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The War of Art

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The War of Art

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The War of Art
Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
By Steven Pressfield
Black Irish Entertainment, LLC (2002)
ISBN: 978-1-936891-02-3

Reviewed by Boris Segel - December 23, 2015

The War of Art is a book about war - not war for territory or politics, but war against the forces that strive to stifle our creativity. It is a war against the forces that want to prevent us from pursuing our craft. Most important, it is a war that can be won, but first you must identify the opponent. According to Steven Pressfield, this opponent can go by many names and many guises from procrastination to self-doubt. The name that Pressfield has chosen to give this arch fiend is "Resistance" and it is one nasty foe. It will go to any extreme to keep us from even starting to work on our books or other creative endeavors. Even if we do manage to make a start, it will put as many stumbling blocks in our way as possible. In this handy little book, Pressfield identifies the enemy and the tactics it uses to defeat us (with 'us' meaning the creative potential within us). Most important, he points out that we can, with some work, defeat this enemy by turning pro. According to Pressfield, the most important weapon in our arsenal is professionalism. If we pursue our work with a professional attitude, rather than as a hobby activity, we are halfway to defeating Resistance. Once we start making some headway against Resistance, we must learn to acknowledge the gifts that we have been given. We are honor bound not only to use these gifts, but also to hone our skills so that we can improve upon the natural talents we were born with. Pressfield says that the muses (of Greek mythology), as well as angels, are the givers of these creative gifts. Not only must we be open to receiving them, but we also need to nurture them so that they can flourish. For some, this may sound a bit too metaphysical, but if so, simply give them different names. The insights he provides are just as applicable if you think that your talents came from God, or simply from the genes you were born with, either way, you must use your talent or it will wither away and you will become just an ordinary person.

I'll grant you that this is a very simplified overview of The War of Art. However, I don't want to rehash the book. My goal is simply to give you an idea of the information contained in the book.

On a fundamental level, the The War of Art can be classified as a self-help book. However, unlike most self-help books, this one does not give you written exercises or tell you to jump on one leg six times a day to alter your inner state. Instead, this is a book that plainly outlines the problem - namely "Resistance" and then explains how "Professionalism" can be used to defeat this foe. It is up to you to figure out how best to implement your defense strategy and to prosecute your own unique war against your nefarious enemy. The book also delves into the authors beliefs and feeling as to the origins of creativity and why it is so vital for creative individuals to use their gifts - not only for themselves, but also for the world at large.

The information in this book is organized into three 'books' that are aptly entitled:
  1. Resistance: Defining the Enemy
  2. Combating Resistance: Turning Pro
  3. Beyond Resistance: The Higher Ream
Within each book are short essays on subjects pertinent to each topic. Most of these essays are extremely short, with many being only one or two paragraphs in length, while other essays run on for several pages. No matter how short, or long, each essay is, each has the potential of being life changing. While some may walk away from this book no wiser than when they began it, I feel that most people will come away from this book with one or more nuggets of wisdom that will change their entire perspective upon their craft and their purpose in being on this earth.

For those not familiar with Pressfield, he has been there and done that. Early in life he was a bit scattered, taking odd jobs, writing books and screenplays that never sold, and like all too many of us, simply working at his craft when the 'urge' hit him. Over the years, however, he learned to appreciate the gifts he had been given and work at improving his craft and working as a pro. As a result, he became a professional writer both in spirt and in the purse. He has since sold many screenplays, wrote some outstanding historical novels such as The Afghan Campaign, Last of the Amazons, and Gates of Fire. He has also written a bestselling novel on golf called The Legend of Bagger Vance, and he's written several other self-help type books that have proven, over the years, to be a boon to numerous writers, painter, and other creative types. As the saying goes, "He's been there, and done that..." so why not learn from his mistakes and the wisdom that he has garnered over the years. If you need a little push to get yourself started toward the goal of becoming the person you've always wanted to be - and knew you could be - The War of Art might just be the book that will help start you on your way...

To learn more about Steven Pressfield, stop by his website at: www.stevenpressfield.com. Not only can you find information on all his books, but he also has a blog that greatly enhances the information contained in this book. And while you are at it, take a peak at the Black Irish Entertainment website, locate at shop.blackirishbooks.com Not only can you buy this book on the Black Irish Entertainment website, but also a number of other books written by Pressfield, as well as other authors. This site also contains additional information and resources that will be of interest to writers and others.


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