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


Written by: on February 11, 2022

We read two fascinating books on the creative process this week. In The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield tackles the opposing psychological and spiritual dimensions of resistance and creativity.[1] His book is classified by the Library of Congress under their large Religion, Psychology, and Philosophy umbrella, and more specifically under the psychological fields of cognition and consciousness. He divides his text into a three-part informal introduction followed by three books. Book one delves into the nature and purpose of resistance and the many forms it can take.[2]  Book two develops the practices of thwarting resistance by moving from amateur to professional in any creative endeavor.[3] Book three explores the mystical and divine sources of creative inspiration through an eclectic lens of spiritual influences.

Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft[4] uses the story of his formation as a writer to discuss some of the same dimensions of the creative process covered by Pressfield, but also writes specifically about language and the skill of writing. The Library of Congress classifies his book under the Literature and Languages umbrella, specifically under Individual Authors of American Literature. His book structure is more difficult to define. He presents a series of what he calls “snapshots.”[5] These snapshots capture his formation journey in glimpses.

I read Pressfield’s book first, and so experienced King’s book as a case study for what Pressfield discusses about the work of creativity—and it is work. For example, Pressfield writes in his summation: “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”[6] King writes: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over.”[7]

Discipline is the practice that transforms an amateur into a professional. Pressfield says, “Someone one asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied. ‘Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’”[8] King echoes this disciplined approach when he urges writers to find a dedicated writing space: “The space can be humble (probably should be, as I think I have already suggested), and it really needs only one thing: a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.”[9]

Many of Pressfield’s observations about the battle between resistance and creativity reminded me of Friedman’s panacea for overcoming the destructive force of anxiety and Campbell’s description of the Hero’s Journey. For example, Pressfield writes, “The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them…His goal is not victory…but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily and steadily as he can.”[10] Friedman reminds the reader that in the face of toxic anxiety, one can only manage oneself.[11] Pressfield writes: “Our ancestors were keenly cognizant of forces and energies whose seat was not in this material sphere but in a loftier, more mysterious one.”[12] Campbell laments contemporary society’s loss of interest in or respect for the mythological.[13]

The cumulative impact of this week’s readings and their intersections with Friedman and Campbell leave me more deeply committed to developing the professional disciplines described by Pressfield. In particular, his section “You, Inc.” caught my attention.[14] “Making yourself a corporation (or just thinking of yourself in that way) reinforces the idea of professionalism because it separates the artist-doing-the-work form the will-and-consciousness-running-the-show.”[15] As I develop my NPO, taking this incorporation step will help me set healthy DNA in my initiative from the beginning and position me to better continue the creative work this NPO will require of me and maintain forward momentum.


[1] Pressfield, Steven. 2002. The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. New York, NY, Los Angeles: Black Irish Entertainment LLC.

[2] Ibid., 5ff.

[3] Ibid., 62ff.

[4] King, Stephen, Joe Hill, and Owen King. 2020. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

[5] Ibid., 18.

[6] Pressfield, 165.

[7] King, 269.

[8] Pressfield, 64.

[9] King, 155.

[10] Pressfield, 82.

[11] Friedman, Edwin H., Margaret M. Treadwell, and Edward W. Beal. 2017. A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. 10th anniversary revised edition. New York: Church Publishing, Kindle location 421.

[12] Pressfield, 114.

[13] Campbell, Joseph. 2008. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 3rd ed. Bollingen Series XVII. Novato, Calif: New World Library., xii.

[14] Pressfield, 97-98,

[15] Ibid., 97.

About the Author

Elmarie Parker

22 responses to “Momentum”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Elmarie, such a rich post! I appreciate how you made the connection to Friedman in this week’s reading. It seems that fear emerges as the universal opposition, no matter what the environment – writing, leading, etc. Can you say a little more about how “taking this incorporation step will help me set healthy DNA in my initiative from the beginning and position me to better continue the creative work this NPO?” I know Pressfield wrote that in connection to the idea of professionalism – I just wonder how you expect to benefit from that? Also, knowing that you are a historical-fiction fan, have you read any of Pressfield’s works in that genre? I found them hard to put down!

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      I too am interested in the sentence that Roy asks about and how you envision that in a practical way. Additionally, do you feel any tensions in the development of professional disciplines when you’re in a vocation that is largely relational?

