Steven Pressfield's blog. Below is an excerpt. The full article may be read here.
Art and the ego
Art (or, more exactly, the struggle to produce art) teaches us that. How? Because we start off, as neophytes, stuck in our egos. We’re trying by force of will, lust, ambition, greed etc. to come up with something that we can show to the world and be rewarded for. Ah, but it ain’t so easy. The process begins immediately to humble us. Like a stern but loving master, the struggle itself nudges us, shifts us, reroutes us. We’re seeking our true voice, our power, our authenticity as artists. We realize–through blood, sweat and tears–that betting on the ego is not going to get us there.
We have to go deeper. We have to surrender, give up the illusion of control, get out of our own way. We have to conquer our fears and jump off the cliff. Call it the Muse, call it “flow,” call it whatever you like. This is the Self—instinct, intuition, the unconscious. When we hit it, it’s like striking a vein of solid gold. We lose ourselves—that is, our egos—and we find something greater: our Selves.
The lover experiences the same exaltation in her perfect embrace of her beloved. She loses herself by giving unconditional love—and discovers a greater Self that is simultaneously her and not-her. So does the mother, the warrior, even the drunk and the drug addict. For an interval they all obliterate the little self and submerge themselves blissfully in the Big One.
Alas, this happy union vanishes the instant we resurface, just as a vision flees from the mystic emerging from his trance or a dream fades from the sleeper when he wakes. We have completed our miniature version of the hero’s journey and we’re back home. Now what? Try again tomorrow—and keep doing it till we get it right.
Resistance and the ego
The ego likes being in charge. It doesn’t want us to seat our identity within its rival, the Self. The ego produces the yetzer hara—Resistance—and strives with all its force and cunning to keep us bound to it and not to the Self.
The pursuit of art, originality, selflessness or excellence in any ethical form is, beyond all its other aspects, a discipline of the soul. It’s a practice. A means to and method for self-transformation.