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From Publishers Weekly
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Bestselling Author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
On The War of Art
Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination. I can procrastinate thinking about my procrastination problem. I can procrastinate dealing with my problem of procrastinating thinking about my procrastination problem. So Pressfield, that devil, asked me to write this foreword against a deadline, knowing that no matter how much I stalled, eventually I'd have to knuckle down and do the work. At the last possible hour I did, and as I leafed through Book One, "Defining the Enemy," I saw myself staring back guilty-eyed from every page. But then Book Two gave me a battle plan; Book Three, a vision of victory; and as I closed The War of Art, I felt a surge of positive calm. I now know I can win this war. And if I can, so can you.
To begin Book One, Pressfield labels the enemy of creativity Resistance, his all-encompassing term for what Freud called the Death Wish-that destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that's actually good. He then presents a rogue's gallery of the many manifestations of Resistance. You will recognize each and every one, for this force lives within us all-self-sabotage, self-deception, self-corruption. We writers know it as "block," a paralysis whose symptoms can bring on appalling behavior.
Some years ago I was as blocked as a Calcutta sewer, so what did I do? I decided to try on all my clothes. To show just how anal I can get, I put on every shirt, pair of pants, sweater, jacket, and sock, sorting them into piles: spring, summer, fall, winter, Salvation Army. Then I tried them on all over again, this time parsing them into spring casual, spring formal, summer casual... Two days of this and I thought I was going mad. Want to know how to cure writer's block? It's not a trip to your psychiatrist. For as Pressfield wisely points out, seeking "support" is Resistance at its most seductive. No, the cure is found in Book Two: "Turning Pro."
Steven Pressfield is the very definition of a pro. I know this because I can't count the times I called the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance to invite him for a round of golf, and although tempted, he declined. Why? Because he was working, and as any writer who has ever taken a backswing knows, golf is a beautifully virulent form of procrastination. In other words, Resistance. Steve packs a discipline forged of Bethlehem steel.
I read Steve's Gates of Fire and Tides of War back-to-back while traveling in Europe. Now, I'm not a lachrymose guy; I hadn't cried over a book since The Red Pony, but these novels got to me. I found myself sitting in cafés, choking back tears over the selfless courage of those Greeks who shaped and saved Western civilization. As I looked beneath his seamless prose and sensed his depth of research, of knowledge of human nature and society, of vividly imagined telling details, I was in awe of the work, the work, all the work that built the foundation of his riveting creations. And I'm not alone in this appreciation. When I bought the books in London, I was told that Steve's novels are now assigned by Oxford history dons who tell their students that if they wish to rub shoulders with life in classical Greece, read Pressfield.
How does an artist achieve that power? In the second book Pressfield lays out the day-by-day, step-by-step campaign of the professional: preparation, order, patience, endurance, acting in the face of fear and failure-no excuses, no bullshit. And best of all, Steve's brilliant insight that first, last, and always, the professional focuses on mastery of the craft.
Book Three, "The Higher Realm," looks at Inspiration, that sublime result that blossoms in the furrows of the professional who straps on the harness and plows the fields of his or her art. In Pressfield's words: "When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us...we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete." On this, the effect of Inspiration, Steve and I absolutely agree. Indeed, stunning images and ideas arrive as if from nowhere. In fact, these seemingly spontaneous flashes are so amazing, it's hard to believe that our unworthy selves created them. From where, therefore, does our best stuff come?
It's on this point, however, the cause of Inspiration, that we see things differently. In Book One Steve traces Resistance down its evolutionary roots to the genes. I agree. The cause is genetic. That negative force, that dark antagonism to creativity, is embedded deep in our humanity. But in Book Three he shifts gears and looks for the cause of Inspiration not in human nature, but on a "higher realm." Then with a poetic fire he lays out his belief in muses and angels. The ultimate source of creativity, he argues, is divine. Many, perhaps most readers, will find Book Three profoundly moving.
I, on the other hand, believe that the source of creativity is found on the same plane of reality as Resistance. It, too, is genetic. It's called talent: the innate power to discover the hidden connection between two things-images, ideas, words-that no one else has ever seen before, link them, and create for the world a third, utterly unique work. Like our IQ, talent is a gift from our ancestors. If we're lucky, we inherit it. In the fortunate talented few, the dark dimension of their natures will first resist the labor that creativity demands, but once they commit to the task, their talented side stirs to action and rewards them with astonishing feats. These flashes of creative genius seem to arrive from out of the blue for the obvious reason: They come from the unconscious mind. In short, if the Muse exists, she does not whisper to the untalented.
So although Steve and I may differ on the cause, we agree on the effect: When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty. And when Steven Pressfield was writing The War of Art, she had her hands all over him.
- File Size : 1060 KB
- Print Length : 192 pages
- Publisher : Black Irish Entertainment LLC (November 11, 2011)
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Publication Date : November 11, 2011
- ASIN : B007A4SDCG
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #11,470 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The books is, roughly, divided into three sections: Resistance, Combating Resistance, and Beyond Resistance.
The first section was actually really good. It mostly got into what Resistance is - the counterforce to achievement - and the various ways it manifests itself. While not based on any sort of evidence or research, this section lays out an allegorical enemy worthy of an epic struggle.
The second section is mostly about how a professional behaves and how this behavior can overcome Resistance. The summary of this section is: show up, do the work, don't get distracted. This was the most prescriptive section of the book, but I'd say it leaned more towards inspiration than prescription. If someone complains that this book is "just common sense", it is probably this section they are referring to.
