Pressfield’s metaphor is an apt one, in which the artist is in a heated battle against their Resistances. If she wins, she creates. If she loses … well, we all know what happens then. Filled with insight, no nonsense advice, and taking no excuses, this book is a must-read for any artist who has struggled with their creativity and creative production.
I’ll be honest: the only reason I bought this book was the play on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The way it was shelved, I didn’t even see the cover. But the title + subtitle combination was enough to pique my interest. Read over the course of two days, it didn’t disappoint.
I loved Pressfield’s voice here. He’s honest and brutal, empathetic and caring … a juxtaposition of elements that lets the reader know they’re in for tough love, but it’s caring and comes from a place of kindness. Organized into three books–resistance, combating resistance, and beyond resistance–the narrative is clear and easy to follow. (And, for those of you with small children who get interrupted a lot, the segmented nature of each book makes it easy to read a few pages, then put down and come back to without losing what you were reading about.)
Resistance is elicited by “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” It’s the thing that tells you it’s okay to binge-watch Netflix tonight because your manuscript will be there tomorrow to work on . . . except tomorrow never comes.
After a close analysis of Resistance, how it works, and why it shows up, Pressfield moves into a discussion about turning pro and why artists should be doing this if they want to bring their dreams to life. The biggest difference between the pro and the amateur? The amateur shows up when she feels like it and the pro, she’s there every day–no sick days, no “I don’t wanna” days. Every day, without fail. And along the way, she develops key characteristics that can help her move forward against her Resistance(s).
A few points stood out as I read, things that I’ll definitely be remembering, including Pressfield’s discussion of the Marines and how they teach you a useful thing: how to be miserable. The analogy shouldn’t be surprising, given the title, and it works. The idea of the artist at war with his own Resistances is one that we’ve seen time and time again. Thankfully, by the time you get to book three, Beyond Resistance, you’ll have some effective tools in this battle for creative productivity.
“The Artist must be like that Marine. He has to Know how to be miserable. He has to love Being miserable.”S. Pressfield, The War of Art, p. 68
Further into the book, Pressfield talks about the relationship between Resistance and fear, of the risks you have to take as a creator to embrace your ideals and release your Authentic Self. Is it scary? You bet. The idea of reaching for an ideal and failing, falling flat on your face or worse, is anxiety-provoking at the best of times. But if you take that step, leap into the great unknown, wonderous things are possible.
“We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. More than our parents/ children/ teachers think we are. we fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us.S. Pressfield, The War of Art, p. 143.
Overall, this book delivers on its back-cover promise that it’s “an inspirational, funny, well-aimed kick in the pants guaranteed to galvanize every would-be artist, visionary, or entrepreneur.” Seriously, if you’re blocked, struggling with whether what you create is “good enough,” or just looking for inspiration, this one is a must-read.
TL;DR Written in three parts that look at Resistance, combating Resistance, and moving Beyond Resistance, Pressfield’s book gives you the tools necessary to identify your creative blocks, battle through them, and work towards your ideal, authentic, artistic Self.
Similar recommendations …
If you liked The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, you might also enjoy:
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, by Tom Kelly and David Kelly
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, by Twyla Tharp
A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Young