Creative Guerrilla Warfare: Fighting (and Winning) The War of Art
So, you want to be a writer, or a filmmaker, or a game designer. Or you want to be some other badass creative doing boss ass stuff.
But you’re still not able to find time to get your work done.
And honestly, with all the responsibilities you probably have on your plate— work (and maybe school), bills, kids, errands, family, and just general #adulting— it’s unlikely that you have HUGE blocks of time on your hands for brainstorming, fleshing out ideas, or just straight up creating.
Well, guess what? You’ve just entered a holy battlefield where a divine war has been raging for literally hundreds of years. Yes, it’s a LITERAL war that Steven Pressfield brilliantly coined as The War of Art. (More on this brilliant, boss ass book later.)
The best part, though, is that you aren’t alone in this war.
Welcome to The War of Art
“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” — said some pimp somewhere
So goes the war of art. I didn’t make the war, and neither did Steven, but we are all certainly players in it.
Like I said, you’re not alone!
Some of us ran onto this battlefield and were taken out pretty early. Others of us fought valiantly, got injured, and are either cauterizing wounds, limping back to camp, or are being helped out by our fellow comrades. Others of us stormed into the skirmish, guns and swords blazing and dominated, like King Leonidas of the Spartan 300.
But most of us?
Most of us have learned to pace ourselves. We’ve learned how conserve our creative ammo, be steady in our aim, set bait in the trenches, and press forward one step at a time. We keep ourselves refreshed and inspired by taking care of our minds, bodies, and spirits. We learn to collaborate and work together to secure hills and reach milestones. We begin to understand what kind of fighters we are, and we adapt our strategies to our fighting styles. We build skills, train, and execute on our knowledge. We keep our eyes on the prize, keep moving forward, and we realize that winning the War of Art is a long game. A veteran game. A lifelong game.
So, what’s our main tactic, you ask? How do creatives survive and dominate the War of Art?
Creative. Guerrilla. Warfare.
But what exactly IS creative guerrilla warfare? Well, keep reading, my soldier of art. And, yeah, welcome to your first day of bootcamp! 😉
Creative Guerrilla Warfare: An Intro
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s look at what the traditional definition of guerrilla is:
guerrilla |gəˈrilə| (also guerilla)
a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces: this small town fell to the guerrillas | [ as modifier ] : guerrilla warfare.
• [ as modifier ] referring to actions or activities performed in an impromptu way, often without authorization: guerrilla theater.
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants such as armed civilians or irregulars use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage,raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military.
Jazzy, yeah? So when I talk about CREATIVE guerrilla warfare, I’m talking about the people involved in the War of Art and tactics we all use as indie creatives to win the War of Art. Specifically:
A creative guerrilla is: “a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular creation, typically against larger regular forces, otherwise known as procrastination, time-crunches, self-doubt, fear, and “haters”.
Creative guerrilla warfare is: a form of irregular creation in which a small group of crazy artists such as writers, filmmakers, painters, dancers, and other “inspired” beings use off-the-wall methods—including creation ambushes, procrastination sabotage, inspiration raids, faking-the-funk, write-and-run tactics, mobility-and-mobile-phone-ninja-warrior-stuff, and just plain ole making shit up– to get their art made, no matter what the cost and cut, and to fight the larger society that is unforgiving of our cray-cray way of life.
Creative Guerrilla Warfare: The Three Rules of Engagement
So, you might be saying, “Well, that’s all well and good, Colbs, but I have NO CLUE how to actually fight in this art war thingy!”
General Writer-Creator Boss here. I’ll teach you everything you need to know to be the best indie creative freedom fighter that ever walked. The first step, though, is to get your mind right and to learn the rules of engagement.
Three rules, to be precise.
1. Rule #1: Shit ain’t always gonna flow the way you want it to. In fact, they NEVER will. And if they do? You got lucky.
