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The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles Paperback – January 11, 2012
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The 30 Best Self Help Books
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From Publishers Weekly
Novelist Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance; Gates of Fire) goes self-help in The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle. Dubbing itself a cross between Sun-Tzu's The Art of War and Julie Cameron's The Artist's Way, Pressfield's book aims to help readers "overcome Resistance" so that they may achieve "the unlived life within." Whether one wishes to embark on a diet, a program of spiritual advancement or an entrepreneurial venture, it's most often resistance that blocks the way. To kick resistance, Pressfield stresses loving what one does, having patience and acting in the face of fear. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Drawing on his many years' experience as a writer, Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) presents his first nonfiction work, which aims to inspire other writers, artists, musicians, or anyone else attempting to channel his or her creative energies. The focus is on combating resistance and living the destiny that Pressfield believes is gifted to each person by an all-powerful deity. While certainly of great value to frustrated writers struggling with writer's block, Pressfield's highly personal philosophy, soundly rooted in his own significant life challenges, has merit for anyone frustrated in fulfilling his or her life purpose. Successful photographer Ulrich (photography chair, Art Inst. of Boston; coeditor, The Visualization Manual) explores the creative impulse and presents an approach to developing creativity that, like Pressfield's, will be relevant to artists and others. He identifies and explains seven distinct stages of the creative process: discovery and encounter, passion and commitment, crisis and creative frustration, retreat and withdrawal, epiphany and insight, discipline and completion, and responsibility and release. He also develops his view of the three principles of the creative impulse, which include creative courage, being in the right place at the right time, and deepening connections with others. Rooted in Eastern philosophy, Ulrich's fully developed treatise nicely updates the solid works of Brewster Ghiselin (The Creative Process), Rollo May (The Courage To Create), and Julia Cameron (The Artist's Way). It also supplements Pressfield's inspirational thoughts on overcoming resistance through introspective questions and practical exercises that further elaborate the creative process. Both books are recommended for public libraries needing additional works on creativity. Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is an unorthodox book. You'll finish it in a day or two. It's filled with words like "Resistance" that sound like self-help buzzwords. It isn't. It's a very apt and all-encompassing term for the forces that keep you from doing your life's work, whatever that may be. Distraction, apathy, booze, procrastination, excuses, toxic relationships, depression, and my favorite of Pressfield's: "compulsive screwing up", just to name a few. Anyone honest with himself who has ever claimed to have "writer's block" knows it's a cop-out, an excuse for not sitting down at an empty screen/page, and doing the work.
This book will kick you in the ass and show you how you've been self-sabotaging yourself. It will also fire you up and give you the strength you need to press on and do the work. Pressfield is a kindly drill-sergeant; he holds no punches but you get the feeling that he really wants you to succeed.
As I read the opening chapter on resistance I saw my guilty self on each page. Illusions were shattered. but it inspired me to sit down at the blank screen and do it. You'll read it once and then refer to it again and again as you might work with a coach on your golf swing.
It's a blue-print, not a map, and everyone's experience will be slightly different as they work through their own demons creating their blocks, so don't expect this to solve your problems. It's up to you to kill your own Minotaur. YOU have to do the work. Identifying the things in life that hold you back, the negative thought patterns, perfectionism, etc., is only the beginning.
The third part of the book, the part that addresses that thorny issue of where ideas and inspiration comes from, will be where many will fall by the wayside. Pressfield cautions you not to hold on too tightly to that precious gemstone you call your "talent", and open yourself to other possibilites, that there may be a higher dimensional energy at work here and that we, the artists, writers, dancers, whatever, are only the agents that this energy works through. Call it what you want. god, the universe, the tao, whatever. I think it was jazz great Charlie Parker that said when asked where his ideas come from, "I just try to get out of the way". He meant that he suspended all ego and allowed the work to flow through him from a higher plane. not comfortable with all this higher-dimensional nonsense? Maybe it's not for you.
But The War of Art will help you. It's helping me. Try his other one, Do The Work as well; some of it is redundant, but is still very worth it. you have nothing to lose, only your blocks, so open your mind and try it.
I'm intrigued by his idea that the difference between a professional artist and an amateur is that the professional artist loves the art enough to arrange their life to allow themselves to do it full-time. An amateur, he says, isn't someone who does it only for the love; if the amateur really loved the art they wouldn't be content with being a weekend warrior. An amateur identifies with the work, whereas a professional does the work for its own sake. He also does this Jungian analysis of where art comes from and where internal resistance comes from.
I think, you've got to reach a certain level of maturity to appreciate this book. I could be wrong, but I think those one-star reviewers are either quite young or some frustrated artists. Or maybe they are just too smart.
Coincidentally, I just watched The Life of Pi, winner of four Oscar awards. If you want the most out of this book, watch that movie or read that book along with this. Imagine Pi as the life of an artist, and the Tiger as Resistance in this book. The War of Art is about our (Pi's) struggle against the Tiger (Resistance). But, Pi and the Tiger are actually the same person. Pi is the artist's calling within us, the Tiger is the artist's resistance within us. This book teaches us to recognize the two parts of ourselves and how to tame the Tiger so that we can cross the finish line.
This book is also about the regret and the wisdom of an older artist who has wasted a great deal of his life time defeated by the Tiger. If you are still young, try to grasp the wisdom of this book, so that you won't regret like the author in the later part of your life. I thank the author for the warning I got from this book.
Some of the naysayers said this book can be summarized as "just sit down and write" or "just shut up and do the work." It's not that simple. It's very dangerous when we don't know our enemy. Sun Tzu's Art of War (not this War of Art) says, "If you know yourself and know your enemy, you will win a hundred battle out of a hundred." If you shut up and do the work without acknowledging your enemy, you might end up defeated by the enemy without even knowing it because he is invisible to you, or you might end up beating the air. So this book is about how to keep the Tiger visible and at bay so that you can get your job done without being bitten by him.
Here's why I give it only four stars. This is also the reason some people gave it one star; they just went extreme. The book reads like an unfinished manuscript. It seems like the author wrote the outlines and couldn't find enough material to fill each chapter. So in many pages, you see the chapter title with only one or two short paragraphs of content, leaving the rest of the page empty, as if the author is still trying to finish the chapter.
There is no Table of Content in the Kindle version. It's usually due to the sloppy job done by the publisher. I saw a sentence that doesn't have a full stop. Another sentence wrapped down at the middle of the sentence. So this book has not been through the eyes of a good editor. But, in any case, this should not put the book to one-star.
After all, this book is about a reality of our lives that cannot be effectively described without the use of metaphors and mythologies. You have to read it with your heart and imagination, not just with your eyes. The book is flawed, but the wisdom is too important to be skipped.
(If you find the combination of this book with the Life of Pi generates more sparks of wisdom, please feel free to share them here at the comment section so that I and other artists can benefit from your insights.)