The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936891023
Publisher: Black Irish Entertainment LLC
Publication date: 01/11/2012
Pages: 190
Sales rank: 921
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

STEVEN PRESSFIELD is the author of Turning Pro, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos and the international bestselling novels, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Last of the Amazons, The Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign, Killing Rommel, and The Profession. He lives in Los Angeles.

Read an Excerpt

The War of Art

Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
By Steven Pressfield

Warner Books

Copyright © 2002 Steven Pressfield
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0446691437

Chapter One


Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It's a repelling force. It's negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.

* * *


Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves. We locate it in spouses, jobs, bosses, kids. "Peripheral opponents," as Pat Riley used to say when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers.

Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.

* * *


Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that's what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

* * *


Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn't go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

* * *


Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it's the easiest to rationalize. We don't tell ourselves, "I'm never going to write my symphony." Instead we say, "I am going to write my symphony; I'm just going to start tomorrow."

* * *


Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

* * *


Are you paralyzed with fear? That's a good sign.

Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That's why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there'd be no Resistance.

Have you ever watched Inside the Actors Studio? The host, James Lipton, invariably asks his guests, "What factors make you decide to take a particular role?" The actor always answers: "Because I'm afraid of it."

The professional tackles the project that will make him stretch. He takes on the assignment that will bear him into uncharted waters, compel him to explore unconscious parts of himself.

Is he scared? Hell, yes. He's petrified.

(Conversely, the professional turns down roles that he 's done before. He's not afraid of them anymore. Why waste his time?)

So if you're paralyzed with fear, it 's a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.

* * *


If Resistance couldn't be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge. Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.

* * *


Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.

The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes. I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.

To be clear: When I say professional, I don't mean doctors and lawyers, those of "the professions." I mean the Professional as an ideal. The professional in contrast to the amateur. Consider the differences.

The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps.

To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it's his vocation.

The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time.

The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.

The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning "to love." The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his "real" vocation.

The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

That's what I mean when I say turning pro.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro.

* * *


Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp."

That's a pro.

In terms of Resistance, Maugham was saying, "I despise Resistance; I will not let it faze me; I will sit down and do my work."

Maugham reckoned another, deeper truth: that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration, as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with his.

He knew if he built it, she would come.


