’s doing.

[…] The artist is not expressing himself. He is discovering himself.”

I’ve seen this to be true throughout my entire career. The whole picture is rarely clear to me in advance. Many times when I sit down to write an episode of MarieTV, I have no idea what I’m doing or how the episode will turn out.

It’s far more of a process of discovery vs. pre-planned self-expression. My initial notions are just that — loose starting points.

This concept of art as self-discovery has never been more true than it is right now. As I’m writing my next book (titled Everything Is Figureoutable) it’s as though the book is telling me what it wants to be. New ideas and perspectives arrive almost daily. Much of which bears little resemblance to the content expressed in my initial outline, nor does it perfectly mirror what I’ve developed in the nearly two decades of my career.

In short, I’m discovering what this book actually is through the act of writing it. Self-discovery vs. self-expression. As Joan Didion once said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

The value is clear. Spend less time worrying about having everything mapped out perfectly in advance. Instead, show up. Get dirty. Embrace the unknown. Chances are, you’ll tap into something deeper, more expansive and inspired. Rather than feeling forced to express yourself, perhaps you’ll discover something far greater than you could have imagined.

Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be

Hands down, this is my top one-liner from the book. When it comes to creating a body of work and taking your Artist’s Journey, it really is that straightforward. No matter what you want to do or make, you must put your ass where your heart wants to be. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. No matter how grindy, uncomfortable and terrifying it is.

On page 158 Steven writes,

“The great secret that every artist and mystic knows is that the profound can be reached best by concentrating on the mundane.

Do you want to write? Sit down at the keyboard.
Want to paint? Stand before an easel.
Wanna dance? Get your butt in a studio.
Want the goddess to show up for you? Show up for her.”

Put your ass where your heart wants to be. @SPressfield
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Here’s what this passage means to me. That it’s wise to worship at the altars of consistency and follow-through. When it comes to doing the work you were born to do, their collective power can not be overstated.

More plainly: Stop dicking around. Don’t wait for inspiration. Don’t overcomplicate things. Don’t work just when you “feel like it.” Don’t get sucked into the death spiral of perfectionism.

Do the work.

Because life doesn’t demand perfection. Life doesn’t require you to be constantly fearless, confident, or self-assured. Life simply requires you keep showing up.

The Artist’s Journey contains endless gems to take along on your artistic adventures. If this post inspired you, I hope you grab a copy and make it your new creative companion.

(For more, complement this post with my conversation with the incomparable Liz Gilbert.)

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

In the spirit of your own Artist’s Journey, a two-parter:

  1. What are you creating right now?
  2. What’s one thing you can do to move that work ahead — not just today, but every day?

Learn 3 simple strategies that’ll give you the courage & confidence to do anything.Download Marie Forleo’s free audio training to learn three simple strategies that’ll give you the clarity and confidence to build your dreams, on your terms.DownloadLearn 3 simple strategies that’ll give you the courage & confidence to do anything.
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Never forget that, just like these magical little acorns all around, you too were born with everything you need to answer the call of your soul.

Thank you so much for reading, watching and sharing your voice. You make Tuesdays one of the best days of the week.

With enormous love,

XO

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