[Book Review]: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

I do a lot of reading. I don’t usually do specific reviews, even over on Good Reads (the book cataloging system that I use). But, this particular book , The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, fits what I have been thinking about, and in some ways trying to practice. Because of all of that, I felt compelled to share what I thought of it.

Cover of "The War of Art: Break Through t...The book is divided into three sections: Resistance: Defining the Enemy; Combating Resistance: Turning Pro; and Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm. I thought it was interesting to see how he defined it, dealt with it, and what is on the other side (the help).

There was lots here that I appreciated:

  • I appreciated his direct approach to looking at Resistance, as an entity.
  • I appreciated the “sit down, do the work” attitude. (I sometimes need that reminder.)
  • I appreciated the idea of “turning pro,” and what becoming a professional rather than an amateur means. (This doesn’t necessarily mean blogging, publishing, or book touring. It’s a mindset.)
  • I appreciated the gems of wisdom that were throughout.

I think the thing that I had the greatest beef with was the idea that Resistance is an enemy to be defeated, to be dominated, to be beat down into submission, with your foot on top of it like a trophy. That somehow, Resistance doesn’t also have its own purpose, but rather, simply doesn’t want us to do the work we were made to do. There are two parts to my thinking. First, that Resistance does appear when something is vitally important. Second, that Resistance serves a purpose – and not just one that doesn’t want us to do the work.

English: A brick wall in Giza, Egypt.
English: A brick wall in Giza, Egypt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Resistance is a good internal indicator that something precious, something to be treasured, is just beyond where we are. Or, maybe we’re standing in the middle of it, and we can’t see it for what it is. Rather, we want to fight it or ignore it. We don’t want to learn from it. But when I feel resistance to something, I try (operative word: try) to recognize what’s there. Because I believe that Resistance sometimes serves a purpose beyond that of not wanting us to do our heart’s work. That purpose is to protect us from what we may not be ready for.

For example, I studied with a contemplative writing practice teacher for nearly four years. There would be sessions I would walk away from, thinking that Resistance had foiled me (again). I felt that I had danced around the subject and just needed to Get In There Now.  My teacher, a very smart, compassionate woman was like, “What if you need to come at it sideways? What if Resistance is because you’re not quite ready yet?” And it wasn’t that I never returned to those topics.

But sometimes, I did have to get there from a different direction. Sometimes, I had to, oh so s.l.o.w.l.y., chip away at those bricks, at that Resistance, as I found the courage and the internal resources.

I’m not saying Resistance is just sometimes me not wanting to work. That it’s about the freaking brain weasels wanting to play instead of settle down and let me work. Sometimes, I have to wield that heavy hand and say “I’m working.” But I find that Resistance is sometimes more responsive if I’ve treated it with respect and compassion, instead of treating it only as an enemy to be beaten into submission.

What about you? How do you face and work with your Resistance (or, as I sometimes call them, the Don’t Wannas)?


4 thoughts on “[Book Review]: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

  1. Thanks for this review! The War of Art has been on my “should I read?” list for a while, so it was good to come upon your thoughts of it! And I agree with many of your ideas about Resistance — that it’s not just an obstinate block, but that it sometimes (often?) has an actual purpose.

    • It’s definitely an interesting read; the first part or two of the book (there are three total) which are interesting and thoughtful and definitely made me think about art and what are some of the blocks we come up with? I think that there is value in the book; I’m just not really sure it tells the whole story. :)

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