Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Gray Areas

Written by: on February 11, 2023

I have always enjoyed the creative process of developing a new course, training seminar, or workshop. So, this book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield, spoke to many of my experiences. Two key topics from this week’s assigned readings provided insights into why it is difficult for some, including myself, to complete projects. The issues that impacted me the most were based on the definitions and examples of resistance and being an amateur versus a professional. However, before I start with the focus points, I want to provide one insight that stood out to me about the overall tone of Pressfield’s writing style.

Pressfield, an ex-Marine, has a tone or writing style in the book that reminds me of a drill sergeant. Why is this important? Several statements he makes leave little room for “gray” areas. And this is relevant because when it comes to the creative process and what some people have to overcome to birth their artistic creations, there is a tremendous difference in the obstacles encountered based on their starting point. But I’m getting ahead of myself – and I will develop this gray area further in my essay.

In his book, Pressfield zeroes in on one main reason creatives are challenged when it comes to their work – whether it’s an artist, entrepreneur, or even losing weight. The main reason is resistance. Although the entire book goes into great detail surrounding the many facets of resistance that can creep into our lives, in this essay, I will address only three aspects, self-sabotage, rationalization, and healing.

Pressfield calls resistance the enemy within. This enemy manifests in our life in the form of self-sabotage.[1] I was able to identify with this type of resistance readily. Self-sabotage can come in the form of overextending myself on less critical projects rather than focusing on the projects I most want to do. (I must ponder this more to gain more clarity.) He also states that sabotage can come from others.[2] It is too easy to allow others to sabotage or distract you, especially when the task or project is challenging – like writing.

Another aspect of resistance that can be in the form of a good excuse is rationalization. According to Pressfield, resistance can be hard to identify because it uses “rationalization as its right-hand man.”[3] One example Pressfield gives for rationalization is when people think they have to heal first before they begin the creative process.[4] In terms of healing, Pressfield juxtaposes the healing that the upper middle class thinks they need – because they can spend all sorts of money to indulge themselves – with the recovery he discovered after decades of running and hiding behind a cab driver job. When he sat down and started typing, he found his voice again and knew he had turned a corner.[5] On this point, Pressfield and I agree that writing can be a healing tool. But he makes an interesting statement in this section, “the part that needs healing is our personal life…Personal life has nothing to do with work.”[6] There it is – an example of a drill sergeant-like statement. There is no gray area, you either allow your healing to take precedence and not work on your project, or you put your issues aside and get on with the work at hand.

Logically, I understand what Pressfield is saying. Many people can compartmentalize their emotions and keep moving. However, some cannot separate artistic work from personal issues. Some people have deep-seated emotional problems that block their creativity. It is necessary to deal with those emotional issues to unleash their inner creative self. For example, I spent years teaching and ministering to women behind bars. It was always amazing to see phenomenal artistic creativity in the form of poetry, paintings, singing, short stories, and spoken word emanating from the women. Talent that the world would never see because, for many, the emotional issues and challenges had broken them and contributed to their bondage. So not everyone can turn the corner so easily to break through their roadblocks to blossom into their full artistic creativity.

To end the section on resistance, I must bring in a related point from Stephen King. He has a slightly different approach from Pressfield to the creative process of writing. In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he discusses writing and creating a toolbox to flex the “writing muscle” to build strength.[7] This implies several things. Writers should start where they are, even if they are not entirely healed or an expert. And a toolbox is built based on the life experiences and lessons learned while fine-tuning your craft. King and Pressfield seemingly agree on writing despite personal issues. The differences may be somewhat nuanced depending on how one unpacks their statements – but the point is this – writing itself is deeply personal, and the process is a lonely journey. We all approach projects that cause us to be reflective, creative, artistic, etc., differently.

The last point of discussion from the book is how Pressfield views an amateur versus a professional. On page 62, Pressfield is clear an “amateur is one who plays for fun and a professional is one who plays for keeps.” Until I read Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work! I had the same concept of an amateur. Kleon writes on page 12 that “online, everyone – artist and curator, master and apprentice, expert and amateur has the ability to contribute something.” “The real gap is between doing nothing and doing something. Amateurs know that contributing something is better than contributing nothing.”[8] I suspect this was very freeing for many because it is a refreshing way to view amateurs, particularly considering how technology has leveled the competitive landscape. I’ll end with Kleon’s brilliant definition of an amateur. “Amateur is an artist who supports himself with outside jobs which enable him to paint…A pro is someone whose wife works to enable him to paint.”[9]

[1] Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, (New York: Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2002), 8.

