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Review of the War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The war of art cover

“The enemy of the artist is the small-time Ego, which begets Resistance, which is the dragon that guards the gold. That’s why an artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility.” ~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Don’t be fooled by the size of Steven Pressfield’s gem of a book, “The War of Art.” While may be a small book, it is chock full of big and valuable ideas. This is a book for creatives — for people whose creativity is their passion: writers, artists, musicians, sculptors, dancers, actors/actresses, photographers – whatever passion fires you up and gets you excited.

This book takes you on a journey to battle against what Pressfield calls “The Resistance”, which he states “is the most toxic force on the planet.” So what is this Resistance? Resistance is inertia, that force which prevents us from doing the work we were meant to do. It is that which makes us say, “I don’t think I’ll work today. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.” It’s that force that makes us tell ourselves, “What’s the use. My manuscript is crap. My work stinks. I’m just not cut out to be a writer. I wonder who’s on Facebook?” Pressfield asks us:

“Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”

And what’s worse, is that Resistance only shows itself when you do something that really matters to you – all the more reason to combat it any way we can. For an excellent example of the of Resistance operates, Pressfield says:

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you.

“Resistance will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.

“Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.”

In the War of Art, Pressfield teaches us how to take even the most stubborn and tempting Resistances (such as those excuses we tell ourselves when we don’t want to do our work) and blow them to pieces. Using the war metaphor, we learn how to battle this unseen foe, but in order to do this we first need to recognize and know our enemy – and he shows us how to do so. He also reminds us that Resistance wants to take us down the easy road and wants us to just work hard enough to get by. But as Pressfield states:

“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, and we’re stuck with it.

“Our job in this lifetime 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.”

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work”

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is a person’s ability to stomp on and crush Resistance, which tends to slam us extra hard as we near the end of a project, when we are close to completing our work. In each of these short-and-to-the-point chapters, Pressfield offers a prescription to combat this enemy by getting into the nitty-gritty of all those things that hold us back, those things that tell us we’re just not quite good enough.

The tips in this book help us to recognize and destroy the inner naysayer (which Julia Cameron and others call the “Inner Critic”) and instead, shows us how to go pro, for it is in going pro that we banish our enemy.

While reading this book, it made me personally aware of all the “junk” that was holding me back and made me face my own excuses head on. You won’t find 12-steps, chapter exercises or required journaling in this book. What you will find are no-nonsense methods for finishing your work and getting it out into the world, overcoming and smashing to bits those blocks that hold you back, defeating the negative self-talk in our heads and unblocking the barriers to our creativity. This book will certainly make you more aware of when Resistance digs its sharp claws into you and holds on for dear life.

While topic of Resistance is complex and certainly not a light one, Pressfield presents his ideas in a friendly, conversational manner, which renders the book not only approachable but also enjoyable.

If you’re looking to break through your own creative blocks or simply need some motivation, you can’t do much better than The War of Art: Break Through Your Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Recommended!

You can check out the book HERE.

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