Internationally bestselling author of Last of the Amazons, Gates of Fire, and Tides of War, Steven Pressfield delivers a guide to inspire and support those who struggle to express their creativity. Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it.
I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943 to a Navy father and mother.
I graduated from Duke University in 1965.
In January of 1966, when I was on the bus leaving Parris Island as a freshly-minted Marine, I looked back and thought there was at least one good thing about this departure. "No matter what happens to me for the rest of my life, no one can ever send me back to this freakin' place again."
Forty years later, to my surprise and gratification, I am far more closely bound to the young men of the Marine Corps and to all other dirt-eating, ground-pounding outfits than I could ever have imagined.
GATES OF FIRE is one reason. Dog-eared paperbacks of this tale of the ancient Spartans have circulated throughout platoons of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since the first days of the invasions. E-mails come in by hundreds. GATES OF FIRE is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading list. It is taught at West Point and Annapolis and at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico. TIDES OF WAR is on the curriculum of the Naval War College.
From 2nd Battalion/6th Marines, which calls itself "the Spartans," to ODA 316 of the Special Forces, whose forearms are tattooed with the lambda of Lakedaemon, today's young warriors find a bond to their ancient precursors in the historical narratives of these novels.
My struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in my 2002 book, THE WAR OF ART.
I have worked as an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout and attendant in a mental hospital. I have picked fruit in Washington state and written screenplays in Tinseltown.
With the publication of THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE in 1995, I became a writer of books once and for all.
My writing philosophy is, not surprisingly, a kind of warrior code — internal rather than external — in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I have labeled "Resistance" with a capital R (in THE WAR OF ART) and the technique for combatting these foes can be described as "turning pro."
I believe in previous lives.
I believe in the Muse.
I believe that books and music exist before they are written and that they are propelled into material being by their own imperative to be born, via the offices of those willing servants of discipline, imagination and inspiration, whom we call artists. My conception of the artist's role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of "where it all comes from" and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox.
There's a recurring character in my books named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like my conception of art and the artist:
"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."
Reading this book is like fishing through a landfill site for diamonds; they're there, just buried under mountains of crap.
The central thesis is that procrastination is often harmful to our long-term success, and of this point I have no disagreement. However the majority of the book is replete with superstition, thinly veiled proselytizing, bullshit facts, and other miscellaneous woo-woo including: * Hitler was an artist that started WWII because he was procrastinating, and, as a result of this, nobody has seen his paintings. (Seriously, Google his art. He sucked at being a decent human being but was a pretty good artist!) * Procrastination is the root of erectile dysfunction! * Terminal and non-terminal cancer patients go into remission because they achieve some goal that makes them happy. (This is a particularly egregious assertion!) * People that procrastinate develop tumors and mental illness. * If people overcame procrastination, prisons would magically empty, nobody would get cosmetic surgery or drink alcohol, pharmaceutical companies would collapse, hospitals would close, and all doctors would be out of a job! Dandruff would even cease to exist! * When you do something to better yourselves, other people may get sick. Indeed, you may allegedly get sick as a way to avoid bettering your life. * The author makes an unsubstantiated claim that diseases such as ADHD, seasonal affective disorder, and social anxiety disorder are not real and were invented by marketing departments and drug companies to make a quick buck. * 70-80% of people that go to the doctor aren't sick, but are just being dramatic. * Professionals should without question ignore any and all criticism because all criticism from others is an act of envy, rather than a tool to improve. (Oops!) * Some mystical bullshit was the driving force behind Hamlet, the Parthenon, and Nude Descending a Staircase, not actual people.
This book is very absolutist and extremist, and fails to take into account the occasions an internal resistance to doing something is not true procrastination, but the cornerstone of good judgment and sometimes even self-preservation. The author even goes so far to say that taking care of your eight month pregnant wife is a form of procrastination! It's almost as if the author hasn't debated the ideas in this book with himself or others, but just started uncritically penning all his unfiltered thoughts into this book.
This book earned its second star for being unintentionally funny in places and for the occasional nugget of crap-coated wisdom. If you read this book, find the wisdom (there's very little), clean it up, and make a note. Discard the rest. It's a short read especially as many of the pages are half, or even two thirds empty; just keep keep your critical thinking skills switched on.
