The War of Art Book Review

As outlined in my introductory blog post, the name was inspired by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I recently re-read the book since I find its contents invaluable, and thought I’d write a review.

First off, I will say that if I had to choose one book, it would probably be this one.  The War of Art is special in the sense that it’s down-to-earth but at the same time somewhat spiritual. It does an incredible job of telling you exactly what’s stopping you from getting to your goals, and what is required of you to get there.

At the start, you are introduced to resistance, a force that everybody can relate to. Simply put, it’s the thing that stops you from getting stuff done, including going to the gym or writing a blog post.

The author does an excellent job at explaining the nature of resistance as if it were some sort of enemy creature.  Sentences such as“Resistance aims to kill.” are simple, but make it clear that this force is relentless and above all dangerous. As you go through the concise paragraphs used to describe resistance, you realize more and more that you’ve been fighting this beast your entire life, for better or for worse.

Once the reader is informed about the nature of this beast we call resistance, the author explains how it manifests itself in human life and its effects. As I read this part of the book I often have flashbacks to parts of my life where resistance had a played a role in stopping me from taking critical action which could’ve impacted my life greatly. Being able to identify when we’re being affected by resistance is important since due to its sneaky nature it often manifests itself as an emotion that we consider normal, such as fear.

Next, the author explains how to “turn pro”. To me, a simple and aggressive way of explaining a pro is somebody who shuts up and does the work he needs to do, regardless of the circumstances. A lot more detail is given as to what a pro actually is, and much of that is contrasted with the term amateur, a not yet turned pro.  In fact, the pro is defined in such great detail that it’s almost impossible to deceive yourself into thinking that you are one if you aren’t. You’ll quickly realize which of your behaviors don’t align with being a pro.

The final part of the book labeled The Higher Realm is where things get a little weird, especially if it’s your first time coming across this sort of material. The author begins talking about the Muse, a sort of entity whose job is opposite to that of resistance. The Muse helps to push you towards your goals by manifesting things within your reality. The Muse rewards dedication and effort hence why sitting down and doing the work is so important.

This may seem mystical or bullshit at first, but most of us can relate to the following: You’ve been putting off something for some time now dreading the idea of going through all the work to get it done. You finally sit down to do it and the first ten to fifteen minutes are wasted doing nothing. Slowly though, as you begin taking action the task becomes more and more enjoyable, far easier than you had imagined it to be. Sometime later you look at the clock thinking it has been 45 minutes since you started, surprised to realize it’s been 3 hours.

This, of course, doesn’t happen always but generally as you begin taking action things start falling into place. The more frequently you do this, the more results you begin to produce, the closer you get to where you’d like to be. Whether or not there is something called Muse doesn’t matter to me, what’s far more important is the understanding of the work that is required in order to begin this chain of events that lead up to success.

After defining the Muse and its purpose, the author goes over the paradigm shifts required in order to make the relationship with the Muse an effective one. Concepts in this part of the book are quite similar to those mentioned in eastern philosophy, such as distinguishing between the Ego and the Self, and which of the two we need to dissolve.

The final paragraph of the book states “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 every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got. “. I found this powerful since I never really considered being lazy or indifferent as a selfish act. I now consider the failure of acting upon my true desires as some level of harm to the world.




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Karol Zdebel

Recent Computer Science graduate, and current Android developer.

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