The WAR of ART: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield
What I Liked About This Book
A very thought-provoking book for all writers, artists or would-be business entrepeneurs who want to be successful at what they do, but just can't seem to get started or can't get out of their own way.
My Gripes About theWARofART
The book is too short. I wanted to read more. I was completely hooked on reading it once I started. But there were only 165 pages and some of the chapters only consisted of one small paragraph. Yet every page of this book was insightful, compelling, absorbing and so addictive that I was hungry to read more.
If you've ever wanted to begin an artistic endeavour, be it writing or painting, or wanted to set up your own business, but you just couldn't get going, or once you started you found it hard to keep up the momentum, then you REALLY need to read this book.
In The WAR of ART, Steven Pressfield explains all the different types of Resistance that artistic people face every day before they can sit down and do their work, and explains how we can overcome it and work more, achieve more and feel better about ourselves.
He sees Resistance as an enemy that we have to face every day of our lives, and even though we may defeat it one day, it doesn't mean that the battle is over. We have to be prepared to fight Restance every single day of our lives.
He explains his own daily battle with Resistance this way -
"It's about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I'm getting tired. That's four hours or so...I wrap for the day...The office is closed. How many pages have I produced? I don't care. Are they any good? I don't even think about it...All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance."
He pleads with us all to believe that Resistance is real and that it is an evil enemy and he states - "Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction...You think Resistance isn't real? Resistance will bury you."
He goes on further in the book to explain the different forms that Resistance takes in our lives - "When a writer begins to overcome Resistance...she may find that those close to her begin acting strange. They may become moody or sullen, they may get sick; they may acccuse the awakening writer of 'changing,' of 'not being the person she was.' The closer these people are to the awakening writer, the more bizarrely they will act and the more emotion they will put behind their actions. They are trying to sabotage her."
In the second part of the book there is plenty of advice for overcoming Resistance and working every day.
We have to be patient with our work and the time it will take to produce it - "Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can't sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash."
We have to have order in our lives and our habits, face our fears, accept no excuses, not show off, master our technique, ask for help if we need it, distance ourself from our work, not take failure (or success) personally, endure adversity, recognize our limitations and be able to self-validate our work so that criticism can't hurt us.
Another form of Resistance is the excuses we give ourselves for not writing every day and these excuses include putting family needs before our own, letting criticism get to us or just simply complaining that we don't have enough time to finish something so we don't even start.
The third part of the book explains what Resistance is so that we can overcome it.
Resistance is a type of fear; a fear that can be an accumulation of other fears including - "Fear of bankruptcy, fear of poverty, fear of insolvency. Fear of groveling when we try to make it on our own, and of groveling when we give up...Fear of being selfish... fear of failing to support our families, of sacrificing their dreams for ours...Fear of failure. Fear of being ridiculous. Fear of throwing away the education, the training...Fear of launching into the void...fear of passing some point of no return, beyond which we cannot recant...but must live with this cocked-up choice for the rest of our lives. Fear of madness. Fear of insanity. Fear of death."
Then the really interesting point the author makes after this, is to state the REAL fear that we all have -
"...the Mother of all Fears that's so close to us that even when we verbalize it we don't believe it.
"Fear That We Will Succeed.
"That we can access the powers we secretly know we possess. That we can become the person we sense in our hears we truly are...This is the most terrifying prospect a human being can face...We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are...We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us."
The author concludes by turning a common belief completely on it's head.
He believes that we all come into this world with a distinct personality and our job is to live up to who we really are instead of trying to shape our lives into something they were never meant to be.
This is the opposite to the popular belief that we can be whoever we want to be and we can shape our lives any way we want.
"We're not born with unlimited choices. We can't be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle...Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ouselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
"If we were born to paint, it's our job to become a painter...If we were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world, it's our job to realize it and get down to business."
The WAR of ART is a brilliant book because it explains so easily the Resistance all artistic people feel to doing their work. As a writer, although I want to write and I enjoy it when I do, I often find it difficult to actually sit down and write and I find myself unconciously looking for "more important" things to do before I sit down and write.
And this book has now put all that in perspective for me and now that I know I have an invisible enemy (Resistance) I feel better prepared to fight it every day. And I'm winning.
When I first bought theWARofART I read it three times in two days. I just couldn't put it down. Reading it was like someone looking into my mind and understanding exactly what is in there; better than I ever have.
You can read more about The WAR of ART at Amazon.com
This review was written on 5th May 2009