Nick Ang

Showing up in the cellar

An illustration of the author Steven Pressfield, originally from the Tim Ferriss blog Author Steven Pressfield. Illustration via 99designs, credit: Tim Ferriss blog.

Over the long Easter weekend, I listened to Steven Pressfield’s interview on the Tim Ferriss Show while I cooked lunch. I was already familiar and impressed with Steven’s work, having read Turning Pro and The War of Art, and I was primed for more.

The thing that stuck with me was what Steven said about the “hero’s journey” and the “artist’s journey,” two paths that artists will need to trot in that order, chronologically. I may be misinterpreting what he was saying, but my interpretation of his words bypassed my mind and went straight to my vulnerable heart.

The hero’s journey is about figuring out who you are based on everything you have done so far in your life. It’s a journey you were told to go on, one that you struggled to find meaning from even though you have somehow emerged in one piece.

The artist’s journey begins when the hero’s journey ends; when one realises that who he is is not who he wants to be. When I heard Steven articulate this idea to Tim on the podcast, I immediately knew that I was at that junction in my life. I want to start on my artist’s journey, because I know that I have arrived at the end of my hero’s journey, doing what I am supposed to do: get a good education, get a good job, get married. We’re even expecting our first child in September. While the miracle of life works its thing, I’ve been wondering to myself, what’s next?

To not let inspiration go to waste, I acted on the insight this morning by waking up at 5:30 am, an hour earlier than my usual, to write.

First, I unfolded a plastic chair and sat on the balcony to write. The day before I decided on a whim to write on my balcony (in the afternoon) and it was thoroughly pleasant. I wrote some reflections. But being at the end of winter and the start of spring, at 5:30 am, it was cold, even with my thermal pants and down jacket. So after ten minutes, I came back in.

Next stop: the cellar! It was clear in my mind that I had to go to the cellar, even though I still think it’s kind of a weird thing to do, now having done it. I thought of myself as that weirdo loner who isolated himself in the cellar with his typewriter.

We live in the centre of the city of Berlin in a 60 square meter apartment, but it comes with storage space underground. Ours was a 3-minute walk out in the open to get to, but once inside, there are around 10 other cellars in the cellar room, each belonging to a different household in our estate. At 5:40 am, there was nobody. The Mieterkeller was quiet and just well-lit enough for me to write.

I unfolded the chair I brought with me from my balcony, turned on my Freewrite, and began to type. In my cellar. Like a madman.

For the first time, I was writing alone in Berlin, including away from my wife and dog. I typed on the Cherry MX mechanical keyboard of the Freewrite harder than I ever had to commemorate this moment. It gave in to my hammering and performed, faithfully as I expected. The tool has been itching to be used.

I was there for an hour and a half alone, writing. The word tally at the end was something like 800 words. Not bad. But the number honestly doesn’t matter to me quite as much as the fact that I found a way to show up and beat what Steven Pressfield calls The Resistance.

Picture of a folding chair propped up against the wall in my basement cellar where I wrote this morning My new writing room.

Anyway, I left my chair in the cellar. Tomorrow I shall return to write again.

Side note, it turns out that Steven Pressfield has a book called The Artist’s Journey, which I am currently reading. It’s a philosophical companion to the other two books.


 
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