Excerpted from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield Copyright © 2002 by Steven Pressfield
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
Susannyc More than 1 year ago
I love this book.  Steven Pressfeild accurately describes the inner voice of resistance that I hear chattering away at me daily, telling me all sorts of lousy, unkind things. The voice lies to me, wants to keep me fearful, unhappy and unproductive.  He then introduces the concept of "Turning Pro".  The Pro still hears all that  racket but does his work or follows “the pursuit of any calling” regardless of what the internal noise says.  The Pro knows the voice will always be there.  The Pro keeps working no matter how loud resistance tries to speak. Another book I love addresses resistance in a brilliant way.  How to Have a Match Made in Heaven: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating, and Marriage is a fabulous and inspiring book by Ariel and Shya Kane.  The authors offer an amazing possibility regarding resistance: notice the resistance, without judging it, and the resistance falls away.  The mere act of noticing and allowing whatever is happening to simply be the way it is, allows the very thing to dissolve.  I’ve tried it and it works.  This innovative book has a unique and exciting feature: each story has an online web address that links you to a video of the very people you were just reading about.  I love that I can “watch” part of this book as well as read it's wisdom.  I am touched and energized by both of these smart and enlightening reads. 
StellaByStarlight More than 1 year ago
Resistance...oh, boy. A killer...of manifesting so many plans, dreams, hopes. Immediately attracted to The War of Art when I came across it, I was then so frustratingly resistant to overcoming my Resistance that I kept avoiding reading it. I kept it on my night table so I wouldn't forget it was there. Then I forced myself to read a little at a time. I began to recognize how Resistance does its work in so many aspects of my life, and the harder I tried to avoid reading further, the more I knew I had found a true ally in my battle to come to terms with the force of Resistance that stood in my way. Steven Pressfield's style in laying out the battle plans for the War of Art is straightforward, clear, respectful, hopeful and truly effective. I am sincerely grateful for his willingness to share his experience and insight with the rest of us poor slobs who struggle to express our art, whatever that art might be. "Just do it" sounds so easy, but we all know how difficult it is to do just that. This powerful little book illuminates the Enemy and teaches us strategies in how to set free our individual ability to meet Resistance on a daily basis and kick its ass. I'm not only painting again, I've started writing the novel that's been living in my head for years. The best part, though, is that I finally realize that it is not the end result that is really is the day-to-day doing of the work that matters and is so satisfying. If you don't read any other "motivational" book in your life, read this one.
turnerguns More than 1 year ago
Steven Pressfield's historical novels are well-researched, vividly imagined, and satisfyingly dramatic. Having read THE WAR OF ART, I now understand why. Pressfield has learned how to defeat (or at least to battle to a stand-still) what he calls "resistance," that self-defeating, self-destructive negative energy residing within all of us, the negative energy that defeats would-be writers, dieters, addicts, students, artists, entrepreneurs, heroes, and change-agents many times. "Resistance," says Pressfield, "cannot be reasoned with. It understands nothing but power. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object only: to prevent us from doing our work. Resistance is implacable, intractable, indefatigable. Reduce it to a single cell and that cell will continue to attack." Worse, "The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it." This is more than mere writer's block; it is the fear we experience when we strive to reach a high plane of being. If you go low, decide to end your work as an artist and go into a career in advertising, Pressfield says you have nothing to worry about, resistance will not hinder you. Pressfield's book reminds me a bit of Emerson's "Self-Reliance." Emerson said that our desire to conform and be one of the gang combined with our desire for consistency of self to prevent us from realizing our potential. Pressfield recognizes the power of social pressure: losers want to hang with other losers, so they sabotage anyone who tries to rise above. He also gives us advice--avoid trouble, whether it arrives in the guise of consumerism or intoxicants: "The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work. The working artist banishes from her world all sources of trouble. She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it in her work." So, don't smoke dope, don't get drunk, don't allow the world to be too much with you, getting and spending, lest you lay waste your powers. But even when you understand the power of resistance, it does not die easily. The way to kill it is with work, hard work, sometimes unrewarded hard work, the work done for its own sake, the work the artist must do to achieve his vision. That sounds about right.
ohromujici More than 1 year ago
With most books I would recommend, I am glad to have learned something new but with this book, I almost want to write the author and thank him for writing this wonderful book that has changed so many lives. There are a few books which qualify as a game-changer and this is one of them. The author gets down to the very core of why we don't achieve success and what we can do to ultimately triumph. Also, I have to compliment the author for a book that is totally lacking in fluff. The book is short and sweet and a person could read it in one evening if necessary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've recommended this book to every writer I know and bought multiple copies for gifts. Pressfield's book will nail your inner procrastinator. You'll cringe as you recognize yourself on his pages. But best of'll be a better writer (and person) for having read his book.
Havalina More than 1 year ago
This book will change your life. period. (for the better!)
SerendipitousAura More than 1 year ago
We were introducing ourselves to new members in my writers group and I spontaneously introduced myself as a writer of many genres who knows my work is good but has an inner sabateur that won't let me take my work to the next level and send it out to publishers. Someone in the group said, "You know, there's a wonderful book that addresses that," and recommended this book to me. I was skeptical, with my full-time job and full-plate life, that I'd even find the time to read the book, but lo and behold, a friend in the group purchased it for me as a gift. I had to take my son somewhere and kill some time, so I started reading it in the car. Every word seemed to have been written directly to me. I was able to put it down and pick it up again whenever I could, but I found it near impossible to put down. And when I finished it, everyone in my writers group wanted to read it and so it is currently being passed from writer to writer. This book is like a Bible for creative souls. Because it is written in concise, easy-to-digest chapters, even readers with ADD or busy schedules can tackle it. I highly recommend that anyone who has ever encountered resistence to anything that they have wanted to do in their life read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am probably the last person on Earth to read, let alone praise a 'you can do it', 'just try your best' self-help book. But this one surprised me. The author clearly has faced down the demons of doubt and distraction that plague most aspiring writers. I was shocked by how much of the book rang true for me. This is an excellent work that just might help get you off your feet and on your butt so you can finally get some writing done. It certainly helped me. I'm a published author now and I have to give a little bit of the credit to this fine book that I might have arrogantly condemned 'without reading' once upon a time. The text is tight so it's a quick read. At times the author gets a bit too hocus pocus for my tastes, but that's okay. He makes strong points and offers invaluable advice. Read it and start writing, today! Guy P. Harrison, author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God 'Prometheus Books'
