By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 21, 2014
[Today's post is an updated version of one of the first to run on this blog. It's one I've always wanted to bring back.]
Chaos. The Big Bang. Crap flying everywhere.
Imagine yourself back at the beginning of time. The universe is raw energy, blasting faster than light-speed in all directions. (Stay with me, this is going somewhere). What happens? As time passes—maybe only nanoseconds—electrons coalesce around nuclei. Molten matter cools; stars and planets form themselves into spheres; celestial objects find paths and settle into orbits. Order emerges.
Gravity exerts its pull. Rivers form and run downhill. Seas arise. Atmospheres stabilize. Before you know it, we’ve got adventurous fish crawling out onto dry land, hominids beating each other’s brains out with sticks and clubs, and guys with pocket protectors doing IPOs for social networking startups.
What about your novel? Is Resistance telling you your material is too big, too sprawling, too out of control?
Consider the universe. The universe is self-organizing. That’s a law. We as artists and entrepreneurs must not forget that this law is on our side. It’s as infallible as gravity and it’s our friend.
Books wanna be what they wanna be. So do albums, entrepreneurial ventures, and statues of David. The process unfolds infallibly. Our symphony evolves into four movements, our screenplay into three acts. If we just keep plugging away at it, the Law of Self-Ordering comes to our aid.
How, specifically, does this process manifest itself?
Ideas come to us in the shower. We achieve a breakthrough driving on the freeway. Suddenly musical themes that had seemed to bear no relation to one other discover a common harmonic and come together. Our sprawling epic finds its theme; now we can cut three hundred not-on-theme pages and voila! The damn thing coheres. It works.
The artist’s role is not to command her creative universe like some all-powerful Ur-goddess, uprooting continents and jamming them into new spaces according to her whim and will. The artist’s job is to midwife her creation, which is at bottom not hers at all but a force of its own and on its own. Our role is to let it come forth, like a mother bearing new life. Yeah, maybe we have to push a little, and maybe we’ll be sweating and screaming and cursing our husband (male creative principle) for getting us into this mess in the first place. But that new life is just that: new life. Life on its own, following its own imperatives.
This is good news. This is tailwind news. When we’re stuck, when we’re freaking out, when it all seems too much too soon too crazy, remember: that’s only how it seems to us, confined within our limited point of view. From the universe’s perspective, all is as it should be. Sooner or later, you and I will stop fighting and let the symphony/supernova/baby be born. And you know what? If we’re lucky it’ll have ten fingers and ten toes and its own ideas about who it is and what it wants to be.
Chaos (including the chaos of our businesses and works of art) is self-organizing. All we have to do is keep working and give it a chance.