Chock-full of inspiring lessons and no-nonsense, get-’er-done wise words, this 2002 book is one you’ll come to time and again when you need a writing pick me up.
The War of Art is broken into three sections. In the first section, Pressfield discusses capital R Resistance, that nasty ghoul that lurks in each of our shadows, causing us to procrastinate, self-sabotage, and generally not do the capital W Work. The second section goes into how the professional creative must go about his or her day, with patience, diligence, discipline, basically all the things needed to do the capital W Work. And the third part gets all meta on us, detailing inspiration and the sublime.
The book is also punctuated by stories from Pressfield’s own life about how he came to learn some of these important lessons.
Let's take a quick look at each of the sections and some of my favourites quotations.
“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
As I mentioned, in the first section of the book, Pressfield goes into Resistance and all the different forms it can take, such as procrastination, self-sabotage, self-doubt, and more. Anybody who has ever tried anything new has certainly felt these feelings and emotions. It’s extremely difficult to overcome the various manifestations of Resistance, mostly because as human beings we’re hard-wired to avoid taking risks.
But understanding Resistance is a great first step in overcoming it.
And whether you’re looking to become a professional writer, or simply want to develop a writing practice as a way to unwind and exercise your creativity, the first step is always putting your bum in the chair.
In the second section, Pressfield talks about the difference between the amateur writer and the professional writer. Spoiler alert, the professional shows up every day. This section of the book is where you’ll find those wise words that’ll resonate instantly and make you want to sit down and write right now!
“The amateaur believes he must first overcome his fear, then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.”
Again, this speak to simply sitting down and getting words onto the page. Five minutes a day will certainly do just fine.
Finally, Pressfield goes into inspiration, the sublime, and how we access something higher than ourselves in the process of creation. If the previous section offered motivation, this section offers inspiration.
Creation, whether you’re writing, painting, dancing, or what have you, is a beautiful thing. I agree that we truly are connected to something higher when we overcome Resistance and tap into that alternate plane called inspiration. It’s like the Universe is speaking through us and we are merely the conduit for its message.
“When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears, something wonderful happens. A crack appears in the membrane.”
The War of Art is an absolutely necessary book for any creative person. Keep it with you always. We all need motivation every day and this book is sure to get you pumped about your writing.
If you ever needed a kick in the pants, or some massive motivation to get you writing, then Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle is the book for you.