[2] Ibid., 19.

[3] Ibid., 53.

[4] Ibid., 79.

[5] Ibid., 49.

[6] Ibid., 49.

[7] Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, (New York: Scribner, 2000), 114.

[8] Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!, 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity And Get Discovered, (New York: Workman Publishing Co., Inc., 2014), 16.

[9] Ibid., 161.

About the Author


Audrey Robinson

10 responses to “Gray Areas”

  1. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    I agree that it is sometimes hard to work through resistance. What would you say is the greatest resistance you have met when completing your work?

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      Great question. Two things come to mind. First, over the past decade, I have suffered from trigger points in the muscles of my neck and shoulders. As a result, there are times I have to just stop. And sometimes it has taken weeks before I can get back to my project. The problem is then I’ve gotten discouraged. The second is my son. Invariably when I start a project I get a text or call from him that he needs me to do something. I’m learning to say no when it is not convenient for me.

  2. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Hi Audrey, I so enjoyed reading your blog! You summarized both King and Pressfield, while clearly highlighting the themes that stuck out for you. I, too, was interested in Pressfield’s take on healing! It was so valuable to read your development of this theme and I appreciated your point that not everyone can compartmentalize, nor is this necessarily healthy. I sometimes struggle with when is it healthy to share our creativity, especially if it is rooted in past hurts. Sometimes I have shared too soon and later regret it. Sometimes, I choose not to share at all, which doesn’t always seem like the best choice. What are your thoughts?

    Thanks so much, Audrey, for your wisdom.

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      Jenny, Thanks for the words of encouragement.

      Like you, over the years I have may have shared too much. As I look back, not only did I share too much but I also taught Biblical principles that were not quite on point. Sometimes I cringe when I think about some of the things I taught.

      But I’ve come to believe that because my heart was in the right place in sharing when I still had hurt and in ministering that the Lord honored what was sown in the people’s lives. If we wait until we have it all together – we would never speak up or try to comfort others. That does not give a pass to people who are miserable and bitter and purposely trying to hurt or mislead others.

      • Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

        Hi Audrey, Thanks so much for taking time to reply. I think you’re right and it makes so much sense that God would honor our hearts and weave it all together for something positive.

        Hope you’re weekend has gone well!

  3. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Hi Audrey
    I enjoyed your post. Your personality really comes through in your writing style. I appreciate your focus on healing in the creative process. It made me wonder, how might past hurts contribute to the creative process. In many ways, creative expression can be therapeutic itself. Often, that’s what bonds us with an artist as we see our hurts in another. In your estimation, when should a person seek healing rather than artistic expression?

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      Chad, great question. If we assume that most hurts emanate from broken relationships then a person should seek therapy or counseling in order to heal. Otherwise, the artistic expression will come from a place of unforgiveness, anger, bitterness – you name it.

      When the Lord takes a person through healing they typically come out on the other side with scars but not bitter. Just my thoughts.

  4. Audrey, you did a great job zeroing in on these three, “self-sabotage, rationalization, and healing.” You must have a good armor of resources that helped you against this enemy within, given your experience teaching in the most difficult places! Thanks for the great insights.

  5. Alana Hayes says:

    I was thinking about what you said breaking down the difference of Pressfield’s views an amateur versus a professional…

    I wonder… How can amateur artists benefit from the current technology-driven and competitive landscape to find their place in the creative industry?

    • mm Audrey Robinson says:

      Fortunately or unfortunately (the jury is still out) just look at TicTok, Instagram, and FB. The plethora of amateurs is astounding. Money-making amateurs. And it’s not just on these platforms. Think of Amazon/Kindle publishing and the amateurs on that platform.

      Reading Miller this week provided a new term for some of this – at least in the Christian space – bricolage.

Leave a Reply