The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art is 224 pages long. It’s a self-help creativity book published by Rugged Land, May of 2002.
This book is engaging — It’s useful and insightful. It opened my eyes to the creative killing power of resistance and procrastination by shining a new light on it. Early in the book I came across an interesting concept related to writing, but it can be applied to any type of creative work: “It’s not the writing part that is hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is resistance.” It’s a very simple concept, but I and several others tend to focus on the task as a whole instead of just starting.
Steven doesn’t use chapters in this book. He writes it as three sub-books: book one, book two, and book three, each focused on specific topics. Let’s get started…
Book One – Resistance
Steven states several interesting concepts throughout this sub-book such as “Resistance is invisible. It cannot be seen, touched, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work in potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. It’s aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”
He also explains resistance as the enemy within, and that procrastination is the most common manifestation of resistance because it is the easiest to rationalize. Example: “We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony’, instead we say, ‘I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow’.” It happens to us all! If you procrastinate and constantly put things off for “tomorrow” — you need to read this book.
Good quotes from sub-book one:
“If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement.”
“The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
“Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear, and we conquer resistance.”
“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.”
The enemy is a very good teacher. – Dalai Lama
Book Two – Combating Resistance
This section is about combating resistance and turning pro. Steven talks about amateurs verse professionals and the difference between them. He explains that the conventional interpretation is that amateurs pursue their calling out of love, while pro’s do it for money, and it’s normally quite the opposite. If an amateur loved their line up work enough, they would be a pro, and they would not be working on it from the side-lines. Professionals on the other hand love what they do so much they dedicate their entire lives to it.
To act more like a professional we should view ourselves as a corporation. By viewing ourselves as such we will mentally reinforce the idea of professionalism.
Good quotes from sub-book two:
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist … He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he’ll be okay.”
“The professional conducts his business in the real world. Adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls, even good breaks and lucky bounces all comprise the ground over which the campaign must be waged.”
“The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality. Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will still be there facing the blank page. Nothing matters but that he keep working. Short of a family crisis or the outbreak of World War III, the professional shows up, ready to serve the gods.”
Book Three – Beyond Resistance
This section is about invisible physic forces that support and guide us in our journey toward ourselves. Steven states that as resistance works against us, there are equal and opposite powers that are counterpoised against it such as angels and muses. Steven talked about professionalism in the earlier chapters (sub-books) a lot because of the importance of work, and that’s precisely what professionals do, they work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
By working day after day, “something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.” Consistent day to day actions will surely yield results.
Good quotes from sub-book three:
“When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears, something wonderful happens. A crack appears in the membrane. Like the first craze when a chick pecks at the inside of its shell. Angel midwives congregate around us; they assist as we give birth to ourselves, to that person we were born to be, to the one whose destiny was encoded in our soul, our daimon, our genius. “
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”
I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a much better way of viewing procrastination, fear, and resistance. A way to break down creative limiting barriers when I need to the most. Whenever I consider putting things off — the concepts from this book flash through my mind, and I realize how important it is to drop everything I’m doing and just focus on the work itself.
If you procrastinate a lot and want to live up to your potential, you’ll love this book… Assuming you actually get it and read it before putting it off for “another day.” 😉
Has resistance, procrastination, or fear affected your day to day life? Let us know in the comments — maybe we can help!