Review: The War of Art

Steven Pressfield; The War of Art

by Rasmus Rasmussen on July 1, 2010

Steven Pressfield wanted to write a book for people suffering from writer’s block but ended up with a guide to being a happy creative in the more general sense. In short, Pressfield begins by identifying the enemy of getting your creative work done as ‘Resistance’. Then he goes on to talk about battling this enemy and finally, he talks about muses and adds some fluff to his otherwise pragmatic approach.

Pressfield’s view is unique. He has a military background and a couple of bestseller novels under his belt (The Legend of Bagger Vance; Gates of Fire). His approach is that of the soldier going to war. For many artists, this will definitely be a new way of looking at creative productivity. It comes off as very matter of fact and practical. I like that a lot.

Resistance is identified as the force within that gives us excuses for not doing what we want to do. It’s what makes us reconsider our choices, when someone tells us to get a real job. It makes us spend all day reading blogs like this one, instead of getting the work done. It’s procrastination and self doubt personified. The way to overcome this, according to Pressfield, is to become a Professional.

He compares the amateur to the pro using easy to understand examples. The athlete might be in pain, but he finishes the race anyway. The soldier might be scared, but she goes into battle anyway. You get the idea. Of course, Pressfield goes into more detail and offers suggestions on how to approach and overcome Resistance. The writing flows nicely, the chapters are short and sweet, and the book is at times hard to put down.

Reading the first two parts of the book was a rush to me. Much like what I imagine sportsfans experience when watching their favorite team play. My team is Creativity and the arch-rival is Resistance. At times, I almost found myself cheering at the book. Death to Resistance! From this moment on, I will never let that bastard win again.

Then, in the final third of the book, Pressfield almost completely lost me. This is where he gets esoteric and tries to go deeper into the nature of inspiration. This is where he gets religious. I literally had to put the book away for a couple of days at a time every few chapters. I wanted to finish it so badly, because the first two parts were so good. Luckily, Pressfield mixes in just enough references to other mythology that I was able to see past my own resistance, and not feel like I was reading religious propaganda. The first two parts took me two days to read, pacing myself so as not to read it all in one go. The last part took a week.

I have to settle on a rating of 8/10. Begrudgingly. I wanted to love it unconditionally, but unfortunately that did not happen. Don’t get me wrong though, it really is a very good and highly motivational read no matter what your personal philosophy might be. The approach of thinking like a professional is very effective and there are some nuggets of pure gold to be found in “The War of Art”.

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, 192 pages, Grand Central Publishing (Amazon affiliate link)

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