Book Review: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Over and over again, entrepreneurs interviewed on Entrepreneur on Fire have listed The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles* by Steven Pressfield as a best business book. In fact, as I write this blog post, it has appeared 31 times out of 1,755 interviews. I finally took a moment to sit down and read this book. On many levels, I can understand why it is been recommended.

The War of Art is 190 pages long and there are three major sections or books. These sections are:

  • Resistance
  • Combating resistance
  • Beyond resistance

Each book is further organized into many, many smaller chapters. Each chapter is only one or two pages long and focuses on one topic. In the book about resistance, there are 37 chapters.

The purpose of the book is to be inspirational and educational. Artists and creators are the primary targets of this book. Steven Pressfield is a writer and through storytelling, he describes the struggles he has had with his craft.

As you look around your house or garage, do you find items that you bought with good intention only to find them collecting dust? Pressfield says that resistance has won the battle. As I look around my house, I can see all kinds of great intentions. But I have met resistance and lost many of the battles. It’s one of the reasons I bought this book.

Book one – Resistance

In the first book—resistance, Pressfield defined what resistance is. This first section talked about the activities that are often met with resistance. These activities include creating things such as writing books, making art, or writing music. Resistance is also the force you come up against as you diet. Other resistance may be when you’re trying to advance your learning. You always find a reason why you need to take a break.

Pressfield shared many short chapters defining this idea on resistance and how powerful it is as it prevents you from achieving your goals. As I was reading this section, I learned about the different powerful points of resistance. It will prevent you from moving forward at different parts of a project. This was actually quite eye-opening. It is amazing the subtle ways that resistance takes hold and interrupts your activities. As I look back on a recent project, I can see where resistance subtly took over my project and stopped it in its tracks. Now I have to work to get it back in motion.

Book two – Combating resistance

While I thought book one was important for understanding resistance and all the ways that it can manifest itself, I thought book two was the most useful. It provided strategies to overcome resistance. At the beginning of this chapter, Pressfield highlighted the difference between being an amateur and a professional. Resistance has a large part to play in this. The major difference is that a professional starts and goes to work every day.

Pressfield pointed out we are already professionals. We get up. We go to work. We do the work. We stay at work regardless if we want to do the work or not. We get paid for work. The challenge is to turn something that you love into a profession. The switch to being a professional is applying the work mentality to what you love to do as a hobby.

As I analyze myself, I know that I am an amateur in many things that I do. I do not show up to do the work. For some of these areas, I am working on new strategies to help carve out the time and discipline to make the transition from amateur to pro. Pressfield talks about the need for creating order. Systems can help you through periods where resistance is taking hold.

Book three – Beyond resistance

This chapter was a little strange for me. It discussed forces that I cannot explain or comprehend, but I found it fascinating none the less. According to Pressfield, the resistance is a force that fights against you, but you also have a force that wants you to succeed. It is a matter of allowing this other force to help you get through the obstacles to produce your craft.

Pressfield spoke at length about the Muses, the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Each Muse was responsible for a different creative art from writing to music to painting. Pressfield stated that these muses help guide artists in their crafts. We just need to get out of the way and let them do their job.

He also dove into some psychology. He talked about Jung’s theories about the Ego and Self.

All in all, I found The War of Art to be very interesting and inspirational. I came to recognize the various elements of resistance that gets in the way of my progress. I also learned about some strategies that will help me move forward. A lot of this I already knew, but Pressfield pulled it together into a book that helped clarify what I knew. If you have an artistic streak in you, which we all do, this is a good book to read. The War of Art will show you the little voices in your head that cause you to resist moving forward. It also shows you how to ignore the negative voices and listen to the positive ones.


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