There’s a pile of paper propped up next to my desk. They’re multiple copies of a chapter entitled “Arnold Schwarzenegger,” and it’s about a philandering businessman stuck in traffic as his long-suffering driver tries to navigate their SUV out of Manila and into the provinces. These copies are from my classmates, from a writing class that ended about a couple of months ago. Some of the feedback, like the ones from my teacher, are line-by-line edits, complete with single-spaced, typewritten advice, and those are invaluable. Some comments from my classmates are mere scribbles in the margins, checkmarks and instances of “not clear” and “nice!” but those are okay too.
I still haven’t incorporated any of the revisions into the draft in my desktop, and that’s not okay at all. I’ve read the comments, of course, but they lie there untransmuted, unconverted into kinetic energy. I have many excuses, ready to be fished out in case I have to answer to authority: work, the need to write a more workable ending first, work, tiredness in the evenings, work, my doubts whether the manuscript is any good, work, the nagging sense that I have to exercise which I don’t do anyway, work, and so on. But the only authority figure here is me.
And none of these are legitimate excuses, according to Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work. The book — until recently a free download from Amazon.com — is a great kick in the butt, with passages I simply had to highlight and read aloud to my girlfriend. But in certain ways the book also assumes a fairly level playing field, a sentiment I don’t always agree with, and its tough motivational advice won’t be new to folks who’ve read, say, Chris Baty’s No Plot? No Problem! Pressfield’s main argument is all in the title — one has to do the work — and anything that prevents you from doing that act of creation (the book is also both New Age-y and Chaos Magick-y), anything that holds you back is the enemy. (Pressfield, who refers to the enemy in blatantly martial terms, argues it’s almost always inside you.) It’s the dark side, the Jungian shadow, the dragon that you must slay. Do the Work also argues that the only real and right reason to do this work is not because of riches or fame or that one has to prove anything to friends and family; it’s because one has no choice.