I had in the past attempted to read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, but I’d been waylaid, I think due to the way he talks about mental illness in the book.
But this time I pressed through, and I really enjoyed it! I listened to the audio book on a long trip for work, and it only took about three hours from beginning to end. I probably could have read it even faster with the book in my hand.
The War of Art is about Resistance. It’s about anything that stops us from getting our creative work done– and about how to overcome it. Pressfield makes an extensive list of things that play into resistance: procrastination, of course, but also sex, trouble, drama, victimhood, self-doubt, fear, criticism, love, stardom. He’s not afraid to add things to the list that you and I would rather keep off it. This was pretty eye-opening for me.
In the second part of the book, he talks about “becoming a pro”– how to overcome Resistance. To be a professional, we need to show up, be prepared, be patient, ask for help, accept no excuses, among other things.
A quick excerpt:
In my younger days dodging the draft, I somehow wound up in the Marine Corps. There’s a myth that Marine training turns baby-faced recruits into bloodthirsty killers. Trust me, the Marine Crops is not that efficient. What it does teach, however, is a lot more useful.
The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable.
This is invaluable for an artist.
Wow. Pressfield goes on to say:
The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.
Tell us how you really feel, Steven. 😉
But, honestly, this resonated with me. Writing is a mix of joy and misery; publication too. But what am I supposed to do? Ignore my calling? No. I need to become a pro.
In the last part of his book, Pressfield talks about muses and angels– he takes the book to a whole other plane, reflecting on how the artist isn’t really in charge anyway. I’m sure he loses a lot of readers here, but not this girl. As a person of faith, I already believe something similar.
All told, this was a fast read and well worth it. In the days since finishing it, I’ve been able to recognize areas of Resistance in my life and to deal with them accordingly. Great, thoughtful book.
I did The Artist’s Way a while ago (which is magic, I swear), and I was considering reading this one, but I also just finished Stephen King’s On Writing, so a small part of me is like “How many books on creativity do you need to read before you just get to business?” but another part of me is intrigued. So basically you have convinced me to perhaps check it out over winter break.
Interesting. This sounds like kind of the opposite viewpoint of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic but with the same goal – sitting down to write/create.
I really liked Big Magic too. You’re right, probably the other end of the spectrum!
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