How this book got so many glowing reviews and recommendations is beyond me.
I couldn't get into this book. I've read and reread it several times, but it just doesn't do it for me. I gave it the second star because he does give some good advice about committing to the work, and staying in the seat. Some good bits about discipline and such.
I have about 13 years of collegiate and graduate art school under my belt, and I've worked in the fine and commercial arts. Thing is, I hate seeing the challenge of making art turn into this romanticized, epic battle between the poor put-upon artist and Mighty Resistance.
Maybe it's just that I've heard so much dreck about artists being "prophets" and such over the years that it just hits a sore spot. Plus, there's the idea he puts forward that you haven't really turned "pro" until you've dismissed all non-art related activity from your life. He's awfully judgmental against those who strive for a balanced, comprehensive life as opposed to a two-dimensional one.
A better book, more honest and less pretentious, is Art and Fear.
I dig it. There are a lot of negative reviews of it on Goodreads, mostly about it being derivative, and/or unnecessarily characterizing the creative process as a struggle. Guys: you picked up a self-help book. You picked up a book called "The War of Art". If you hoped for originality, or a touchy-feely art-is-easy book, you made a strange decision. I'm just saying.
Personally, I found this book pretty useful. It's dense, wise, and low-bullshit. Spiritual, yes. Namby-pamby, no. It treats inspiration as a mystery (because, um, it is). It does not treat art as a mystery. It says, you can't manufacture inspiration, so get your butt in the chair, every day, and do the work so inspiration has the opportunity to come.
I'm intrigued by his idea that the difference between a professional artist and an amateur is that the professional artist loves the art enough to arrange her/his life to allow him/her to do it full-time. An amateur, he says, isn't someone who does it only for the love; if the amateur really loved the art s/he wouldn't be content to be a weekend warrior. An amateur identifies with the work: "I make sandwiches for a living, and I'm an artist", whereas a professional does the work for its own sake: "I'm a person who writes novels for a living."
He also does this Jungian analysis of where art comes from and where internal resistance comes from. I'm sure it's not earthshattering, but I'd never heard it before.
This book is lightweight, derivative crap, written in the style of a self-hating self-help guru with blame the victim issues eighteen ways from Sunday. I tore out the two good pages, one of which was a quotation from W.H. Murray and the other of which quoted King Leonidas, and burned the book in the fireplace. That's how angry it made me. Horrible waste of paper and time.
Really, you want more details? Okay. The author personifies Resistance and then writes a tiny little snippet about it, one per page, stretching a teaspoonful of insight out for seventy pages or so. Sure, we come up against resistance in every area of our lives. This isn't news to anyone. But the ways he personifies it contradict each other, or simply don't make any sense, or come across as pure page-filling psychobabble.
Worst of all, he manages to blame the reader for everything. You feel resistance because it's easier! If you don't feel it, you're going the wrong way! If you don't feel it, you're making a step down in life. Sex is resistance! Food is resistance! Exercise is resistance! Everything good is resistance! Unless it isn't!
Save yourself some pain and brain cells and avoid this book. It's condescending incoherent nonsense argued on the level of a Sunday school comic strip. I wish I could give it less than one star.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” Steven Pressfield ~~ The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Reading this book was like a slap in the face to me. I AM a director and a writer. I struggle often to find my identity in my written words.
We all of us artists ~~ writers, directors, painters, photographers, dancers, musicians ~~ have faced all the serious struggles that comes with being an artist. We have to face the inner terror in order to get to where we want to go in our art. Pressfield shows us we need to face our fears and not let those fears overtake us ~~ not give into the resistance. Fear infects our creativity and prevents us from extracting the creative forces we need to create. Most importantly, as artists, we must be open to rejections, judgments and failures. All artists, even those that are best known to us, have experienced rejection. Use these rejections as motivation to improve your talents and skills and inspire you to love and embrace your craft even more.
Pressfield devotes much of The War of Art to God, the Universe, Consciousness, Angels and Spirit Guides. I love this approach of viewing himself as a channel for the Muse. Pressfield says a prayer to the Muse every morning before he begins his writing. You don’t have to believe this approach to get something out of his book. But what you will learn is to fight for your art -- to fight for yourself.
