Taking ego out of the creative equation


When you are working at your creative best, what is going on in your head? Are you thinking of how your boss will love this, how your friends will tell you how clever you are, how your colleagues will secretly be envious at your talent? (You can be honest, I won’t tell.)

Steven Pressfield in The War of Art describes this as a ‘hierarchical’ orientation. By this he means that we crave the reassurance of others. We need to know that what we’re doing meets the approval of those around us. Our anxiety is soothed by the sound of praise and the slap of bouquets landing at our feet.

The other kind of motivation is ‘territorial’, says Pressfield. Even if you were the last person on earth, would you still do the creative work (write, paint, sing, dance, play an instrument, draw, photograph, do scientific experiments or whatever it is you do) every day? You create for the joy of creating, not to impress your nearest and dearest or win awards. The doing is satisfying in itself; the work is intrinsically motivating for you.

Take away the audience and how do you operate?

If we were to politely invite our ego to take a long holiday, the results could be astonishing. Resistance and procrastination might just melt away like twin scoops of ice cream in the sun.


2 thoughts on “Taking ego out of the creative equation

  1. Thanks for sharing this!! Great encouragement.

    The ego is the battle that most artists fight… because you have to be somewhat self-aware to create some type of art. So it may be, in part, the nature of the beast to come to terms with this battle.


  2. idcoach

    Hi Evan – I think you’re right as the fear and resistance never go away. Pressfield argues that you have to keep showing up and doing the work and “learn the warrior’s life”.

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