The war of art is an excellent book by Steven Pressfield. I wanted to read this book because I’ve heard many people talk about it. For example, I’ve heard Joe Rogan and James Altucher reference it in several podcasts. Steven Pressfield is best known for writing the book The Legend Of Bagger Vance.
the war of art
The book is about what it takes to be a professional creative. It’s not about how to be more creative but instead about how to create the work environment so that creativity comes to you. Steven really stresses that this material is to help people become full time creatives.
He says many times in the book that the sitting down part of creating is the hardest part. It is not actually the creating part. He is specifically speaking about writing but this can be for many reasons.
There are 3 parts to this book.
Part one – The book of resistance
Part two – Combating resistance
Part three – beyond resistance
Part One – the book of resistance
The first part of the book is about outlining what resistance is about.
The main thing that I got out of this book was that we all have something that opposed our creativity called resistance. Resistance is what it sounds like. It is any force that resists you putting out your best creativity. It could be sex, video games, online shopping, etc. Anything that is for short term gain is resistance.
He also goes into the common characteristics of resistance. That part wasn’t as valuable to me. What you basically need to know is that resistance is pervasive in your life and does everything it can to make sure that you can’t do creative work.
Then he goes into some symptoms of resistance. The symptoms are essentially the common activities that you will be doing if you are encountering resistance in your life.
Sex – Many people use sex as a means to hold off from their creative work. This one is pretty obvious since people want to feel good. This is just another way to feel good along with other things like eating foods that are “bad” for you.
Procrastination – This is when you tell yourself that you will eventually do something. There is no time like the present.
Trouble – Many people get in trouble so that they don’t have to do their creative work.
Self-medication – do you use food, drugs or medication as a diversion from your feelings or creative work?
Fundamentalism – He goes on a mini rant about religion during this fundamentalism symptom discussion. He compares creativity to fundamentalist religion. I’m not sure I got his whole point there. I thought he was trying to say creativity is the opposite of religion, but then he references the importance of religion later in the book.
Fear – people often don’t do their creative work out of fear. However this could be positive because your fear could be a sign that you are on the right path. It’s often hard to do what you want to do. This could be the type of fear that you have.
Healing – This is another good one. People often feel like they can’t get started on their path until they are healed. If this were true, many of us would never start on the right path for ourselves.
Part two – Combating resistance
In order to combat resistance, you must go at your creativity like it’s a full time job. What do you do when you have a full time job. You show up early in the morning and you stay on the job until the end of the day. You do this no matter what day it is. You can’t just give up on your job any day because you will get fired. You should approach your creative work in the same manner.
You should also do you work out of love. The more you love your creative endeavor, the more you should pursue it for the evolution of your soul.
You should not purse your passion solely for money.
Pressfield goes into some characteristics of a professional:
Patient – The professional is patient. In order to be a professional, you must be patient. You can’t expect to be famous and get results today. One of the coolest things that Pressfield said is that we are only entitled to our labor and not the fruits of our labor. This means that you can’t look at every piece of work that you do and expect to have huge results.
Seeks order – you should have your work life and your house in order. He says that the creatives muses seek order in the world, so you should seek to have your house and life in order. In listening to other books, you should do this to discipline yourself and challenge your mental toughness.
Does not take success/failure personally – This goes along with distancing yourself from your work product. Whether or not you become a success should not dictate your creative pursuits. You should pursue what is important to you.
Self Validates – Pressfield says that a professional self validates which I agree with. In order to be successful at anything in life we need to validate ourselves. This means that we have to tell ourselves that we are worth it. We are worth putting in the creative work. Stop procrastinating and focusing on others.
Asks for help when needed – A professional shoudn’t think they can do everything themselves. This is consistent with other self help books. We all need mentors and peers to help us out, and we can’t be afraid to ask for help.
Book Three – Beyond Resistance
Another thing that is cool about this book is Pressfield going into Jungian psychology. I’m interested in Jungian psychology because of Carl Jung’s shadow work. However, Pressfield references Jung’s work on the ego and self. He says that the egoic self is when we are only looking out for ourselves. The self operates on a higher plane. It is where we can access creativity.
He also goes into focusing on assessing yourself hierarchically or territorially. If you look at yourself hierarchically, then you are basically comparing yourself to others. Many of us fall into this trap because we are competitive. You shouldn’t do this. You should focus on your territory. Your territory is something you are good at and can’t live without. I’m not sure if I agree with this because I think there are many creatives that could live without their vocation. He said a good way to assess this is ask yourself what would you do on your last day alive or would you do this activity if it was your last day on earth. I don’t think every artist would necessarily do their art on their last day on earth.
Avoid resistance and go to work on your creativity. Don’t focus on outcomes of your work and just focus on the work. Don’t identify yourself with your work. Your work is your work – it isn’t your life.