It has: • Harmful, uninformed medical opinions (Why?? It's a book on creativity. Just NO.) • Bizarre and illogical assessments of historical figures • COMPLETELY FAKE STATISTICS (How did those even survive editing? You can't make figures up to back your outrageous opinions. You need real sources. They should be cited. This is the fastest way to enrage a librarian.) • Constant judgment (as if I can't get enough of that in small town Missouri) • So much repetition I want to poke my eyes out (because I'm not an idiot and got it the first 50 times you said it) • And an exhausting, superior, egotistical attitude.
I can't believe I wasted money on such a terrible book. It can go straight to hell, where I'm sure creative folk are being forced to read it for eternity--which is about the best argument I've ever heard for salvation. And yes, that's officially the meanest thing I've ever said about any book, ever, and I don't regret it. This book earned my disdain, and I'd like to save the rest of you from a terrible reading experience.
Typically, I avoid posting one star ratings and reviews, but since this is parading about calling itself nonfiction, I have to interject to say it's nothing more than a bizarre and often offensive opinion piece, full of some very obvious statements about creativity. Don't read this drivel, unless you just enjoy judgmental, condescending monologues that go nowhere.
If you want an interesting, thoughtful book on writing and creativity, try Stephen King's ON WRITING.
UPDATE 5/16/2018: I just recently read Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, which is also good.
Holden Caulfield would love this, as would Ernest Hemingway. HC had it in for the phonies, and Pressfield has no use for them, either. Only he's met the enemy and it is himself. And you, gentle reader, need only a mirror to find your enemy. Pressfield calls it "Resistance," and it lurks in all of us. What's more, it's every excuse you can possibly think of to delay doing what the Muse put you on this earth to do: procrastination, rationalizations, physical sicknesses, psychological conditions with funny letters, family, drama, Twitter, Facebook, busywork, alcohol, drugs, television, your cellphone, fatigue, hopelessness, etc.
Hemingway? Oh, yeah. To make it more personal for those who would write, EH called out the faux writers who wanted to be seen "writing" at the cafés of Paris in the 1920's. It was the Lost Generation's version of "I'm not a writer, but I play one in cafés."
Pressfield, a writer as well, often alludes to the trade in The War of Art. Too often, writing is something phonies talk of doing and dream of doing but just don't do, or do sporadically, or make excuses as to why they can't do it, or do and fail once or twice, then quit. "Amateurs," Pressfield calls them. The world is split between the "pros" who sit down, roll up their sleeves, and DO IT every day (and he does mean every day) and the "amateurs" who talk a good story while shopping at Excuses R Us.
Of course, the same applies to most anything the Dreamy You dreams (or once dreamed) of doing. Should you be working out now? Dieting? Training for a marathon? Swimming? Writing? Painting? Volunteering? Reading classics? Starting your own business? You name it, you can do it, but you choose not to. That's right. It's a choice, and we make it easy on ourselves.
This little manual falls in the dictionary under “quick read.” Esquire magazine calls it “a kick in the ass,” and I can’t argue with that description. Pressfield pulls no punches. He has little choice. The Pretenders are legion and their excuses like Orc armies -- seemingly endless.
The book is divided in three. Part One is simply called “Resistance: Defining the Enemy” and leads off with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “The enemy is a very good teacher.” Pressfield identifies resistance in its every form. Trust me when I say you'll recognize yourself, perhaps multiple times over.
As the book was penned in 2002, however, he neglects to mention more prevalent forms of "Resistance" that exist today. "I'll start my work, sure... but first, let me check my Twitter feed... or let me check updates on Facebook... or I have to check e-mail and reply to a few folks... or reading can wait because I need to TALK about reading on Goodreads (which, ironically, cuts deeply into reading time, which is sacrificed on the altar of social time masquerading as reading time)."
Hoo, boy. Maybe even reading The War of Art is a form of delaying what I should be doing -- writing. Then again, I'm writing this review. Is that writing? One voice (amateur) says yes, but another (pro) says no, it's slumming -- a shameless ploy for "likes" and comments, not me pursuing art or income as a freelance writer.
Hmn. This is worse than I thought.
