War of Art book cover - featured image

Book Review: The War of Art

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

Steven Pressfield is a writer who is best known for his golfing novel turned movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance [Amazon] and Gates of Fire [Amazon], about the Battle of Thermopylae. The War of Art is Pressfield’s first non-fiction work. It is also the first book I’ve read by Pressfield.

Steven Pressfield's The War of Art book cover

The War of Art is a self-help book of sorts for creatives of all stripes. This book focuses on the number one foe of any creative, resistance. What is resistance? It’s the thing that causes writer’s block. It’s that fear you experience every time you stare at a blank page. Resistance is what causes that bad habit of procrastination, which prevents you from getting anything started or anything completed.

In Pressfield’s book, he lays the case for how truly destructive resistance can be. He described the type of havoc resistance can create, and the long-term damage that it’s capable of. Pressfield even goes so far as to claim that the majority of the world’s problems from cancer to war can be traced back to people failing to overcome resistance.

An example Pressfield used was Adolf Hitler. When Hitler was younger, he attended university with the aspiration to become a painter. Pressfield believes Hitler never made it as a painter because resistance conquered him. It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than to confront a blank canvas.

Resistance and Ordinary People

The War of Art also goes into how resistance disrupts and tears away at the lives of ordinary people. Pressfield uses examples such as the chaos of the family drama. There always seems to be strife in the home because there is always someone in the family willing to trigger it.

Pressfield claims that our modern-day health problems such as ADD, ADHD, depression, etc are instigated by advertising firms and drug companies taking advantage of people’s resistance. I personally can’t confirm such a claim (I can only look at myself and see how advertising has affected me), but Steven Pressfield uses his time as an advertising copywriter to back up his case.

Artists and Resistance

Being an artist can be a rather lonely experience. When we talk to other artists, we’re not always completely honest about our experiences. This is due to pride, fear, and/or envy. The War of Art bravely exposes common the trials and tribulations that artists work through as a result of resistance.

Pressfield uses his time as a struggling writer as his case study. He’s had to struggle through failed marriages, homelessness, and his first movie completely bombing out. Eventually, Pressfield had to reach his “bottom” and focus on his work, even at the risk of it turning out like crap. The surest solution to overcome resistance is to take action. This is the moral of most self-help books.

The Muse as an Ally in the War of Art

The War of Art introduces us to the creative’s heroine, the Muse. If I remember correctly, Pressfield tells us that she’s one of Zeus’s nine Goddesses of Music and Song. Pressfield goes into great detail about the Muse and who she seeks to inspire. He tells us what we as creatives can do to attract the Muse and what we can do to encourage her to inspire us.

The Artist and the Fundamentalist

Pressfield also compares and contrasts the artist and the fundamentalist (in the generic sense). He goes over the purpose for each of their existences, how they approach life, and how they express themselves in the world. I’m not quite sure as to why Pressfield has made this comparison. I can speculate, but that wouldn’t be completely fair to the author. My non-knee-jerk assumption is that this chapter is a means of reaffirming to the reader that he’s still grounded in reality.

The Angels Among Us

Pressfield takes a dip into the spiritual in The War of Art by talking about God’s angels. He tells us that there are angels everywhere and that their purpose is to help all life on Earth to grow and evolve. Man was designed by God to create as does his heavenly father. We as creatives use angels as our allies, whether we’re giving birth or writing the next great novel.

Buy the War of Art

If you have a stack of books on your desk to read, skip the stack and read the War of Art. This is one of the more substantive motivational books that I’ve read to date. (And I’ve pissed away a lot of money on self-help/motivational material.) As a bonus, it’s a short read.

If you’re a creative, an entrepreneur, or anyone else with a dream or passion, I highly recommend reading The War of Art. It’s in all formats, so if you have trouble reading through books any longer than 10 pages, you can always pick up the audiobook. Buy your copy of The War of Art at Amazon today.

Canadian readers can purchase their copy of The War of Art at Amazon.ca now.

The War of Art is also available in Japan via Amazon.co.jp, and in Japanese.

For my friends in Europe, you can purchase your copy of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art at:

  • If you are in the UK, you can purchase The War of Art at Amazon.co.uk.
  • If you live in Germany, you can purchase The War of Art at Amazon.de.
  • French readers can purchase The War of Art at Amazon.fr.
  • Si vive in España, puede comprar The War of Art en Amazon.es
  • Italian readers can buy The War of Art at Amazon.it.
  • Anywhere’s else, Amazon.com can ship internationally.

You may also want to check out Steven Pressfield’s Do The Work, Pressfield’s guide to beating resistance.