Review of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield
I bought this book 15 years ago because I kept seeing it on lists of the best books about writing. I wasn’t overly impressed with it then. Most of the notations I made in the margins disagreed with some of Pressfield’s points.
Recently, I’ve seen this title pop up again on people’s lists of favorite writing books (even though it’s not strictly a writing book), and I thought maybe I’d better give it another read.
The War of Art is a 165-page collection of short segments ranging from two sentences to five pages. They are arranged in three “books” — Resistance: Defining the Enemy; Combating Resistance: Turning Pro; and Beyond Resistance: Higher Realm.
Pressfield doesn’t give us a brief definition of resistance, so I will say it is the universal obstacle that prevents the creative person from living the productive life he desires. Some might call it writer’s block or artistic block. Pressfield explores it from every angle in Book One, then explains how to counter it in Book Two.
The antidote to resistance is fully committing to one’s creative discipline: you turn pro. You show up and do the work. Whether anyone buys it or sees it or not. Turning pro as Pressfield describes it does not necessarily mean making a living from your art. Even the creative pro probably has a day job or a side hustle.
Book Three, however, is where Pressfield waxes profound:
We’re not born with unlimited choices.
We can’t be anything we want to be.
We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become . . .
Our job in this lifetime is . . . to find out who we already are and become it.
If we were born to paint, it’s our job to become a painter.
If we were born to raise and nurture children, it’s our job to become a mother.
If we were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world, it’s our job to realize it and get down to business.
I’m not sure if I totally believe the philosophy excerpted above, but I want to ponder it awhile.
The War of Art is worth reading and even rereading.