The War of Art

book: The War of Art
author: Steven Pressfield

general overview

from artists and athletes to entrepreneurs, scientists, and writers, many people who fight creative battles will face resistance at some point or another in their lives.

while i adore (and whole-heartedly believe) the sentiment of Pressfield’s work, i did shave off a few points, particularly in the final section. they just didn’t work for me. many of the lessons and solutions are presented and taught through allegory and personal narrative – which is fine – but the final section dove into religion, the ego, the self, and i just didn’t feel that it worked in harmony with the other sections.

however, i love any read that’s thought provoking (especially when it comes to battling inner-thoughts), so i still recommend reading The War of Art.

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

resistance may be creativity’s greatest enemy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fight back.

summary notes

what’s stopping you from reaching your creative potential?

this was by far the question that this book brought to the forefront of my mind and allowed me to unashamedly linger on. what are the obstacles that all artists, writers, musicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, and others have faced? fear and doubt.

Pressfield says these daunting feelings are actually good for the creative process. he says creatives should remember the following: when you don’t try, you’ve already failed.

“Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

defining resistance

it’s a simple suggestion i’m sure you can nod your head to: resistance is the enemy of achievement. it’s the counter-force of success and contentment, and it can rear its disheartening face in many different forms and times in the creative process.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

a simple mantra to repeat when facing resistance is: everybody fights resistance. it’s a part of the process. i am not alone.

one way that fear manifests for me personally is procrastination. when i get stuck or scared of failing, i put things off. i experience negative self-talk that tells me i’m not worthy, i’m not talented, i’m wasting my time, and i shouldn’t even bother. i make up and excuse in an attempt to justify my poor work ethic. really, the truth is that I care a lot. this book helped me shift that self-talk and realize what it all means.

combating resistance

although i feel this section of the book reflects common sense, i found Pressfield inspirational when writing on fighting back against resistance that snuffs out our creative energy. in order to overcome resistance, one must persevere.

what does perseverance look like? show up to work. put the time in with your creative hobby or profession. whether it’s sitting down to write a new stand-up set, compose a song you keep putting in the drawer, redoing an experiment for the tenth time, starting a new business from the ground up, you have to grind. commit to the task and try not to get distracted. go all in and section a part of every single day to your craft. treat your dream career or your most beloved hobby like your full-time gig. grind some more. any questions?

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

beyond resistance

maybe i was too logical and skeptical while reading this final section, but this was my least favorite section of the book. it felt disconnected from the other two, but i’ll summarize the inspirational bit anyway: do something you feel is worthwhile, you must work hard, and the limit to your success and contentment is set by one person: you. i’m not sure i believe all of this, but they’re nice thoughts and do fairly heavily relate to my post called, “just my luck.”

“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

i believe this book will be a helpful guide for some of your inner battles. let me know what you think.