Anyway, Part Two is called “Combating Resistance: Turning Pro” and leads with a Telamon of Arcadia quote: “It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.” Here's where Pressfield delineates the true pros who tolerate no excuses from “amateurs” who live by them.
Page after page, he shares how a professional lives every day: "A Professional Is Patient," "A Professional Seeks Order," "A Professional Demystifies," "A Professional Acts in the Face of Fear," "A Professional Accepts No Excuses," "A Professional Plays It As It Lays," "A Professional Does Not Take Failure (or Success) Personally," "A Professional Endures Adversity," "A Professional Self-Validates," and on and professionally on. No wonder being a slacker and killing hours online is easier.
Part Three? It’s called “Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm” and its lead quote comes compliments of Xenophon: “The first duty is to sacrifice to the gods and pray them to grant you the thoughts, words, and deeds likely to render your command most pleasing to the gods and to bring yourself, your friends, and your city the fullest measure of affection and glory and advantage.”
It’s about achievement once you’re disciplined and have mentally accepted the challenge. Interestingly, Pressfield shares some quirky opinions about Muses, angels, William Blake, William Wordsworth, self vs. ego, and hierarchal thinking vs. territorial thinking. Hint: choose self over ego, territory over hierarchy. Then mean what you say and spit out your excuses binky.
Anyway, if you’ve ever wanted to write a book, poem, or screenplay; paint or dance or sing or act; start a business or charity; lose weight and exercise regularly until you look like you should look; run a marathon; fill-in-the-blank with your once-upon-a-time hope for yourself before Twitter and Facebook and e-mail and job and family and social drama and “health issues” and excuses dragged you down, this just might be your book. It's short, but worthy of rereading. I can imagine returning to certain excerpts for an old-fashioned butt-kicking, then getting back on that horse beside Nike ("Just Do It!") and working in "the smithy of my soul" like I ought to.
I can also imagine unplugging, or at least creating more strict guidelines for bad habits that have snuck in to choke my creative being like so much hypnotic kudzu. Wait. Did I just say "imagine"? What an amateur pledge that was....
I read this book over and over again as necessary. It is the kick in the ass every artist needs, sometimes daily. Because we all face the same enemy, fight the same battle every day: Resistance. According to Pressman, this is the whole story. Every day you either win or lose your battle with resistance. All the rest is talk. Why you lost it doesn't matter. Maybe your mother didn't love you enough. Maybe you don't believe in yourself enough. Maybe you think you're not as talented as you wish you were. Well, so what? No one's mother loved them enough, all of us suffer from self-doubt (If you don't, you're a sociopath and I don't want to know you), and even Shakespeare wrote about "Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope." If Shakespeare sometimes thought he wasn't good enough, I think that lets the rest of us off the hook. The only answer is to get up every day and do your work to the best of your ability. That's all anyone does. I just watched a snippet of a video interview with the painter Chuck Close who said you don't need most of what you learn in grad school ever again. You need only three things: to know where to find the information you need, to develop good work habits, and to acquire the thickest skin possible and be able to listen to and ignore the most painful criticism imaginable. You have to be able to defend your own position and criticize others as harshly as they criticize you. And then just go ahead and do your own work. Great book. I recommend this more than any other book I've ever read.
What a piece of garbage! The author of this new-ageish book repeatedly states opinion as fact, and proves himself to be a misguided and judgmental buffoon. Here are some of the things I "learned" while reading this meritless piece of tripe:
1. Attention Deficit Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder aren't "real"--they are merely excuses that we give ourselves because we don't want to succeed;
2. The reason Hitler killed millions of Jews is because he didn't have a creative outlet, and he should have painted more;
3. Since creativity requires a healthy body as well as a healthy mind, overweight people can never truly be creative.
I am happy to report that this is false. Since finishing this awful (but mercifully brief) book, I have already thought of several dozen ways the author can go f**k himself. Sounds like THIS fat man's creativity is working just fine.
An early chapter just grabbed me with this opening line, "Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance." Those sentences grabbed me and have stayed with me. How much do I resist? How do I resist? Why do I resist? The reflection that chapter inspired was well worth reading the rest of the book though nothing else was as revolutionary for me-- I got what I needed early in the pages. There's also a fabulous quote from WH Murray later, "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too." It reminded me of why I like to operate from passion. That the things that I am doing because I feel I must or out of obligation are never easy. The things that I do from passion always spin out with dizzying force. When you act from passion, providence indeed moves. A timely reminder.
