The War of Art - Book Summary and ReviewResistance uses the tools of self-doubt, fear, and even rationalization to wage a lifelong war on the individual. There will be thousands of battles with resistance, but the war will never end.
The War of Art is another book that helped push me forward. It held the right balance of no-nonsense, unapologetic, yet battle-tested and sincere advice. I look back to this book on a regular basis and even recently referred to overcoming resistance in my first ever vlog….here.
Steven Pressfield doesn’t pull any punches in The War of Art. This book is a kick in the ass to get up, stop falling into the same old traps, put your head down, and do the work. Although, written from the perspective of the writer or artist one can easily substitute any number of other callings. The basis is simple; there is a repelling “force” that works to prevent everyone from accomplishing what they want in life, and what one needs to do to overcome that invisible hand.
From the early pages, Pressfield conveys his message with brutal honesty. His irreverence for the reader’s personal circumstance will undoubtedly turn some off. Those not bothered by his style will walk away with a book that pinpoints the roadblocks, which he calls resistance.
The Resistance. Pressfield defines resistance as an ever persistent natural force that pushes individuals to choose instant gratification over any activity or pursuit that will promote long-term personal growth, integrity, or health. Resistance is not an evil force with cruel intentions, but rather a part of nature, like the weather. A thunderstorm is neither malevolent or benevolent, is not aware of a person, it just exists, and such is resistance. This forces can manifest itself from the outside world, often as other people: a spouse, boss, parents, children, friends; however, in “reality” it is a self-generated obstacle.
Resistance uses the tools of self-doubt, fear, and even rationalization to wage a lifelong war on the individual. There will be thousands of battles with resistance, but the war will never end.
The Professional. To push back, and overcome resistance, Pressfield lays out the archetype individual, the professional. The professional learns to be miserable, not in an emotional sense, but in the way of acceptance. The professional will wade through the cold, sickness, mud and wet. They will show up every day, patient and committed to the long term. The professional is objective about their craft, failures, and successes. They master the techniques of their art. They accept the circumstance and the world around them, make no excuses, and act in the face of fear. They will use fear as a guide. Fear is the most common indicator of what an individual should be doing. In comparison to the amateur and the flowery praise from family and friends, the professional will receive real blame and real praise from the critics.
Beyond. The final third of The War of Art deals with inspiration, muses, and includes some religiosity. For those not subscribing to religious tenets, Pressfield asks the reader to find a comfortable substitute if the ones he is presenting are not to the reader’s taste. He believes that there are forces that are our allies; they can be personal, impersonal, spiritual, existential, or genetic. For these positive forces to find the professional, one needs to remain patient, shed the need for validation, continue in the correct environment (the writer at the desk, the bodybuilder in the gym), and remain dedicated to mastery.
Bottom Line. If you find yourself battling with self-doubt, procrastination, fear and unable to muster the encouragement to pursue a passion, I highly recommend this gut-punch of a book to you.
P.S. Here are some neat doodles from Sunni Brown encapsulating all the themes from the book.