I first came across Steven Pressfield’s book the War of Art, sometime ago. I think it was mentioned in Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans. I subsequently heard Tim discuss it during one of his podcasts. He devoted a few moments to the book and spoke about how the War of Art had delivered him from a creative slump. At that moment, I made a note to check it out as soon as I could.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, is all about helping you get over own b.s. to reach your best creative self. For most of us, it’s a simple concept which is infinitely more difficult to execute. Pressfield approaches this issue by splitting the book into 3 sections, namely, Book One: Resistance – Defining the Enemy; Book Two: Combating Resistance – Turning Pro; and Book Three: Beyond Resistance – The Higher Realm. Resistance is the term he uses to describe the destructive force that kills our creativity and prevents us from achieving what we set out to each day.
In Book One, he goes onto illustrate the many forms in which Resistance can visit us. Each manifestation, whether it is procrastination, sex, self-medication or victimhood, is examined as an episode episode 1 to 2 pages in length. On a few occasions I did feel my ears burn, having to see some of own limiting behaviors there in black and white. What really struck a chord with me is how Resistance can present as a series of legitimate and serious concerns for why we shouldn’t do our work (P55). I’m still chewing on this one.
Book Two, goes on to discuss “Turning Pro”. About recognizing the difference between being an amateur and a pro. How I interpreted this section, was that you can play in the shallows as an amateur and get average returns but to excel you need to step up and take your calling seriously. You firstly commit to your craft, then follow up with the discipline and routine to work towards what you need to, day in, day out. This section again was uncomfortable reading in terms of understanding what I need to do to make the leap. The author sums it up as follows (P101):
“There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will.”
Answering a Higher Calling
Book Three goes on to examine the magic that happens when you deeply commit to being a professional. In doing so, you tap into a higher realm and let those amazing creative forces guide your art. I must say this wasn’t an entirely ridiculous notion for me to take on. I am sure you have had experiences where you are creating a quality piece of work which when you stand back, you realize you had no right to produce given your limited abilities.
The very few times this has happened to me, it’s felt like there has been higher power at play shaping my writing. By recognizing the power of such forces and tuning in, you allow them to speak through you. Yes! Yes! I know that this will sound bonkers to most but hopefully it will resonate with a few of you. Incidentally, if you do have thoughts to share on this idea, I would love to read them below.
What I really appreciated about the book was how it’s interspersed with the author’s own trials and tribulations. It makes the concepts presented, all the more credible. Pressfield’s first professional writing gig came after 17 years of trying. Despite his high hopes for the screenplay, it turns out to be a box office disaster. He toiled for 20 years before one of his novels got published. That novel just happened to be, The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was subsequently made into a motion picture starring Matt Damon and Will Smith. Reading examples like this sum up the discipline and routine required to achieve success.
The War of Art is a marvelous book for getting you out of your funk and placing one foot in front of another towards your creative zenith. I would highly recommend it to anyone having challenges on this front. It’s great resource to keep handy and draw upon whenever you need a kick up the backside.
The War of Art is available from the following retailers:
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Rating: 4 out 5 stars.