It's more than worth the price of admission for anyone in a creative field. Clear, inspiring, and short. (Also, inexpensive, which seems remarkably fair in this era.)
Yes, roughly half of the book is a little... ethereal, perhaps. More Pressfield's life philosophy and spirituality than anything, and not helpful to me. But I'm not going to knock a star off it for that. I've read too many business books that are 15 pages of gold surrounded by 200 pages of fluff to get angry when an author legitimately gives a work his all--and gives 50 pages of gold and 50 pages of Not For Me, Thanks.
Where it's good, it's great. I highlighted many, many passages. It left me hungry to go do more work.
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” ― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
Three stars in both content and delivery, but I should probably also disclose that I REALLY struggle with the whole self-help genre and this was basically just a self-help book for writers and artists. I'm not sure if it genetic, or shaped by my own experience on this blue dot, but I generally HATE all forms and types of self-help book. "The sub-genre of "How to Create" books, however, are infinitely better than "How to Business" or "How to Love" or "How to Win". Even with the best writers (and I like Pressfield a lot) the lot are usually filled with jargon, cliches, and almost religious rites/steps to salvation/success.
At their core, they also usually contain a couple good ideas that might not have required a whole book. The War of Art's good idea can be summarized by Nike's slogan:
Just Do It.
Or perhaps, my dad's slogan:
Get off your ass and do your damn job.
This book is basically Pressfield giving the reader ideas about how to overcome creative roadblocks. He describes why there ARE roadblocks, gets a bit philosophical about the nature of roadblocks for creativity, etc., and then give the reader his strategy.
Basically, Pressfield says you gotta do the hard stuff. You gotta work. Ignore distractions and do what it is you want to do, that you dream of doing, NOW.
Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is essentially an extended pep talk/motivational speech meant to pump the reader up into doing what they’re putting off doing, be it going for a new job, starting a new diet or whatever, though ostensibly it’s aimed at wannabe writers.
And it’s a bit too generic for my blood. I’ve read a few books like this – off the top of my dome, Stephen King’s On Writing, Benjamin Percy’s Thrill Me and Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – all of which did it better than Pressfield.
This slim volume is made up of three sections. The first identifies Resistance (basically his all-encompassing label for procrastination/fear/laziness) and was overly long for describing such a simple concept; the second tells you how to tackle Resistance (answer: the Nike slogan – Just Do It!); and the third is full of woowoo with Pressfield going off the deep end, waffling on about angels(!) and divine destiny.
The book is fairly well written and I agree with most of what Pressfield has to say about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to progress, knuckling down and getting on with it, creating a routine, being patient, fighting apathy, not listening to any negativity in your head, etc.
I wouldn’t say it was useful for anyone looking for practical advice on overcoming procrastination or writing though as Pressfield tends to generalise most of what he says, which is fluff about beating doubt and being the hero of your own story. And the repetitive and tedious nature of the content makes for a very uninteresting read. The advice is banal self-help stuff that’s been said a million times before and Pressfield’s personal anecdotes were uninspiring and dull.
I love the Joe Rogan Experience podcast but I have no idea what Joe sees in this one. And that’s what I’d recommend for inspiration/motivation instead of this book: Joe’s podcast, particularly the episodes with Jocko Willink and Jordan Peterson.
How creative of a person are you? "They" say the more creative you are, the more sensitive you are. Which can mean that you don't want to get out of you bed some days, or that you have the ability to procrastinate greatly, or that you want to destroy every piece of work that you have ever created because it's crap and you'll never be as crazy as Vincent van Gogh or as cool as Michaelangelo. Well, this book gives you tools to help you overcome all your short comings and own up to your potential as a creative member of society.
Also, nobody wants to get out of bed in the morning, it's so comfortable and cozy in there. Let me know when we put a hybrid engine in a bed, I'll drive that to work.
What a mess. This book is ridiculous. This book is angry. This book is upset that it had to be written because the author made himself think that he had to stay in a chair everyday writing regardless of however else he may have felt at the moment. This book is an awesome example of someone who apparently believes in the explicit value of free speech but denounces free will.