eelrebmik More than 1 year ago
WOW! Can you say the biggest kick in your butt you have ever received! This has helped me listen to my muse and now i have finally found my bigger vision that is leading me to my a higher purpose in life! Yea....thats what i mean..biggest kick. But thats not all, this is the funnest book to lend out..because no one returns it to you. The key is to keep reminding them that you need it back, that eventually gets the person to actually finish the book. then you tell them that the 2nd time around of reading it right away makes it a completely different book to read. that might take them another month to give it back. my book club spent forever on this short book! but we loved it! its phenomenol guidance is helping immensely in all of us moving forward to fulfill ourselves in 2013. We are arriving!
grouter More than 1 year ago
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was recommended to me by a professional artist friend and I will be ever grateful. The essence of this little jewel is quite simply to do the work you were created to do. Just do it. Today. Without fear of reward or criticism. Do it simply because it's in you and needs to be expressed. Any inspirational writing can be dissected, scrutinized and discounted based on any single tone. Likewise, I may not be in complete alignment with every single expression, there is undoubtedly profound truths that anyone, regardless of profession or calling, will find resonates on a very deep level.
jclark19 More than 1 year ago
Great advice without all the BS. Pressfield boils this book down to just the essentials and gives you the advice straight up. Short sections, to the point writing, and honesty sum up the style. The content is excellent. READ IT.
Hostirad More than 1 year ago
This might be the most practical, down-to-earth guidebook for explaining the work we need to do in order to be creative. Make no mistake about it: creative productivity requires work. You may be familiar with Thomas Alva Edison's saying, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident. They came by work." Steven Pressfield's book explains why being creative is a difficult challenge and what kind of work we must do in order to meet that challenge. The primary obstacle to creativity, according to Pressfield, is our own resistance. Resistance, which manifests in many forms, is our own natural inertia and entropy toward creative activity. Without proper mental attitude and a plan for regular work, resistance will win every time, thwarting any creative effort--whether the creativity is writing, composing, other artistic activity, self-improvement or spiritual development programs, entrepreneurial ventures, or any creative Good. We must be warriors who are willing to fight our inner resistance every single day in order to succeed. In clear, concise steps, Pressfield teaches the specific steps we can take to be successful warriors. Only if we are willing to engage every day will our Muse appear to provide the 1% inspiration that we need to create what is good. My own experience as a psychologist, writer, composer, and spiritual seeker tells me that Pressfield got it exactly right. I give this book my highest recommendation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A strong read. Every lazy person should read this.
KaneH More than 1 year ago
This book is required reading for all creative people. It wasn't what I was expecting-- Pressfield surprises us with a different take on creativity and Resistance. This was useful, informative, and inspirational. By telling us how war is constantly waged on our creativity by Resistance, the author explains what it is, and why it's always trying to keep us from doing what we are meant to do. Yes, we are in a war, and we lose most days. I feel much better about myself and how I approach my creative work. When I don't get something done, I don't berate myself for being lazy or slacking, I just know it's Resistance fighting to keep me that way. That gives me the urge to fight back, to create, to beat the Resistance for that day. And that's what it's all about. Do the work this day. Wake up tomorrow and figure how to get it done then, because Resistance will be waiting, always waiting, to ambush us with every dirty trick in the book. It's a lovely metaphor to explain our life and our work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A buddy at the gym- a writer - suggested this book to me since I had been working on a book project and was treading water. It changed my life. A cliché perhaps, but no less true. This book got my hand moving and turned me into a 'professional'. I am so grateful that I've sent 5 copies to friends. This book isn't just for writers. If you have anything important you want to accomplish, this book will show you how to get it done. It's the real deal.
Kinga Wilson More than 1 year ago
Replace the word Art with life and you have a book that anyone can use to create greatness in whatever medium they choose. For me, this book is like the bible for creating anything in this world. A great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fabulous and inspiring - Pressfield dissects the countless ways we run away from our true calling in life. He labels this "resistance" and tells us how to beat it. If you're an expert procrastinator, this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book I recommend to nearly everyone I meet. I must be responsible for a pyramid of Pressfield's book sales. Whether a mechanic, a cook, a lawyer, an artist, all said it improved their life and business activity. Essential reading even if you've read other self-help/metaphysical books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been plugging away on MY book for two years and making decent progress. But now I'm moving along a lot quicker, faster and better thanks to Pressfield's book on why we should be doing what our Muse or God's angels really had in store for us from the beginnig. Read the last page first and you'll be hooked! His very very short chapters make it easy to pick up and read in either long or short bursts without having to go back and reread. Anyone who has a creative bent will profit from this. It's really about the whole process of becoming successful at whatever we do best and should be doing in order to bless the world with our own special gifts. Great stuff!!!
chriszodrow on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Main theme: Don't make excuses, get to work. Profound, subtle, robust? Hardly. Comparing this to Tzu is like comparing my desk-lamp to the sun. Please.
Iralell on LibraryThing 8 months ago
For anyone who can't seem to sit down and write that novel, start that business, stick to the exercise plan, this book will be the last you'll ever need.
reddnas1 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A great book for writers and other artists. Helps explain writer's block and how to stop it.
bordercollie on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Dove-tailing nicely with Eckhart Tolle's works, this little gem about Ego's Resistance to the creative process is informative and inspirational. He also talks about hierarchical and territorial aims; the first is to impress others, the second is what we would do if we were the only person on earth. A definite keeper to be read again and again.
clyde7 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book is about how to overcome resistance.
eeknight on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Great book for authors, or anyone in a creative field, who need a kick in the butt. Written in tiny, almost aphorism length vignettes. Pressfield subscribes to the "get your rear in the chair and inspiration will come" school, one I largely agree with.