my diet

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.

-Steven Pressfield

This quote is from one of the most important books I’ve ever read: “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield . I made a copy of those two paragraphs, enlarged them, and taped it to my wall. It’s from the section entitled “HOW TO BE MISERABLE,” and whenever I’m feeling miserable I re-read those lines and I feel better.

A few mornings ago I woke up from a dream in which I was being disciplined by a marine corps drill sergeant. Except the drill sergeant was an old Boy Scouts “scoutmaster” from my childhood, who I didn’t particularly like.* He was yelling at us to press up our faces against a concrete wall. Except where I was standing, there was only a chain-link fence. I pressed my face up against it harder and harder, but there was a wire protruding from the fence, and it eventaully broke my skin and impaled my nose. All of a sudden, a lightbulb clicked on, and I pulled my face from the fence, with a bloody hole in my nose, and started yelling at the guy. I told him he had no right to talk to me that way, that I was a grown man now, and that I’d already been through shit, like the death of my dad, that would make marine training seem like a walk through the park. He was taken aback and had nothing to say; that’s when I woke up.

The night before I had been thinking about how the anniversary of my dad’s death was coming up in a little over a week. It will be five years. I’ve often felt that I’ve wasted away a good percentage of those years just trying to recover; and because of that, I’m a lot farther behind in my career and maturity than a lot of other artists my same age. But I think this dream helped me realize that I have the right to view myself as an adult and be proud of my accomplishments. That in this war of art, I’m not some young, green recruit but a full-fledged soldier in the field.** Take that stupid scoutmaster!

* if you know me, you know I’m sort of the exact opposite of the ideal Boy Scout, which is why I dropped out after the first badge–my dad often joked that I surpassed him by one badge, because when he was a kid he dropped out before earning any!

** Of course I’m not someone who would glorify real war… it’s a metaphor yo!

Published in: on June 3, 2008 at 9:01 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful post Miles. I can relate 100, 000 percent. You have a lot to be proud of. Offer yourself some grace. You deserve it!

  2. You have accomplished a lot and you have SO much to be proud of!

    War is miserable and hard to endure, but the feeling one gets when it’s all over is a wonderful feeling. It’s a great feeling because if you can get through the war, you can get through almost anything. And just living through the war makes you valuable!

    Don’t doubt yourself. Give yourself some credit.. at least some~!

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