I finished it a few days ago and have since been seriously trying to understand how it was published. FIrst of all, it's not a book. It's an assortment of thoughts that seem to have spewed out of the authors mind in a frenzy. Probably due to some crazy circumstance that was way more interesting than anything written on the pages of the book itself. Was there an editor? Or even someone doing page layout? Or a fact checker? Was it self published? What's up with the one sentences taking up parts of entire pages as if it they are such epic thoughts that they deserve such suspension?
I thought this book was going to provide practical advice on how to achieve a higher state of discipline. It doesn't. It does though attempt to bully you into fulfilling your 'purpose' as a creative being. According to the author we all have a purpose to fulfill and if we ignore it he will yell at us, like he does on the last page. That page is awesome. I wonder if this person is aware that some people actually do not have purposes, they were born and there is not one thing in the world that interests them, and it is not due to procrastination or resistance. I wonder what he thinks of such people who achieve nothing, nor care to and remain healthy their entire lives. I wonder what he thinks of teenagers who have never procrastinated a day in their lives and are diagnosed with cancer or mental disorders nonetheless.
I wonder if he realizes that if someone is in tune with themselves that resistance and fear are on their side.
This short book is filled with short chapters—some one or two paragraphs long, some a few pages—that are primarily to motivate people who are or aspire to be writers or painters or another kind of artist. But it’s also inspirational to folks who want to start exercising or lose weight or quit some addiction. The basic message is, essentially, you can’t keep saying stuff to yourself like, “I’ll start the novel tomorrow.” “I’ll start exercising/eating well tomorrow.” It’s all about overcoming Resistance to whatever goal(s) you have.
According to one segment, “Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there’s tremendous love there too. If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything. The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.”
This book is a lot of encouragement to delay gratification and work toward longer term goals. Drugs, alcohol, sex, and so on are ways to occupy our minds and our time and put off other goals we might have in mind, like starting a business or furthering our educations or finishing that novel we’re writing. It’s the kind of book you can flip a few pages through to remind yourself why you aren’t spending all your free time watching movies and drinking margaritas, which is easy, and therefore, fun. Working on bettering ourselves takes, well, work.
Hello, my name is Makeba and it has been 22 days since I've thought about writing and decided to do something else instead. I write everyday, and this book helped me do it.
"The War of Art" made me feel bad about my relationship with the creative process. She would invite me out and I'd decide to wash my hair instead. He would call and I'd push the button that sent it straight to voicemail. I was a lousy friend. Illuminating what Pressfield defines as resistance and turning pro turned the tables on myself and forced me to take a hard look at my habits and decide if I was hungry enough to change them. I'm on day three of beans and rice; I'm hungry. I started the book identifying with the person who wrote the forward-- a fellow procrastinator capable of banging out a decent product-- and finished it seeking ways to exhibit the same qualities Steven has-- discipline, integrity, and patience. Highly Recommended!
As some of you may have noticed, there's a book called The Midnight Disease listed as something I'm currently reading. I don't remember when I added it anymore, but I know it was a while ago.
There was a period of time this summer where I simply could not write *at all.* I tried everything--I tried to read book about writers block like The Midnight Disease. Nothing in them helped me. I went to different places to try and write. Nothing. I made myself sit down with only my AlphaSmart and refused to get up for three hours or until I'd at least written something. The hours would pass, and I would write nothing.
And then I'd cry.
I was slowly but surely becoming convinced I'd never write again, and it broke my heart. (All of me felt broken, actually)
And then I saw this book in my local bookstore and took a look at it. And what I read blew me away. Pressfield doesn't talk about specifically about writer's block but about Resistance, and the thing he said that made me buy the book, take it home and read the first two sections over and over again (the third one is about muses and things and I'm not into that) was this:
"Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it by our very fear of it."
All those things I'd done to try and make myself write and I'd never once stopped to think about WHY I wasn't writing. But Pressfield got me to do that, and he got me to realize that it was my fears that were stopping me, and that writing can't be about overcoming everything that's got you trapped in a corner or scared. It has to--and must be--simply about the writing.
