Title: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Author: Steven Pressfield
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date of Publication: 2002
Genre: non-fiction – Self-Help
Brief Overview: (from the back of the book)
In this powerful, straight-from-the-hip examination of the internal obstacles to success, bestselling author Steven Pressfield shows readers how to identify, defeat, and unlock the inner barriers to creativity. The War of Art is an inspirational, funny, well-aimed kick in the pants guaranteed to galvanize every would be artist, visionary, or entrepreneur.
Brief Review: This book has been in print for over a decade and is still quite popular (I had to wait over a month to obtain a copy from my local library). I understand why. It is a quick read with a wealth of wisdom. It was the exact book I needed to read at this point in my life, and I have a feeling there will be other times where it will be equally pertinent to pick up and re-read again.
Of course I read the book as a novice writer … but really the truths pertain to all creative endeavors: painter, sculptor, poet, musician, photographer, etc.
Here are a few profound quotes that I have taken to heart:
Resistance is what prevents us from moving forward:
Editors are not the enemy; critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy. … Resistance uses fear of rejection to paralyze us and prevent us, if not from doing our work, then from exposing it to public evaluation. (page 87)
Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance:
(Procrastination) is the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.” (page 21)
Rationalization is Resistance’s right-hand man:
(Rationalization’s) job is to keep us from feeling the same we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work. (page 53)
If Resistance let us see clearly that our own fear is preventing us from doing our work, we may feel shame – and shame may drive us to act in the face of fear” (page 55)
The way to combat Resistance is to Turn Pro:
“Resistance knows that the amateur will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him. … Do not over identify with the job; we are not our job description.” (page 70)
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.” (page 79)
The Hierarchy structure does not work; creatives must operate from a territorial standpoint:
“The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake. … In the hierarchy the artist looks up and down. The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.” (page 151)
“The act of creation is by definition territorial. As the mother-to-be bears her child within her, so the artist contains her new life. No one can help her give birth. … The artist and mother are vehicles, not originators. They don’t create the new life, they only bear it.” (page 156)
Art for Art’s Sake:
“We should be asking ourselves, what do I feel growing inside of me? Let me bring that forth, if I can, for its own sake and not for what it can do for me or how it can advance my standing.” (page 157)
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and ever being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” (page 165)
These are, of course, only the highlights. Every page offers an encouraging word and a mandate to keep pressing forward. We all have a story to tell, in whatever medium we choose. It is our duty to tell it and share it with others.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars