Author and military veteran Steven Pressfield writes in his book The War of Art
that the Marine Corps teaches a lesson that can also be valuable for artists: how to be miserable.
Recalling his own experience in the military, Pressfield writes that Marines love to be miserable: “Marines derive a perverse satisfaction in having colder chow, crappier equipment, and higher casualty rates than any other outfit.”
For Pressfield, the artist must be like that Marine.
Whether he knows it or not, the artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell: “He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.”
To survive that onslaught, the artist has to know how to be miserable, and to love it.
Pressfield shares a story about facing adversity in his own career.
He he been in Hollywood for five years and had finished nine screenplays – none of which sold.
Finally, he secured a meeting with a major producer.
During the meeting, the producer kept taking phone calls, even as Pressfield pitched his material. Then a call came in that was personal, and the producer asked Pressfield to leave the room and give him some privacy.
Pressfield stepped into the hallway. Ten minutes passed. Twenty more minutes passed.
Eventually, the producer’s door opened and he came out, pulling on his jacket: “Oh, I’m so sorry!”
As Pressfield tells it: “He had forgotten all about me. I’m human. This hurt. I wasn’t a kid either; I was in my forties, with a rap sheet of failure as long as your arm.”
But as Pressfield points out, the professional can’t let himself take humiliation personally. The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut – not on the hole.
“He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”