I’ve read a lot of writing books over the years, as a teen and as an adult. They come and go; some books hit me profoundly but unfortunately, most don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I find reading through many of them once worth while, but there is only a hand full that really make an impression on me and entice me to go to them over and over again. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is one of the few writing books that has hit home for me. I read it for the first time over a year ago and (contrary to my Goodreads status) I’ve read and listened to The War of Art multiple times. It’s one of my favorite writing books.
A WriterAlina Book Review
The War of Art
The War of Art is not exactly a how-to writing book. One of the reasons this book speaks to me is because it is more about encouragement and the creative process. The War of Art is for everyone who wants to achieve anything great in their life, it’s not just for writers even though the primary examples Pressfield uses are writing related because he uses himself as the object of example many times. But like the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, the book is meant for anyone who has an artistic, spiritual, or business venture. I think that’s why Pressfield titled the book The War of Art instead of the War of Writing.
About The War of Art
Pressfield divided The War of Art into three parts: Book 1 – Resistance: Defining the Enemy, Book 2 – Combating Resistance: Turning Pro, and Book 3 – Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm. Each part is distinct and can stand on its own, but when read together brings the whole book into a magical coalesance.
The War of Art Book 1 – Resistance
The War of Art Book 1 is a discussion about what holds us (the artist, the writer, the entrepreneur, the spiritualist) back from our aspirations. Pressfield gives many examples of how people sabotage ourselves and/or set ourselves up for failure. He encourages his readers to identify what it is that you do in your own life to avoid what he calls “doing your work.” As I mentioned, he often uses himself as the primary example of someone “combating resistance” and he is extremely blunt and scathing in pointing out these actions and attitudes of sabotage. He also points out that we need to overcome our own need for psychobabble, there may be perfectly legitimate reasons for why we do the things that we do, but in his estimation, we are just using many of the things we do as an excuse to avoid fulfilling our dreams.
The War of Art Book 2 – Combating Resistance
Combating Resistance is, I believe, the primary goal of this book. The discussion in book 2 is about what you can do to transition yourself from a hobbyist to a professional. Combating Resistance is all about taking yourself seriously and deciding to be a professional at what you do. Again he uses himself as an example but here, more than elsewhere in the book, he uses many other examples of people who “turn pro” or act like a pro. It’s obvious that Pressfield enjoys golf and admires Tiger Woods for many of his turning pro examples involve Tiger Woods.
The War of Art Book 3 – Beyond Resistance
In Book 3 – Beyond Resistance, Pressfield turns to a more spiritual or ethereal in his approach and descriptions. He obviously believes in a “higher” plane of existence and there are forces that help and hinder humanity. This more abstract perspective might be off-putting to a lot of people, especially if you don’t believe in God or believe that there are unexplained forces in the universe that influence our lives. But the fact that he does discuss his inspiration in such a way is what attracts me to read this book again and again. It is obvious to me that this man follows the voice of his spirit and is unashamed to tell the rest of the world that.
Here, Pressfield also shares how we can change our minds about our work, where we fit into the world, and how we can succeed.
WriterAlina’s Take On The War of Art
One of the reasons The War of Art spoke so soundly to me is the fact that I saw myself in many of the examples explaining resistance. I admit that I do hold myself back from my writing, from my art, and from expressing my true self in the world. Though I’ve been on this journey for a while, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to admit this to myself. Now I have to decide to “overcome resistance” and live my life, write my stories, express my art.
Turning pro is what I’m doing now. I stumble often, but I’m so grateful that I have The War of Art to guide me and remind me of what I have to do in order to be a professional. I believe in treating art as a business and that it’s important to train the people around me that it’s a business. That is how I can move forward.
I gain my inspiration from many places. I like the idea of haing a prayer or doing a short meditation just before doing my writing. Even though I may not be having the best of days, this five-minute activity helps me to reconnect with myself, my spirit, my inspiration so that I can create the best art I can create. I haven’t perfected how I invoke my muse, but I’m getting there. I thought about stealing Pressfield’s poem from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T. E. Lawrence, but it just doesn’t fit for me. It’s a good idea though.
My second major takeaway from this part of the book is the idea of focusing on “territory” instead of “hierarchy.” We are human; we all think about hierarchy at one point or another. I’ve never been good at the hierarchy game, the rules never made sense to me, and I don’t like to play. But here, Pressfield gave me a different concept to think about and integrate into my thinking. Territory.
Instead of comparing myself to other writers, bloggers, storytellers, whatever I figure out what my territory is. What is my expertise? What do I have to offer? What is my story? I have to focus on creating my territory and maintaining it. So I say some of the same things as other people, but no one is going to the same thing in exactly the same way as me. Some people may connect to me and some may connect to someone else, but the point is to focus on my message, my story, my truth.
I absolutely recommend The War of Art by Steven Pressfield to anyone who wants encouragement to accomplish their goals. It’s a book that could potentially nudge your mind just enough in the right direction that you can find the strength within yourself to create your life.
My favorite takeaway from The War of Art is the following quote. It really conveys an idea that I’ve always believed myself and I feel Pressfield expresses eloquently.
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art (p. 146). Black Irish Entertainment LLC. Kindle Edition.
Hmm… I might steal this as an affirmation one of these months. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.
What are Your Thoughts?
Have you ever read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield? Did I inspire you to pick up this book for yourself? To be honest, reading this book certainly inspired me to add a couple of his books to my “to read” list that’s for sure. What about you? I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.