It's not easy to overcome those fears, and I keep a copy of The War of Art next to what I'm currently working on, and turn to it when I need a reminder that it's okay to be afraid, and that the important thing is to keep going.
Timely and Timeless! I’ve had The War of Art on my TBR list for years and finally made time for it over the last two days, in the 11th hour of 2018.
The book is full of ways to recognize and overcome roadblocks in the realm of creativity. While Pressfield often provides examples related to being a professional writer, the concepts can easily be applied to any professional discipline.
The book is divided into 3 parts: Resistance (Defining the Enemy), Combating Resistance (Turning Pro), and Beyond Resistance (The Higher Realm). I really enjoyed the first two sections, which I found preferable to the third, but the book is great all around. I could relate to many of the ways we let resistance impact us, but also could relate to some of the ways we distinguish professionals from amateurs. Both a nice reminder of what you have accomplished, and that there’s still room to grow and for improvement.
I highlighted numerous quotes throughout The War of Art and know it’s a book worth revisiting in the future, for fresh doses of motivation. It is a timely read, as people often look to set new goals for a new year. It is timeless because the concepts - including the discipline required to succeed - ring true, again and again.
A Professional Accepts No Excuses “The professional has learned better. He respects Resistance. He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he'll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow. The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you're finished. The pro doesn't even pick up the phone. He stays at work.”
Let's get the good parts over with: I highlighted more things in here than I'm comfortable with. (I feel faintly dirty about this, as though I've eaten food found in a dumpster.) It's nice to see someone acknowledging that we can be afraid of our work, and that we can manage that fear. There's some not bad--if not terribly original--advice about scheduling, professionalism-as-routine, and some other things that may well be useful to you, as I fear--as I'm terrified, really--that they may be to me.
But Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: the bullshit. Imagine Robert Evans on MDMA writing about Jung for "Reader's Digest." Angels live in the world, and they're real, and they help us write; disease is what happens when we give in to Resistance (capitals in original--oh, so many capitals), and overcoming work problems may cure cancer; the 'Gita and Coyote Trickster and the Muses and Tiger Woods all say that work is a holy thing that we don't own but belongs to the universe. More beliefs: food with fat in it is a sign that we are deceiving ourselves, when we should be creating; mental illness doesn't really exist, and goes away if we continue to work. And etcetera. This man is past self-delusion and into full-on hallucination.
This book is five hundred times worse than a one-page .pdf of its ten useful sentences. If you can find such a .pdf, read that. If you can't, oh boy: maybe come for the chuckle reel that is 90% of the prose, and stay for the occasional nugget of insight that drifts, as though from another universe, onto the page.
Pressfield is a former Marine, the author of a novel on the Greco-Persian Wars and a fan of the Bhagavad Gita, so probably someone who's become an expert in getting one's shit together in the face of adversity. "The War of Art" is precisely about how to muster strength and determination in any creative enterprise against our inner adversary, which he calls Resistance (name it procrastination or self-sabotage or writer's block if you prefer).
The books is divided into three sections: 1) a definition of what Resistance really is and how it manifests itself, 2) guidelines on how to fight Resistance and stop bullshitting oneself, 3) a somewhat romantic (jungian / nietzschean) development on inspiration, enthusiasm (in the etymological sense), connecting to the Self and becoming what we are.
I have picked up this book from the shelf in order to get a boost for a writing project I'm working on (and because it was prefaced by Robert McKee!). Two sentences particularly remain on top of my mind: "If I were diagnosed with terminal cancer, would I keep doing what I do?" and "If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?" These are a couple of the kicks in the ass I got while reading this book. I need to begin now.
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I read this quick read of a book. On the one hand, I appreciated the brevity and the candor, and on the other, the self-righteous overtones were alienating and borderline dictatorial. I don't underestimate the work ethic and writing talent of Mr. Pressfield; however, if you are looking for practical approaches to consistently battling your bouts of procrastination and creative blocks without sacrificing the relationships that matter most in life (aka real friends and family), look elsewhere. What makes this book borderline off-putting is that the three contemporary male figures noted for their "acts of commitment," and are referenced more than once throughout, are all men that have failed their families and the public: Lance Armstrong, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tiger Woods. In addition, it is darn near impossible to find anything from Mr. Pressfield regarding his commitment to his family, (uncertain that he has one?), and overwhelmingly easy to find his thoughts on his commitment to being an artist, thriving as an artist, and loving an artist. It is a bit tough to swallow the words of an artist when the word commitment only applies when it is to serve your advantage.