As a writer / screenwriter / filmmaker / game designer / creative entrepreneur / whatever, you need to understand that no one is going to care more about your career than you do. It’s still your job to get your work done, hit your word count, or finish developing your concept. Otherwise, you can’t call yourself a creator. Because in the end, creators CREATE. Writers write. Filmmakers film. Entrepreneurs entrepreneur— er, you get what I mean.
SO make with the making, and no excuses!!
2. Rule #2: You’ll never “have enough time” to work.
Let me repeat myself.
You will never “HAVE ENOUGH TIME” to work.
Notice that “have enough time” is flanked by quotations? “HAVING ENOUGH TIME” here could mean a variety of different things, like “having enough time” to:
- brew a coffee,
- cook a garden omelette,
- read the newspaper,
- respond to emails,
- play Candy Crush,
- mess around on social media,
- screw your husband / wife / partner,
- make a gourmet dinner,
- clean the entire house,
- work on your abs at the gym,
- attend PTA meetings,
- go shopping,
- and also have 6-8 hours of uninterrupted writing time.
While having a day that’s chock-full of these things would be ideal, it isn’t realistic, especially if you have kids not yet in school (like me) or you have other commitments, like work, life, family, and more.
So get this in your head: you will never “have enough time”, but you will have all the time you need to get down to business and to actually create.
Meaning that you will have time to get words on paper, or write a line of code, or storyboard a scene… while you’re waiting for the bus, while feeding the kid, while on your daily commute, while in the doctor’s office, and while pretty much running any other errand that needs to be run.
These little things you create during your time crunches, will not be perfect. Hell, they might not even be good at all. But they will be DONE. And done is the proverbial EMP on the battlefield of Art. Done is progress. Done is motion forward.
And that’s all that matters.
If you don’t think so, then please watch this video, and take it from a well-known pro:
3. Rule #3: Stasis = death.
Like I said, if you’re a writer (or any other type of creative for that matter, i.e. a filmmaker, painter, dancer, etc), then you’ve automatically been drafted into one of the biggest wars ever known to Earth’s history, whether you want to be there or not. So you must fight this war to survive!!
Yes. I said it.
No lazing about or fluffing around here. If you chose to be an artist, you’re a part of the war, and you need to fight the damn thing. Otherwise, you will stagnate and stop creating. Once you do that? You can no longer call yourself a creator. Perhaps you can deem yourself a “retired” or “veteran” creator, and maybe you’ll even be a legend for the rest of us. But you won’t be able to claim that you’re a “creator in active duty”.
Remember, creators CREATE. And they must do so in spite of obstacles and fatigue.
Surviving the War of Art is difficult, mostly because this is not a war wherein the casualties are human. It’s a war of the mind and soul, where skepticism are the bullets, no-sellers are the bombs, haters are the opposition, and the ever-scary critic or review is the happy land mine just delighted to blow you to bits. (Little fuckers…)
The two main casualties on this battlefield are your soul and passion for creation, which, if lost, mean the death of the Creator.
But you need not kneel to death, dear Creator. You can and will survive this battle. I know you must want to succeed, because you’re reading this post. And now that you know the three rules of engagement, you just need to supplement those rules with a little knowledge, training, and community.
That’s where The Bohemian Badass comes in!
As a fellow Creative Guerrilla, I’ve been in the trenches for three years (+ a year in creative basic training, lol!), and I love to share my growing knowledge and lessons with others. I hope you stick around at The Bohemian Badass, not only to learn, but to also impart your knowledge as well. Trust me, we’ll learn and grow and then win this crazy War of Art… together!
In the meantime, definitely check out Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. (Just click on the cover to get it!)
This book, and the man who wrote it, is amazing, inspirational, and educational. Pressfield truly is brilliant, battle-scarred, and definitely a wildly successful veteran as a creator, writer, and entrepreneur… pretty much the General Badass we all hope to be!
In the meantime, what say you, soldier? Do you agree that being a creative is a sort of day-to-day “warfare”? Do you feel that being and staying creative is a fight? If so, what are *your* rules of engagement, and how do you show up on the battlefield? Share your thoughts below! And, of course, in the meantime…
Keep it indie,