Book review: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles

By: Steven Pressfield

In general, I try to avoid throwing cliches around, but in this case, I need to make an exception. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and arguably, has one of the least attractive covers.

If I wasn’t certain the content was going to be great, I never would have picked it up.

I came across Steven Pressfield while listening to an episode of the EntreLeadership Podcast. I typically try to listen to some form of personal development material when I’m doing menial tasks like driving, cleaning and cooking.

That Sunday I was meal prepping and making a lentil loaf, which is quite the undertaking. Between pulses of the magic bullet, I heard him mention something called “resistance”- the destructive force standing between us and realizing our dreams. It’s the insidious feeling us creatives know all too well and takes many forms: excuses that keep us from our work, distractions we use to assuage guilt, the voice nattering away in the background, convincing us we aren’t good enough.

In a nutshell, it is the panic in your gut when you sit down and see a blank page. It’s also what causes you to close your computer and turn on Netflix instead.

I stopped what I was doing and dragged the episode toggle backward. This man, who I had never heard of, was speaking to my soul. How did he know? 

I finished the podcast, and immediately ordered his book.

“Look into your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.”

Steven Pressfield

The War of Art is divided into three sections: Defining the Enemy, Turning Pro, and The Higher Realm.

Pressfield begins by identifying the ways Resistance can manifest in our lives: procrastination, addiction, fear, rationalization, etc. He then moves on to explain the difference between the professional and the amateur- the attitude and belief system we already know set those few who are successful apart from the rest. Finally he concludes with the spiritual side of creative practice; invoking the muse.

Each book is served up in bite-sized tidbits, usually only a page or two in length which could serve nicely as a daily devotion.

 And each passage is powerful. 

Reading them, you feel fired up, you feel motivated and … you feel guilty. Pressfield addresses that little voice inside of you directly. He’s been there before. Resistance is an ongoing battle, that cannot be overcome, but must be fought anew every single day.

While he does romanticize the creative path, he doesn’t sugarcoat what it takes to be successful and the method is simple: show up and work hard. Push through fear, it is the only way.

If you have a dream or goal you’ve been sitting on for years, this book will provide the kick in the ass you need. Pressfield has thought of every excuse and knows every shortcut used by hacks. Creativity, in whatever sphere, is a spiritual journey he says, that must be undertaken by the individual in order to satisfy their soul’s purpose.

There is no other choice.

For fans of: Big Magic and The Artist’s Way

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