The War of Art

    Well that doesn’t sound like a typical blog post title for me, does it? Really, those are the kind of titles I leave to my writer friend Lance. But every now and then, I like to share my thoughts and be a bit more personal for a minute or two.

     I am nearly to the last page of a book that my aforementioned friend recommended to me. This friend is a writer, so I was a little apprehensive to read a book that had inspired him, when we are involved in completely different crafts. But I gave it a go anyway- on the terms that he would read my favorite motivational book for creatives, ‘making ideas happen’ (I may return to that in a later post). 

    The book that Lance lent me is called ‘The War of Art’. A very clever, kick-in-the-pants read that addresses artists in ANY medium and their constant battle with something the author refers to as 


     Resistance is that thing in the back of our minds that fights tooth and nail against our productivity as artists.

  • pride
  • fear
  • rationalization
  • victimhood
  • criticism

These things, and many others, are all just disguises that this mysterious & destructive RESISTANCE dons to prevent us from completing our work. Resistance has a counterpart too… the MUSE… but that’s a whole different subject.

A simple phrase, ‘real artists ship’, from the late Steve Jobs has been on my desktop the last year:

Real artists ship. What does that mean? It means real artists work. Or actually, real PROS work… and the goal of any artist is to be a pro, right?  

Don’t misunderstand. Being a pro, by definition of this book at least, doesn’t mean you’re a full timer, a ‘success’ or anything that can be measured by these type of standards. It means you are mastering your craft, growing better, and you are working at it as often as you can in spite of everything thrown at you. You can call yourself a ‘pro’ at your craft and still be working at starbucks or sitting a desk in a bank.

To quote ‘the Wart of Art’:

     ’A pro… doesn’t wait for inspiration. She acts in anticipation of its apparition. The sign         of the amateur is overglorification of and preoccupation w/ the mystery. The professional   shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.’

Doing work- or ‘shipping’- just means you are producing new work (whether you are a photographer, a painter, a writer, an actor, a cupcake cook, or flutist) at any cost. Does that mean you’re making money at it? Well, no! But if you get to a point where you are damn good at what you do because you’ve worked so hard at it- however many years that takes- then that can be a pretty nice by-product for sure.

Having that screensaver is an affirmation of the answer to a question I’ve asked myself for years…. Am I a real artist?  Or am I just some guy with a camera trying to make money?

I’ve decided I’m an artist. And ‘doing my work’ doesn’t really mean running a business (though that’s pretty important to be able to insure I CAN keep taking photos), it means creating new images that come from the heart and bring something new to the table. 

There might be things I take pictures of every now and then that require less creative thought than others- there are projects I do that I wouldn’t put in an ‘artist’ portfolio… but everything I do is approached with as creative a filter as I can give it, and I am always striving to produce new work that is as worthy of a gallery as it is worthy of hanging in a clients’ home. 

I’m certainly not saying I’ve taken a single picture even remotely worthy of hanging in a gallery. But I am saying that my goal is to be an artist, to grow, to learn, to better my craft,  to become more creative, more original, more one-of-a-kind and to always- or at least where possible- to approach my craft as an art, not just as a business.

If you are an artist, or have a God given ability and aren’t sure how to become one by using it, I encourage you to pause. Re-evaluate. Are you shipping?

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