      • Elmarie Parker says:

        Hi Kayli. Thank you so very much for your questions. Take a look at my reply to Roy for your first question…I’d value your thoughts on what I’ve shared there based on your expertise in the non-profit world. And, thank you for your second question—do I feel any tensions in the development of professional disciplines when I’m in a vocation that is largely relational? Great question. I just retook the Enneagram (it has been many years since last taking it, and I was curious to reacquaint myself with it and the insights it offers for my journey). I came out as a strong ‘5.’ So, much of what Pressfield describes as professional tactics feels very ‘at home’ for me. Part of my conversation with Pressfield as I read him included this tension raised in your question. My experience, from a spiritual disciplines perspective, is that Christ’s Spirit has pushed me to be ‘graciously interruptible’ because I can become so focused on whatever else I am working on—whether that is reading, writing, listening to someone, etc. I’m absorbed in what I do. But I have found that Jesus regularly interrupts me with other parts of his call on my life. As I’ve tried to stretch myself into being ‘graciously interruptible’ I find that my ‘work’ is enriched and has become so much more multi-dimensional. But it also has meant that I experience my life as being more chaotic than what I would naturally prefer, or that I think, if I have accurately read him, Pressfield or King, would recommend. I sense this is a tension that I will just need to live with and navigate day-by-day as I try to stay attentive to the Holy Spirit. Of course, trying to discern when my ‘interruptibility’ is from the Spirit or from resistance is a whole additional layer to this conversation. How do you experience these tensions in your life?

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Thank you, Roy, for your gracious feedback; there were so many angles I wanted to take with this post but had to choose. A part of me still feels dissatisfied with it. So I’m grateful you found some meaning in it! And, thank you for your follow-up question about the incorporation step. I’m still contemplating this. What I found helpful in his suggestion is that this kind of step is concrete…it commits me to the future direction I am developing through my NPO and is a tangible way of overcoming the anxiety/fear I have because my dream is much bigger than my NPO (my NPO provides a launch point). For my initiative, I would use the language of creating a NGO/Non-profit identity. Maybe that’s the same as incorporating…still so much to learn. I also think that pursuing this tangible step allows me to think in terms of establishing an active Board (and eventually either other staff or partners) and would help my initiative move into the world, its vision owned by more than just me. From what I understood from Pressfield, this would help me shift between a more objective view of what I’m developing (the professional as he terms it), and the more personal view of how it’s connected to God’s call on my life (inspiration). AND, thank you for your endorsement of his historical novels. They are on my list after I read a short description of each as part of my process of getting to know him as an author. You remain in my prayers regarding your trip to Lebanon! I’m looking forward to hearing what you experience!

      • Kayli Hillebrand says:

        I’d encourage you to add an action step of completing StratOp in conjunction with establishing the board (the Peterson Center is my person favorite). It assists in helping the large vision and small action steps needed to make tangible progress.

  2. Elmarie, wonderful post! The work libido comes to mine as I read your words. Jung expanded Frued’s definition of libido to include force that animates the creative process. I’ve found if I focus my attention on something, typically libido will provide the energy; be it writing a paper or folding the laundry. Where do you find libido filling you and energizing you in your project? In other words, where’s the life flowing?

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Michael, thank you for your encouraging feedback. As I wrote in my response to Roy, I experienced more dissatisfaction with this post than any of my previous posts. I really appreciate you naming the Jungian/Freudian influence of libido. Would that be their language for what Pressfield calls inspiration? How is it similar or different from what Pressfield discusses? To your question, it’s been a very interesting week to discern where the life is flowing and/or what I find energizing. Scott and I are being asked by our sending organization to go through orientation again (the next two weeks…on top of everything else we’re doing to connect with churches, etc. while in the States, and carrying on with our relationships/work in Lebanon/ME while here). Scott will be more a part of it since his work focus has changed over the past five years from what it was when he first started eight and a half years ago. That feels like a major energy drain. Not that we won’t gain anything from it, but it feels like a backward drag…especially because we’ve both been in meetings over the past two-three years covering the same topics that are included on the orientation schedule. In contrast, anything I’m working on with my NPO or this leadership seminar fills me with energy and there’s a sense of flow. So, my question to myself—if Pressfield’s hypothesis is correct, that we feel resistance the most when moving in the direction of becoming our true selves, then how do I understand the dynamic I’ve just described above? How does libido and inspiration fit into this? From an Ignatius contemplative perspective, I would focus on where I’m finding life, where life is flowing. But am I missing something here or misunderstanding something? Your thoughts?

