I find myself rather conflicted whenever I try to rate "The War of Art." Some parts of this book deserve every bit of the praise it's being given, parI find myself rather conflicted whenever I try to rate "The War of Art." Some parts of this book deserve every bit of the praise it's being given, particularly the first major section, where Pressfield "defines the enemy" that faces any creator, that enemy being Resistance. Pressfield's describes Resistance as a holistic, perpetual, and pseudo-spiritual source of conflict that continually seeks to hinder an individual from reaching the "higher spheres" and becoming the person he could be. As a writer who regularly struggles with a myriad of creative blocks, this sections of the book is remarkable; it's equal parts convicting, affirming, and utterly relatable. Pressfield does compress the obstacles we face in every aspect of life into one all-encompassing category, but in the case of this book, reduction and simplification prove to be a boon, and I appreciated the links he drew between each area of personal wellness. This first section is, without a doubt, the strongest part of the entire work.
Part Two of the book, where Pressfield identifies the solution to Resistance as "turning pro," is much more of a mixed bag. Pressfield offers some great pieces of common sense to his audience. In this section, he argues that the key to becoming a professional and finding inspiration is little more than doing the work, sitting down regularly and consistently, avoiding distractions, and completing the creative task, regardless of whether or not it's good. Again, Pressfield is at his best when he's at his simplest, showing a simple truth through various angles. However, the good in this section is oft-overshadowed by excessive repetitiveness and occasionally overt humanistic considerations.
The third part is where the book truly becomes muddled. I love that Pressfield is trying to connect the creative act to its intrinsically spiritual foundation, and his image of "invoking the Muses" before creative acts is a uniquely subversive perspective among the myriads of soulless self-help handbooks. However, by the time Pressfield's nailed this point home, he doesn't stop, falling into confusing, bizarre, and overly-idealistic territory. In these final pages, he channels Oscar Wilde, saying that creative pursuits should be pursued for their own sake, come hell or high water. Self-realization becomes the highest good, trumping community, reality, or even love. Even the unique view of spirituality that Pressfield nails earlier in the book crumbles here, as he identifies this higher spiritual reality that creativity comes from as merely "the higher self," the soul of man at its highest potential, a highly idealistic and vain notion, in my opinion, and one that contradicts the stark reality of man's limitations that Pressfield himself identifies earlier in the work.
Simply put, Pressfield loses the universal accessibility of the book's former half in the esoteric spirituality of the latter. It left me on a sour note, which is a shame, considering how much I love the first part. Part One definitely deserves 5 stars, while Parts Two and Three linger around 3, so I'll split the difference and go with 4 stars. Still well worth the read for any aspiring creative, and a healthy first step toward trading aspiration for action....more
"You never asked me to save anyone Not in whole or in part Like I was some kind of holy ghost Come to change their hearts...
...You know the tree by the f"You never asked me to save anyone Not in whole or in part Like I was some kind of holy ghost Come to change their hearts...
...You know the tree by the fruit But just between me and you I never do what I want I do what I'm taught And I've been thinking a lot About the violence I'm capable of,
So I'm walking away from this Before I hurt someone 'Cause I'm facing enemies On both sides of the gun."
Just one of many poignant and challenging passages from Derek Webb found in this book. "The Ringing Bell" is a visual companion to Webb's 2007 album of the same name. The book simply contains the lyrics of the album placed with complementary illustrations, courtesy of Chris Koelle, so if you're looking for further commentary on Webb's music or a narrative of any sort, know that this is not that. However, I cannot recommend enough that you take an hour to listen to Webb's album in conjunction with this visual journey. The two pieces enhance each other well, and gave me a new light through which I could work my way through the album, which is worthy of many listens. If you have access to a copy, it's well worth your time....more