In Steven Pressfield’s memoir, Govt Cheese, he opens chapter 47, “Art Is Artifice,” with these lines:

I’ve heard that birds sing out of pure joy. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe writers write or painters paint because they’re bursting with the exuberance of life. They write because they’re in pain. They write to exorcise that pain. They write or paint because if they didn’t, the pain would kill them or drive them mad.

That feels true to me. Yes.

I do not feel overwhelmed by any joys of human life. It’s not the pulse that strikes through me. I don’t know that it ever has been. I write and publish, podcast and release, create abstract artworks and share, as aspirational acts of seeking clarity. I get it out, because I must. Ask my wife. I talk and talk and talk to her, not because I have answers (and certainly not because she wants me to) but, as she has pointed out to me, I seem to be thinking through it all out loud. Seemingly on repeat. 

Though I’m often skeptical – intellectually perplexed and emotionally buckling against the weight of the world’s troubles, which is to say the behaviors of humans – I’m also hopeful. At least at times. I’m most energized by connecting deeply in a one-on-one conversation with a likewise reflective and vulnerable guest on one of my podcasts. (Humanitou & Looking Upstream)

Every podcast conversation is a search for that aha! of understanding. It’s a casting of hopeful light that might catalyze an aha! for someone else too. 

Yes, because of my wife, Becca, I’ve learned that often I’m writing or speaking or making art out loud, as a means of trying to will the puzzle pieces into place. If I say them enough, maybe I’ll trip over the phrasing of words that lights the way.

I don’t speak because I have answers. More and more I believe no one does. About anything, truly. I speak because I have questions. And I hope that if enough of us wandering thinkers spill our thoughts into the ether, we might find connection and make sense of life. Maybe we’ll even ignite some solutions to those weighty world troubles. 

Pressfield closed “Art Is Artifice” with these thoughts:

What we do as artists, you and I, is in its way as lofty an enterprise as that undertaken by God Himself when He made this world. We powerless, broken mortals, blind and deaf and stumbling, afflicting one another and destroying ourselves, the best parts of ourselves, in isolation, fearful of furious at our brothers and sisters… yet somehow within ourselves the capacity to produce that which heals others, which brings balm and surcease of pain, even if only for a few moments in the lamplit dimness of a cabaret, to men and women we don’t know and never will.

We are artists now.

We are performers.

We are artificers.

What has been lost? The pain is lost. That’s the point. We have, in a way, become monsters, in that our pain, a certain rendition of it anyway, can no longer reach us. But we have become angels too, or better yet, true humans.

I talked with Pressfield on the Humanitou podcast a few years ago. It remains a highlight beyond mention. He is a man of high accomplishment as a writer. He is welcomed repeatedly on the biggest of podcasts (e.g. Rich Roll, Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan). Not to mention he has shared quality time on television with Oprah.

In that light, I prefer not to speculate too deeply on why he said yes to me, an unknown, and the Humanitou podcast. Maybe it was a yes proffered too quickly, before the ask was duly considered. 

Maybe it’s because he’s a man of grace and humility, knowing so many gave him their time and kindnesses, as he’s written about before, and most thoroughly in Govt Cheese, and he is generous like that.

Whatever the reason, I’m grateful. For Steve and the wisdom he shares. He has aided countless artists like me along our painful and vulnerable journeys to become “true humans.”

AI-generated image above created using DreamStudio. The prompt: bald big beard middle aged writer artist exorcising demons as they write