  3. mm Jonathan Lee says:

    Elmarie, thank you for your great post. I liked your connection with Pressfield to Friedman and Campbell, “about the battle between resistance and creativity reminded me of Friedman’s panacea for overcoming the destructive force of anxiety and Campbell’s description of the Hero’s Journey.” The reading of the two books also somehow connected me to the issue of overcoming resistance. How would you further explain the connection between overcoming resistance in one self to creativity?

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Thank you for your helpful comments, Jonathan, and your thought-provoking question: how would I further explain the connection between overcoming resistance in oneself to creativity? One of the other dimensions I wanted to write about but ran out of energy and words at the time, was Pressfield’s exploration of inspiration. I found his exploration very evocative. This quote especially caught my imagination:
      When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears,
      something wonderful happens. A crack appears in the membrane. Like the
      first craze when a chick pecks at the inside of its shell. Angel midwives congregate
      around us; they assist as we give birth to ourselves, to that person we were
      born to be, to the one whose destiny was encoded in our soul, our daimon,
      our genius (pg. 123).
      Also, this quote:
      …in some way these creatures of the higher sphere (or the sphere itself, in
      the abstract) take joy in what we timebound beings can bring forth into physical
      existence in our limited material sphere…the timeless communicating to the
      timebound…it’s as though the Fifth Symphony existed already in that higher
      sphere, before Beethoven sat down and played dah-dah-dah-DUM. The catch
      was this: The work existed only as potential-without a body, so to speak.
      It wasn’t music yet…it needed someone…to bring it into being on this material
      plane (p. 116-117).
      I found these phrases to be an incredibly profound way of describing the creative process. We are co-laborers with God’s Spirit, bringing into visible form on earth that which already is part of the heavenlies around us, and it brings God joy! I found myself praying this petition from the Lord’s prayer as I read these thoughts from Pressfield: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” To think that this petition encompasses creative work inspires me! To think that the creative endeavors I feel welling up in me, crying out to be expressed, are somehow already a part of God’s Triune being and that I’m being invited to participate in the divine pinnacle of creativity is pretty mind-blowing. Pressfield closes with this comment (and though he is drawing from a different spiritual tradition with this quote, I am reading it in the context of the Triune God we know through Jesus Christ): “…do the work and give it to Him. Do it as an offering to God (pg. 161).”

      Wow…this draws me right into one of the central spiritual disciplines of my Reformed heritage…that we are called to live our lives as a thank offering to God…gratitude for the gift of abundant life we’ve received through the creative work of Jesus Christ (incarnating the creative longings of the Triune God to be in life-giving relationship with the creatures and creation brought into being out of chaos). It also cultivates humility in me…what I experience as creative impulses are sourced out of the very being of God. My part is to faithfully and courageously participate in that divine creativity so that God’s kingdom would come and will be done on earth as it already is in the heavenlies all around us. Amazing. So, when I face resistance, keeping this vision before me shapes my prayers and then I find the Spirit fills me with the heart courage I need to keep on keeping on and not get stuck in resistance.

      Thank you, Jonathan, for asking this question and giving me a chance to write some of what I had hoped to include in my original post. I would value hearing your thoughts on what I’ve shared here and how you further explain the connection between overcoming resistance in oneself to creativity.

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Great summary of the books.

    I also appreciated the consideration of a dedicated space and time for writing. I have found this to be a challenge and I can’t get any “writing” done too well as my office (too many interruptions) nor at my house (too many kids!). My dream would be to have a study of sorts where I could carve out that space and time, however.

    What profession disciplines have been most helpful to you? And what are those you hope to incorporate?

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Hey, Eric. Thank you for your comments. I feel your pain regarding a dedicated writing space! That does not exist for me at this point in my life either…I’m constantly feeling like I’m trying to regather my thoughts.

      Thank you too for your questions. Looking at your questions through the lens of Pressfield, the professional disciplines that have been most helpful to me (or I’ve had the most opportunity to develop are: humility, patience, self-management, asking for help/learning from others, persevering through adversity, recognizing my limitations, and self-validating. Those that I hope to incorporate include re-inventing myself, having a healthy distance from my work (still thinking about what this might mean in my/our line of work, mastering technique (still so much more to learn), creating more order in my work life, and pursuing the incorporation of my initiative.

