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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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"Amazingly cogent and smart on the psychology of creation."
About the Author
STEVEN PRESSFIELD is the author of Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos and the international bestselling novels, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, The Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, and The Profession. He lives in Los Angeles.
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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 international reviews
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.
War of ArtAfter a couple of focused business books recently, I decided to give this a try this weekend – and finished it in two sittings. It is a beautifully precise book, with an economy of language – but it is also engrossing and enjoyable.
The War of Art describes the internal obstacles that inhibit success, collecting them together in a tangible, palpable collective which Pressfield describes as ‘resistance’. It’s an unseen, malevolent force that blocks so many people from achieving their true potential.
By identifying ‘resistance’, the author also helps shape the attitude and form that the reader needs to adopt, in order to go to battle. By assuming the position of a ‘professional’, he sets you up for the fight.
Fortunately, the professional is not alone in this war with resistance, in the third part of the book we read about the supportive forces we can summon to overcome our adversary.
The book is written as a set of ideas, short paragraphs or vignettes that give an incredible insight into the human psyche. At turns, the book is practical and helpful and then turns more romantic – summoning muses and angels to help the struggling reader.
The War of Art doesn’t just apply to artists and creators, but to anyone who feels resistance to anything. Resistance to moving on from the past, resistance to healing issues, resistance to moving onwards and upwards in any field. By defining the challenge and providing inspiration for the battle this book offers an eye=opening approach to the next steps.
I highly recommend The War of Art to anyone who is looking for insight into human psychology and motivation.
"Do I write on schedule or when inspiration strikes? Only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9 o'clock sharp." - Maughan.
"Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too." - Murray
As an arch procrastinator with an embarrassingly short attention span I found the unusual structure of this book very helpful. The chapters, for want of a better word, are very short, often just a page or two and sometimes just a paragraph. However, they feel beautifully crafted with each one putting forward its meaning both concisely and powerfully (although I do find the term "Resistance" a little broad and have found substituting the word "Familiarity" helpful).
I find myself re-reading War of Art and Turning Pro quite frequently and have been through both books several times now. Each time through I seem to notice something new in the relatively few words, or maybe they are just sinking in a little more. Either way, deep down we probably already know what is being written about but it somehow helps to see it before our eyes. I find that I can pick up either book, pick a page at random and find something immediately relevant to put in the 'here and now' which is so helpful.
It feels that Steven has put a lot of himself into this book in quite an authentic and revealing way. I think anyone who has, or who is contemplating putting anything creative 'out there' will recognise the bravery in that.
Incidentally, I ordered War of Art and Turning Pro from Amazon at the same time and Turning Pro happened to turn up first, so I read it before War of Art. I'm glad I did. Although Turning Pro was written later and expands on Part 2 of War of Art, it feels more like a prequel.
I think they are both excellent books.