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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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"A vital gem...A kick in the ass for all of us with a tendency towards procrastination."
"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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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!
However, the book had an oddly religious tone to it—arguing that you need to stop participating in any activities that give you a warm fuzzy immediately gratifying feeling (like eating chocolate) with the implication that giving into these activities makes resistance stronger. This might be true, but it seems like an unrealistic basis for lowering resistance and affecting positive change in one self. I've found a number of strategies for enabling my own creative work, like establishing a consistent routine or only letting myself watch TV for an hour at the very end of the day (rather than trying to give up TV all together, which I find rarely works). The book presented no such strategies.
The book also had some pretty wacky ideas that made it hard to stomach. For example, it suggests that World War 2 is a result of Hitler giving into resistance and not pursuing his career as an artist/architect. This is a logical fallacy called "hypothesis contrary to fact," there is no basis to claim that world war 2 would have been averted if Hitler had become an artist instead (in fact, the political climate probably would have led to the same war under a different figure head).
Lastly, the book takes a "fixed mindset" perspective on creativity, i.e., people are either born creative or they are not. This is in contrast to a "growth mindset" perspective, which would say that everyone can be creative if they learn from their mistakes and work hard to cultivate creative strategies, skills, and knowledge. Carol Dweck's research on these two mindsets (see Mindset: The New Psychology of Success) suggests that the growth mindset perspective (whether it is right or not) leads people to have less stressful and more successful lives. Further, the book's fixed mindset position basically reduces to the idea that there is nothing you can do to be more creative (you just have to be born creative)—undermining my entire intention for purchasing the book.
"The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear, then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there's no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist. What Henry Fonda does, after puking into the toilet in his dressing room, is to clean up and march out onstage. He's still terrified but he forces himself forward in spite of his terror. He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he'll be okay."
~ Steven Pressfield from The War of Art
This is the 109th review I've created. Up to this point, I've made a lot of strong recommendations on books I think you'd love but I've never said you *must* read a particular book.
I'm gonna break that streak here.
If you're a creative person, you need to read this book. It's that good. And, when I say "creative person" I mean anyone who's committed to creating an authentically awesome life. (And, given the fact that you're reading this, my hunch is that clearly means YOU!)
I'm not sure how many times I've read The War of Art over the years but it's a lot. Each time I pick it up I get a swift kick in the creative butt and my life takes a significant step forward.
As the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and a number of great best-selling novels (my favorite beyond Bagger Vance is Gates of Fire--an incredible portrayal of the classic Spartan warriors), Steven Pressfield knows what it's like to create. He has an extraordinary way of capturing the challenges we face in the War of Art--along with the means by which we can overcome those obstacles (or, as he calls it "Resistance"). Powerful stuff.
Here's just a few of the Big Ideas:
1. Throwing Up - It happens.
2. Work & Its By-Products - Let results take care of themselves.
3. True Love - The amateur vs. the professional.
4. It's 9 O'Clock - Time for inspiration to strike.
5. Time to Turn Pro - A checklist.
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