This is a very short book about the ways you are blocked from being creative, and what to do about it. Steven Pressfield is a novelist, and he calls the enemy "Resistance". He has seen Resistance in his own life many times. He lists the many activities that elicit resistance. These include pursuit of writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any other creative art. And he defines creative activities very loosely; it can include being an entrepreneur of any kind, a scientist, an educator, a student, anyone trying to attain spiritual advancement, anyone trying to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction, an athlete ... the list goes on.
Resistance comes from inside ourselves, although we rationalize it as being caused externally. Resistance is any excuse we can come up with, to defer our creative work.
And Pressfield gives some good advice about how to battle against Resistance. The essence is to "be professional" in our creative work. He explains what it means to "be professional", and how to go about it. Basically, it means to show up every day, no excuses, to be committed over the long haul, to obtain remuneration for our labor, master the techniques of our jobs, and to have a sense of humor about our jobs.
There is much more to it than that, of course. But if you have any type of creative block, this book might help you. It is so short--you can read it in a couple of hours. It's worth it.
Two positive stars. It was okay. Maybe I've read too many books about writing. This is one of those paragraph-a-page books with quips about writing and overcoming what stands between you and getting it done. But I didn't find those pages all that inspiring or motivating and I kept wishing for funny photographs above each paragraph to help me turn the pages. It's one of those books that would benefit from polar bears and grasshoppers sitting at typewriters or somehow illustrating the text in a humorous way. Not a bad book, but maybe just not for me.
This book is fierce. I picked it up late one night while fighting the flu and the next morning, I was like an efficient machine. I felt extremely motivated to continue my efforts on a few projects that had been languishing on the back burner. The author shines a very bright light on that cunning, rational voice we all have that convinces us to wait, procrastinate or never start a new venture. He calls it resistance and expounds that the greater resistance you have to something, the more important it must be.
Written in concise chunks, some only a page or paragraph long, I was compelled to keep reading. The author's voice is refreshing and the ideas clear and relevant. Even though I didn’t agree %100 with a few of his statements, The War of Art definitely set me into high gear. That defeatist little voice better watch out!
The first 2/3 of this book were exactly the inspiration, direction, correction, and kick in the butt every person doing creative work needs. The last 1/3 was much of the same but phrased as abject nonsense. It’s short and moves fast and is well worth reading.
This book is first and foremost a treatise on writing as labor. Writing is work -- much like going to the gym, fighting a battle, or plowing a field. That is the philosophy of the book -- one I tend to agree with.
Haruki Murakami talked in much similar terms about writing in his book about running. He wrote a book about running and the discipline of running; but he was also talking about the virtues necessary to be a writer.
Much of the book talks about the forces of "Resistance." Think about resistance as the accumulated forces trying to get you not to write, not to finish, to say you're a writer but to really live life as a fraud. It also tells a story -- over a course of vignettes -- about how one writer deals with his personal form of resistance.
The book is about motivation and professionalism. There are parts about other things, but mostly the book is about those things. You may also like the chapters about muses. Most of the passages are written in 1-2 page vignettes. Thus, perhaps the best way to read this book is in five to ten minute sessions before you're about to write.
This book is unrateable. It’s clear the author’s audience is himself. You may rebuke, “When is writing not?” But honestly, this time it really is for himself. It is very personally written. (I've written something very similar for myself, and it reads similarly). Thus, much of it will not connect with you. When it does, though, it will likely connect deeply.
Does that make it a two-star, three-star, four-star...it doesn't matter.
If you need this book. Read this book. I didn't need to read this book, but I still benefited from it. If you really don't need this book because you never face resistance when you write, then you don't need this book at all.
Here is the strange thing, one section in particular – Resistance and Fundamentalism -- just blew me away. I’m also an International Relations scholar and it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything on Fundamentalism that rang so clear and beautiful as that. If I could take those two or three pages and make them required reading for every IR scholar, I would.