  5. mm Andy Hale says:

    Well, if any of us were looking for a jump start of the common thread between all of the reading from this year, I know where to start.

    Can you talk more about finding the DNA of your initiative? I’m not sure if I know what your NPO and prototypes are.

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Hi Andy. Thank you for your question about DNA and my NPO. I was thinking of DNA in relation to establishing an NGO/incorporation identity and establishing healthy organizational and relational practices from the beginning. I’m borrowing that term from some of the church-planing work my husband and I did in the early 2000s. My NPO is laying the foundation/creating the first step for what I hope will become an organized cross-cultural leadership-entrepreneurial-advocacy-peacebuidling capacity-building initiative for young adults (16-23 years old) grounded in the values of justice, equity, reconciliation, and perseverance.

  6. mm Henry Gwani says:

    Elmarie, I appreciate how you highlight Pressfield’s theme of professional discipline (not fleeting inspiration) and its connection with Friedman’s and Campbell’s thoughts. How might you facilitate a greater embracing of professional discipline within your context in the Middle-East?

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Hi Henry. Thank you for your comments and your thought-provoking question. I’m not clear if you mean facilitating a greater embracing of professional discipline for myself within my context in the Middle-East or in others? If for myself, take a look at my reply to Eric’s question…I outline there the practices I hope to further develop in my own repertoire of professional disciplines. If you mean in others, I’m hoping, as my NPO develops into the full initiative I have in mind (see my reply to Andy), that participants will be influenced to develop their own set of professional skills.

  7. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Elmarie, thank you for your summary. My week was crazy last week so I haven’t dipped into them but I now have a sense of the books.

    Creativity and discipline…in a way these seem like strange bedfellows. I am curious how you might compare and contrast these in relation to The Molecule of More regarding the aspects of dopamine and the control circuits?

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Hi Nicole. Thank you for making this connection back to Molecule of More. Very helpful. I think Pressfield would say that amateur pursuits of creativity is driven by dopamine–the push for the novel and new. But it is control dopamine that allows an amateur to develop professional disciplines and go the distance when the ‘high’ of dopamine wears off. If I’m remembering correctly, control dopamine is also connected to Kahneman’s thinking slow. I think Pressfield would link fast, intuitive thinking with inspiration. But it takes thinking slow and discipline to take hold of those inspirations and see them become embodied in tangible creative work. How do you see these authors interacting with one another?

  8. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Your insights into Pressfield inspire me and tweak my interest into how you establish the rhythm of the Inc. life within a fieldworker lifestyle. I find the ebb and flow or living on two sides of the world at the same time it is difficult to establish a “normal” schedule. I would love to hear any tricks you have used successfully.

    • Elmarie Parker says:

      Hi Denise. Thank you for these questions. I think I have in mind the incorporation journey for the future direction I’m developing through my NPO journey, so we’ll see how that develops. But, your question about creating a ‘normal’ schedule in the midst of moving back and forth between contexts is a great question.

      One of the things that has helped me is to realize and accept that my ‘normal’ at this point in my life and work looks really chaotic to those who are based in only one place. But it’s my normal. I don’t have to explain it to everyone and I don’t expect them to understand it. It just is. I try to just keep my focus on my work with others, rather than on my schedule. And my work looks different depending on which context I’m in. So, it has pushed me to be far more adaptable and flexible than is probably my natural inclination.

      I do a lot of travel when I’m in the Middle East too, so I live out of a suitcase most of the year (except for this pandemic time) and have had to create a mental workspace on the road. For me, it’s my laptop that gives me my structure and organization. I can sit with it pretty much anywhere and work. That also helps me when I’m tramping back and forth between the USA and ME.

      And, I carry with me a few things on every trip that create a sense of ‘normal’ for me–a favorite shirt, my kindle for historical fiction reading, my tea and sweetener.

      What have you tried over the years?

  9. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Great question. I think at the moment it is changing. When I am in the US and traveling, I know where the parks are for that 30-minute time out. My camera is an important piece of my travel gear. My spiral bound journal with my favorite pens (black, blue, green, and purple). I love that you have a favorite tea and sweetener. Right now, I am missing my favorite loose tea from Poland. I think in Poland it is my regular trip to my favorite cafe. It’s kind of my orientation point.

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