Emboldened by a couple solid sections, the author goes completely off the rails in the third. The book becomes very religious, espouses lousy pop psychology, and makes outlandish claims. If I were to sum this section up, I'd say the author puts forth the idea that the artist is a conduit for some sort of divine inspiration or work, made manifest through the benevolent intervention of angels. That might be slightly harsh summary, but not too far off the mark. He literally says "We were put here on earth to act as agents of the Infinite" and "The artist is the servant of that intention, those angels, that Muse." Okay, perhaps he's just being allegorical. Nope. When talking about the fruits of our labor, he says "That is to do the work and give it to Him. Do it as an offering to God."
Putting the religious aspects of section 3 aside, the rest of it is the worst kind of shoot-from-the-hip psychology. He does a deep dive into the Ego - ignoring the conventional definition and redefines it for his own purposes. He tries to draw a distinction between a hierarchical and territorial mode of thinking - unsuccessfully. He makes outlandish claims, like ignoring the authentic self may be the cause of cancer and embracing the self might be its cure. He, literally, says that becoming your authentic self could cure cancer. He goes on to explain how the colloquialisms for inebriation - stoned, smashed, hammered - are all referring to the destruction of the Ego in order to access the Self. There's no etymological basis for his statement. There isn't even any anecdotal evidence to support this. When speaking about the relationship between a mother and her child, he says "She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her." It's an interesting thought, but biologically incorrect. Lastly, he makes claims that are openly contrary. He says "Union and mutual assistance are the imperatives of life", but a few pages later says it would be incorrect to call friends for reassurance if you were feeling anxious. To me, this section felt like a mess and it ruined the book for me.
In summary, this book does not have any sort of authoritative voice on procrastination, productivity, or personal achievement. It is a snapshot of a specific artist's mental model of the creative struggle. If you are looking for some sort of cogent or practical insights, then you will be disappointed. If you would describe yourself as spiritual and, probably, believe that crystals have curative properties (no judgement), then this book will probably speak to you.
Summary: Book 1: stop procrastinating. Book 2: just do it. Book 3: make art for god? If there is a god, please help steer others away from this silly book.
If you're an entrepreneur, an artist, a writer, scientist or just about anybody with an internal urge to CREATE something but cannot because of distractions, fears, doubts and apprehensions, then this is the book for you.
This will book show and define the #1 thing that's stopping you from bringing out your creative potential. It's called Resistance and how it behaves and how it beats you.
And then it stresses why we should overcome the resistance and how to overcome it successfully by detaching ourselves from the fruits, operating from a territorial perspective (i.e. Doing work for the sake of doing work).
By the time I reached the small chapter on Gita and Krishna's explanation on doing work for work's sake, I literally had tears in my eyes.
... Because that's the way an artist must operate, not caring for the fruits.
And I can attest my success in my business & job for JUST that. I gave up all hopes, desires & doubts I had.
I didn't care. I just decided to do the work, punched in my time and 3 years later, I'm at a level that's shocking for many (but something I dreamed about).
However, I still have a lot of blocks where I didn't express myself and get the creative part of me and I'm fortunate to have come across this book.
Anyone who is here to CREATE something - read it. It will change your life!
He talks a ton about resistance, and while what he speaks of is real, his methods are - vapid.
There is no advice here either. Pray to the muse? The world is full of angels?
This book has been helpful to many, and will likely continue to do so.
For me, this is quickly in my recycle bin to try to get a couple of bucks and get something I will actually enjoy reading.
Top reviews from other countries
And you feel that HIGH once a book is finished, eager and enthusiastic to apply all the knowledge you've gained and to see some results.
And the days go by... you slowly realize you're actually going nowhere, atleast not as much as you desire and expected.
You know what to do, you know how to do, but you won't seem to be able to apply the knowledge in realtime. And it sucks, i know that feeling.
And you slowly fall into the vicious circle.
You slowly take some other book that you hope atleast will help with your problem.
You pick a book.... you'll read... feels motivated.... days go by.... you realize.... it sucks... you start again( i hope)
THIS IS WHERE "TheWARofART" is a LIFE SAVING BOOK.
When you see that you're going nowhere even after knowing what to do. You'll slowly fall into the depressing thought process that may be YOU WILL NEVER BE THAT GUY YOU WANNA BE.
In every self-help book that we read hardly anyone was able to put the problem we are facing in such a way like in WARofART, where it truly kicks in your ass and makes you aware of the RESISTANCE you're facing ever since you know your self.
if you suck at taking ACTION about anything, and feeling how to do it. Just pick up this book and read it... take the book with you, when ever you're feeling of resistance or its disguised forms, read few pages from the book.
I bet you wont be sitting there idle once you finish this true gem of a book.. but will go and do your long held unfinished, undared stuff.
This is my first review ever since i'm puchasing books/anything from amazon. I thought of writing for some.. but you see RESISTANCE is a b***h. but now I did.
It's all those simple actions that makes a difference in a long run. And WarOfArt will help you beat the RESISTANCE and take that ACTION.
All the best. :)
Clearly Steven has read widely across cultures, subject matter and literature. Clearly he has a talent for writing. But as a non-fiction work, I think this was poorly targeted.
It srarts with a kick-ass be a professional, not an amateur section - which I entirely agree with and enjoyed.
It then descends into a religious and philosophical rant that had little meaning or relevance to me.
Maybe if the blurb had made it clearer who it was targeted at, i.e. religious writers, seeking answers as to where they get their talent, then I wouldn't have picked it up.
Clearly the right target audience find it inspiring. The blurb didn't make it clear that I'm not part of it.