“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

Once every while, we all are stumbled with a book that helps us introspect where we are going and forces us to re-think the forces that are driving our past, present, and future. One such book is “The War of Art” which takes a bit punitive stance towards productivity. Steven Pressfield, the author of the book is a renowned author and a scriptwriter in Hollywood who wrote the famous “The Legend of Bagger Vance” starring Matt Damon and Will Smith.

The heart of the book is an open and candid discussion on “The Resistance” that comes in the path of great success. The book is divided into 3 parts :

  • Defining the enemy (i.e. The Resistance)
  • Combating Resistance (or Turning Pro)
  • Beyond Resistance (or The Higher Realm)

It is a book that deserves to be read in a single sitting and definitely be repeated again and again till you come out stronger against the Resistance. However, for starting, a general appreciation of what resistance is, and can do to you is good enough as well.

The book is well suitable for artists, writers, content experts, entrepreneurs, creative professionals, innovators, designers, product developers, and anybody who is trying to create something new and is following the righteous path of “Creation”

Book 1 : The Resistance

In this, Steven talks about essential traits of Resistance so you get familiar with whom you are going to battle with. It tells you what Resistance is, what can it do to you, and how to be aware of its presence around you. Few high notes I captured about the nature of Resistance are :

  • It is an internal invisible force
  • It is unreasonable: you can’t talk to him
  • It is universal and everywhere
  • It never sleeps
  • It is linked with your fear
  • It is linked to sexual satisfaction
  • One of the symptoms is Self Dramatization
  • Victimhood is started by Resistance
  • Resistance hates Pure Love (however you feel love and resistance together)
  • The attitude of Fundamentalism is that of a Resistance
  • It is most powerful at the finishing line

Steven also talks about certain uncomfortable facts e.g. “No matter what you do where you go, pain is always there. The athlete knows there won’t be a single day he will wake up pain-free.”

Resistance loves healing and it knows that more we fall into the trap of expending the tired, boring injustices of our lives, more we will be drained of the power that fights Resistance and lesser accomplished we will be. — -Pretty Nasty Disease if you ask me. (Oh, I am a patient, not a Doctor here. Just one of those patients who perhaps knows the diagnosis)

Book 2: Turning Pro and Combating Resistance

There is only one way to combat resistance — Turning Pro. The difference between Amateur and Professional is the way each of them treats the internal resistance. An Amateur might call his/her art a hobby, a part-time activity, or something their lives don’t depend on but still boast a lot about it. Resistance always prevents Amateurs to do something wonderful and bring their art to the world. A professional never boasts about his/her art and demands a full-time dedication towards the same. Turning Pro means going full-time in it like there is nothing else left in the world to do.

One of my favorite lines in this part is

Upon asking Somerset Maugham if he wrote only when inspiration stuck him or scheduled a time for writing, he said : “ I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9'o clock sharp

This signifies one crucial trait of a Professional — valuing your time for your art. Several other aspects of turning pro are :

  • Pros are patient. They don’t set unrealistic deadlines and work every day to attain their targets.
  • Pros seek order and organize themselves.
  • Pros act in the face of fear even when they are terrified.
  • They don’t accept any excuses.
  • They are prepared for any contingencies.
  • They are never a show-off.
  • They dedicate themselves to mastering their technique.
  • Never take failures personally.
  • They keep on reinventing themselves.

One other thing Steven mentioned in this section was about You, Inc. Getting yourself incorporated has many advantages in taxation, getting clients, etc but one major advantage is it gives you a license to Turn Pro as you respect your work for beyond yourself and associate itself with a larger than your brand. (Humility → Respect !)

Book 3 : Beyond Resistance and The Higher Realms

This part gets a bit psychic as Steven talks a lot about forces beyond natural i.e. the supernatural, muses, and angels. The belief system is that there is a God who created us all and is in love with the creations we are bestowing upon the good people of the planet he created. The saying as goes :

Eternity is in love with the creations of time

is the tagline of this website (i.e. my though-universe in digital space)

What it means is that nature is looking forward to our work to be completed so it can help or please or entertain others as well as nature itself. Hence not getting your work committed is not just a crime against yourself but also a betrayal to mother nature.

However, Steven says, it is important to even invoke the angels or invoke the muse while starting working for your creations. It could be a simple prayer, thanking God/nature to provide us with everything that made us capable to create something or it could be even to the Muse / God created by our ancestors e.g daughter of God Zeus or Saraswati in Hindu mythology.

In the end, Lord of discipline has an ask for each of us :

Give the act to me, Purged of Hope and ego

Fix your attention and soul. Act and do for me