Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: The War of Art

Every once in a while, a book shows up just when you need it most. Maybe at some other time in your life, its impact would be just so-so. But in that moment, it really speaks to your soul. Right now, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield is that kind of book.

My husband has both a voracious appetite for books and a wide range of interests (Just how did I luck out and get him? I don't know, but I thank my lucky stars every day). Not too long ago, he plunked down the War of Art in front of me and said, "You should read this." Now, I'm not nearly as much of a non-fiction reader as he is (especially self-improvement books - all I usually take away is a big dose of guilt), but I remembered Sheena's excellent post about The Art of War and acquiesced.

The War of Art (subtitle: Break Through Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles) turns out to be a fascinating book. The premise is best summed up in the prologue:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
~ Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Everyone has something inside that they dream of doing, whether it's art, singing, running, or for us here at the Prosers, writing. In Pressfield's vocabulary, Resistance is the thing that keeps us from writing the words we want, from sticking to (or even starting) that diet or exercise plan, from accomplishing all those good intentions that sit warm and cozy in the back of our mind and never get done. We might think it's external things that hold us back, but most of the Resistance is really found within ourselves.

Mr. Pressfield is a Marine turned writer of military fiction. As you can imagine from his background and the title of his book, he sees the struggle with Resistance as a true battle, and the imagery is prevalent throughout. 

The book is divided into roughly three sections.
  1. Resistance: Defining the Enemy
  2. Combating Resistance: Turning Pro
  3. Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm
In many ways, the first section is set up like a series of proverbs - short pieces, less than a page long, that help define each aspect of Resistance and how it affects our ability to do the work. The second section discusses the mindset needed to overcome Resistance - an idea that I find quite compelling. The last section covers the things that keep you going.

I've found myself going slowly over the book and contemplating how it relates, not only to writing, but to other things I've always 'wished' I could do, but never seem to accomplish. I will also admit here, that in savoring it, I'm giving this review prematurely - I haven't finished the book yet, so I hope there aren't any surprises at the end!

If you find yourself at war with your dreams, if you find yourself struggling to get up and work toward your goal, this book may give you some insight and encouragement to keep moving forward. This one will definitely go in my reread pile.



  1. I just added it to my library queue! I desperately hope it's the right book for me at the right time too, because I need it--in so many ways.

  2. I have a lot of blocks keeping me from my goals (writing and life related). I think I need this book too.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Sounds perfect for me too; I've been struggling with this sort of thing a lot lately. Thanks for the review!


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