Do the Work: Filmmaking as a "War of Art"

Even the Great Wall of China was built "one stone at a time."

“The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit.”

It’s 8:00 AM. Your freelance work kept you up late last night, and the morning rain falls cold and steady outside. Your next job doesn’t start until noon.

You could get up, shower, make breakfast, slog to your neighborhood coffeeshop, and wrestle with that stubborn scene in your spec screenplay.

Or you could roll over, snuggle into the covers, and fall back asleep. You deserve it. You worked hard, you’re tired, there’s more work ahead. Just this once, because – naturally! – you’ll write tomorrow. There’s always tomorrow. Right…?

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield (author of such epics as Gates of Fire) cautions us that procrastination is easy to rationalize:

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny… This second, we can sit down and do our work.

…So. Do the Work. Say it with me:

Do the Work.

“When asked, ‘How do you write?'”, Stephen King shares in his introduction to The Stand, “I invariably answer, ‘One word at a time,’ and the answer is invariably dismissed.” King continues:

But that is all it is. Consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”

Your screenplay won’t write itself. Your film won’t shoot itself. But both, if finished, have the potential to make their mark.

If you feel alone and adrift in your creative endeavors, you might consider picking up The War of Art. It’s a lucid, no-nonsense pep-talk that can help keep you on track… if you let it. If not, well, there’s always the “Snooze” button!

 Michael Koehler, with

Looking for further inspiration and perhaps even some accountability? Then we invite you to learn filmmaking online with us! Our online film school is everything you need to learn how to create professional narrative and documentary films using the equipment you already have, wherever you live, with guidance, community, and resources at a fraction of the cost of traditional film school.


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