Waging the War of Art

41ET8OFVFCLMy husband just picked up a new book and insisted he needed to read the introduction to me. Therein, the author thanks a specific individual for helping to keep her “focused and sane (more or less) through the war that is writing a book.”

I was reminded through this of the words of Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative BattlesThe War is filled with precise advice from an artist who understands the daily battle and wages the daily battle that is writing “professionally.” I found much with which to resonate in the book and, as the mother-in-law of a career Marine, I especially appreciated Pressfield’s passage on what he learned as a member of the Corps.

Contrary to the popular myth, he writes, “Marine training does not turn baby-faced recruits into bloodthirsty killers. It teaches something far more useful: how to be miserable.” And, this, Pressfield opines, is “invaluable for an artist. Marines love to be miserable. Marines derive a perverse satisfaction from having colder chow, crappier equipment, and higher casualty rates than any outfit of dogfaces, swab jockeys or flyboys, all of whom they despise. Why? Because these candy-asses don’t know how to be miserable.”

Pressfield concludes: “the artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt and humiliation. The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.”

Telamon of Arcadia, a fifth century B.C. mercenary, observed that “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.” Pressfield finds that: “Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro . . . The amateur plays for fun. The pro plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation. The amateur plays part-time. The pro plays full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.”

Aspiring artists are encouraged to take heart from a deep truth reckoned by Somerset Maugham: “by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he [came to understand that he] set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration.”

When all is said and done, Pressfield (author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire) exposes the enemy Resistance, exposes the evidence of its presence (fear, procrastination, self-dramatization and the like) and offers helps toward living the “unlived life within.”

I am grateful for this reminder of Pressfield’s description of and advice for the professional writer. I’m onto my fifth book. On two, I served as editor. One was a collaborative effort with three other writers, and the last I authored (in collaboration with a photographer) and edited. The book on which I am now at work is mine entirely, and the poor thing has been languishing in Oblivion, awaiting a long-delayed rescue. I know that half the battle is fought, as Somerset Maugham so rightly judged, in “simply” sitting down and starting to work. Well, I’m sitting…

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

“The greatest problems of our time are not technological, for these we handle fairly well. They are not even political or economic, because the difficulties in these areas, glaring as they may be, are largely derivative. The greatest problems are moral and spiritual, and unless we can make some progress in these realms, we may not even survive.”

So writes D. Elton Trueblood in his foreword to Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. This blessed book, written by Richard J. Foster, has been used since its initial printing in 1978, to deepen the interior lives of countless individuals, nurturing them toward more abundant living.

“Superficiality is the curse of our age,” Foster asserts. “The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is…for deep people.”

The classic Disciplines, or central spiritual practices, of the Christian faith allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. Dividing the Disciplines into three movements of the Spirit, Foster shows how each of these areas contributes to a balanced spiritual life. The inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study offer avenues of personal examination and change. The outward Disciplines of simplicity, solitude, submission, and service help prepare us to make the world a better place. The corporate Disciplines of confession, worship, guidance and celebration bring us nearer to one another and to God.

Foster asks us to “picture a long, narrow ridge with a sheer drop-off on either side. The chasm to the right is the way of moral bankruptcy through human strivings for righteousness. Historically this has been called the heresy of moralism. The chasm to the left is moral bankruptcy through the absence of human strivings. This has been called the heresy of antinomianism. On the ridge there is a path, the Disciplines of the spiritual life…[T]he path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur. This is the path of disciplined grace…[and] our world is hungry for genuinely changed people. Leo Tolstoy observes, ‘Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.’ Let us be among those who believe that the inner transformation of our lives is a goal worthy of our best effort.”

If you are feeling spiritually dry, if you have tired of superficiality, if you are hungering for a more abundant life, I recommend you carve out some time to spend with Celebration of Discipline. I have used this book in many classes on spiritual growth and have seen astonishing transformations in those who have devoted themselves to the principles set forth within.

Celebrating America’s National Parks

2017NationalParksBookProduct2

Celebrating America’s National Parks, a book on which I collaborated with Florida-based photographer, Clyde Butcher (his images, my words) was released in 2016.

This volume features parks ranging from Maine’s Acadia to Alaska’s Denali to Florida’s Everglades. Shared alongside Clyde’s images, that he captured over a span of 50 years, are the fascinating details I discovered on the histories and heroes, flora and fauna, landscapes and legends of each of the included parks. In these pages, readers learn about the most sublime of earthly spectacles, that is the Grand Canyon, the hoodoo-iferous terrain that is found in Bryce Canyon, and much more.

BOOK DETAILS: Size: 9″ X 9 1/2″, Pages: 192, Reproduction: quad-tone, Images: 108 Full Page, 16 Double Page Spreads.

Also available is a limited edition collector’s set, a signed and numbered run of 250 with a silver gelatin print of the 8 ½” X 5” “Moon Over the Tetons.”

An Apology, Some News and An Invitation

12311041_1021968221158641_4652747578821482897_nI apologize for neglecting this blog in recent days. I’ve been holed up writing and editing but will soon resume posting on this site.

Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades, a book I edited, has just been released, and The National Parks, a book on which I collaborated with photographer Clyde Butcher (his photographs, my words), will be released in 2016. On the new Donna F G Hailson Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/donnafghailson/), I’ll be posting articles; blog links; book updates; announcements re speaking engagements; and previews from The Rockery, the next book on which I’ll be focusing. I hope you’ll visit the Donna F G Hailson Facebook page, enjoy what you find there,  “like” the page, and share it with others.

Featured image: The Great Florida Marsh by Martin Johnson Heade (1886)

What I’m Reading This Week: The Spine of the Continent

The Spine of the ContinentThe Spine of the Continent: The Most Ambitious Wildlife Conservation Project Ever Undertaken

Publishers Weekly has this to say about the book:

“Hannibal (Leaves and Pods) offers a gripping and informative look at the founding of bioconservation, the scientists and controversies behind environmental science, and the ambitious, necessary extension of theoretical knowledge into practical application with the formation of connected wildlife corridors from Canada to Mexico. Giving equal time to anecdotes and interviews, Hannibal supports her engaging and swift narrative with hard facts. This book is far more engrossing and dramatic than the title suggests; it goes beyond the politics of wildlife protection to present a real history of America’s habitat, the animals within it, the people who study them, and the disparate motivations behind responsible conservation. Deep dives into the ecology of species both native—beavers, wolves, jaguar, and pika—and not native—cows—reveal the interdependence of humans and their wilder counterparts in the woods and plains. A thoroughly satisfying gem, readers will find themselves in the company of America’s best minds (Jared Diamond, Michael Soule) and heroes (Sherri Tippie), as Hannibal travels through landscapes chronicling the efforts underway to keep North America habitable for the plants and animals that first lived here and the people who now call it home. This is what scientific writing should be: fascinating and true.”