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League of Inveterate Poets

The out-of-context contextuality of a foolish sage

Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

By on July 31, 2010

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

UPDATE: Win a copy of The War of Art by clicking here! (Enter by 8/22/2010)

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles goes on my short shelf of “books that have changed my life”…even though I only finished reading it an hour ago. This is one book I’m glad I bought instead of borrowed, as I know I’ll want to return to it again and again.

This is not your typical self-help book. Steven Pressfield kicks ass and takes no prisoners. The title is not just clever, it’s very appropriate. Taking a cue from Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War, Pressfield uses the metaphor of battle throughout. The person who aspires to being creative–to bringing into existence in this world anything which wouldn’t be there without his efforts–is in a continuous war against powerful forces that would defeat that purpose.

The book is divided up into three mini-books. The first names the enemy: Resistance. Resistance is the personification of all those forces–internal and external, but mostly internal–that fight against us actually doing creative work. In short (usually one page) chapters, Pressfield names every attribute of Resistance so we can identify it’s influences in our own lives.

The second book is about Professionalism. Professionalism is the decision to “just do it.” The author encourages us to treat our creative endeavors like a real job: show up every day, sit down, and do your work until its time to stop. Oh, and tell the critics, internal and external, to go to hell.

The third part may be off-putting to some, but Pressfield is nothing if he is not honest throughout the book. Here he sets forth his belief that there is a mystical element to creativity. He thinks the ancients with their Muses and the medieval theologians with their guardian angels were on to something. As he quotes from William Blake: “Eternity is in love with the creations of time.” Pressfield does not require that you believe there is some spiritual reality behind all this (he does), but the important idea here is that once one sits down and actually begins to create, something larger than that person’s own intelligence takes over.

Overall I found this book easy to digest but often thought-provoking. The very short chapters make this a good candidate to dip into randomly from time to time just for the inspiration it would provide. Now I’ve got some writing to do. Take that, Mr. Resistance!

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