Review of "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield
Steven Pressfield's book "The War of Art" is aptly named. There is a war within ourselves as artisans that we wage with what I've learned to call Resistance. Resistance is anything that keeps you from accomplishing your goals and fulfilling your calling in life. It feeds on our fears and keeps ups immobilized through it's clever use of rationalization.
I wanted to share this book with other creators because of it's powerful message. I understood Resistance before I could put a name to it. I think we all have experience with it. But now that we can put a name to it, we can move past it. It's like that saying about a problem being stated is a problem half-solved.
Here are a few quotes I picked out from the book to share because they spoke to me.
"The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it."
Are you afraid of writing? Of calling yourself a writer: a creator of worlds? Or of being a published Author? I was. I didn't feel ready, experienced, good enough.
That's a good sign that we're on the right track. Resistance doesn't want you to think you can or that you're worthy to do your life's calling. The harder it pushes back, the more you should recognize what it is you were meant to do. You can make the choice not to listen to Resistance. Let it's rubbish drivel in one ear and out the other. Then get on with what you were meant to do.
"The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day."
Resistance doesn't quit trying to pull you away from your calling. In fact, it hits hardest when we're working hardest. Self-Doubt gets in the way, and we spiral down, "Well, what if this doesn't work?" "What if it's a waste of time?" "What if people don't like it?"
It's unfortunate, but true. We'll be fighting Resistance our whole lives.
"Resistance's goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill...When we fight it, we are in a war to the death."
That's scary to read, but it's accurate. The whole mission of Resistance is to disable us from doing what we were meant to do. Finishing us is the quickest, most efficient way to end our ambitions. If we're too afraid to begin, we'll never finish.
As I was writing this, it reminded me of a line from the song Drops of Jupiter by Train, "Told a story about a man who was too afraid to fly so he never did land." What does your fear keep you from accomplishing?
"Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance."
It takes all sorts of forms from discouraging feedback to outright rejection, self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of success. But looking at each form individually, why do we fear them? Why does a bad review leave us moody and sullen for the rest of the day? Why do we fear success?
We fear the change. Or perhaps, being told that we didn't measure up, just reinforces the fears we already have that we aren't good enough. It shakes our confidence in ourselves.
We don't choose the input we receive from outside sources. We do choose how we react to it. And it stems from how we feel about ourselves. Maintain a healthy view of your work, and you'll react better to bad news. Revisit your reasons for accomplishing your work, and you'll remember why you wanted to succeed and what success means to you.
Resistance doesn't want you to know these things. It wants you to stay stuck and afraid to put your work out there.
I loved this book; its simplicity and the kick in the butt to get to work. I'd recommend it to artists of all forms who want to get to work but don't have the courage or need a little motivation.