Saturday, November 9, 2019
The War Effort ~ by Tim Niederriter
What can one of the oldest scriptures in the world teach us creative folk about writer’s block?
More than I expected, when I first listened to the audiobook of The Bhagavad Gita. You see, I’m one of those writers who has either always wanted to be a writer (Until I was a young teenager and wrote my first novel to be precise) and then graduated to considering “writer” as a significant part of my identity.
By the way, that first novel wasn’t perfect. Far from it. I was fourteen. The book was an ill-conceived attempt at marrying Norse Mythology with space opera, and the rest, as they say, is history. Currently, that file is gathering dust on a hard drive somewhere in storage.
Enough about that for now.
Back to the Bhagavad Gita.
The Gita is an ancient Hindu text, one of those foundational in that religion. The bulk of the poem, because it is most definitely a kind of poetry, is a dialogue between the god Krishna and a human warrior, reluctant to go into battle.
I’m not Hindu, but I’ve found several Indian religious texts interesting as means to (drum roll…) do more of what I want with my life, and in my case, that is writing. And in particular, the Bhagavad Gita is a useful text for anyone who has to do anything difficult. Some writers supposedly don’t think writing is difficult. I’ve espoused that concept a couple of times myself. The most I’ll say for certain is your results will vary.
In the Bhagavad Gita, the god character describes a path to letting go of one’s concerns before going into battle (Or in a writer’s case, facing a blank page). Steven Pressfield, in his well-known book of nonfiction for creatives, entitled “The War of Art,” names the force that opposes the writer as resistance. Fear and self-drama (And other factors) combine to stop a lot of writers. I’m convinced that for me, fear and drama are the main problems.
You may have noticed I’m referring to my personal writing problems a lot. Of course, I can’t tell you what your issues will be. I only hope to show you a few tools I use to overcome the challenges I deal with when I approach the craft.
Pressfield and Krishna have a lot in common. For one thing, they’re both spiritual teachers, after a fashion. Both make the point that when a warrior goes into battle, they must be prepared to leave everything they are on the field.
Writers may not always be playing with life and death stakes as we approach a work in progress. However, just because most of us aren’t at risk of being ventilated by arrows or bullets doesn’t mean we don’t get worried about our tasks.
I’m a worrier. At times it can be difficult for me to calm down and just tell the story. A key element I’ve taken from the Bhagavad Gita is that when faced with a task, the effort we put forth is rewarded, if not by the fruit of our labor, at least by the right to call ourselves active agents of that practice. I mean, I’ve been calling myself a writer since I was fourteen. What made me a writer back then is the thing that still makes me a writer now.
I write. Writers put the effort into writing, and the reward each and every one of us receives is the knowledge that we can and do put words down when many other people are too stopped by fear to ever get their stories into the form of little black marks on a page.
I don’t know about you, but that feels pretty important to me.
Tim Niederriter is an author of science fiction and fantasy. He also hosts the Alive After Reading podcast at his website mentalcellarpublications.com where you can also find links to his books.
Listen to Tim Niederriter's podcast episode here.