Book Review: “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield

This is an excellent, inspirational book for those talented artists. The author, Steven Pressfield, dives deep into Resistance: the definition, manifestation, and symptoms. Then he goes into the next step: overcoming Resistance and turning pro: what being pro is all about. Finally, he touts the opposing force of Resistance, Muse/Angeles that allows each artist to breakthrough, persevere and succeed. I saw many of “bad” habits and behavior in the “Resistance” and I’m hopeful that that the Muse/Angels will guide me through in the rest of my life. An aspiring artist should read this book at least once a year.

Below if a brief summary of the book.

Resistance: Defining the Enemy
Book 1 is on “Resistance, ” defined by author as the self-sabotage force that prevents us from living to our full potential.

Resistance is invisible, internal (arise from within – self-generated and self-perpetuated, the enemy within), insidious (protean, has no conscience), implacable (“an engine of destruction”), impersonal (acts objectively), infallible (like a compass), universal (everyone has it), never sleeps (doesn’t go away), plays for keeps (means business), fueled by fear, opposes in one direction (obstructs movement from a lower sphere to a higher one), most powerful at the finish line, recruits allies.

Symptoms of Resistance: procrastination (habit-forming), sex (preoccupation of, also drugs, shopping, TV, and etc.), getting in troubles, self dramatization (“evil twin to Santa Claus”), self-medication, victimhood (a form of passive aggression), choice of a mate (who has overcome his/her Resistance).

Resistances feel like unhappiness (bored, restless, unloved, unlovable, disgusted, hate our lives/ourselves).
The fundamentalist cannot stand freedom, experiences Resistance. It and art are mutually exclusive. When it wins, the world enters a dark age. “The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”

Manifestation of Resistance:
Criticism out of Resistance: “Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.”
Self-doubt as an ally: “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

Fear as an indicator, tells us what we have to do. Rule of thumb: “The more scare we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

Love, direct proportional to: The opposite of love is indifference. The more Resistance you experience, the “more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.”

Grandiose fantasies – symptom of Resistance and sign of an amateur.

Isolation – fear of being alone. Like a child at play, an artist is not aware of time or solitude.

Resistance loves “healing” – “the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tired, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have do our work.”

Support and rationalization (spin doctor) as Resistance. “It’s one thing to lie to ourselves. It’s another thing to believe it.”

Combating Resistance – Turning Pro
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 pro loves it so much that he dedicates his life to it. The artist must be like a Marine. He has to know how to be miserable and love it.

Defining Pro: 1) show up every day. 2) show up no matter what, 3. stay on the job all day, 4, committed over the long haul, 5. the states are high and real. 6. accept remuneration for our labor, 7. do not over-identify with our jobs. 8. master the technique of our jobs, 9. have a sensor of humor about our jobs, 10. receive praise or blame in the real world.

The more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you’ll fear it and experience Resistance.

Aspects of a pro:
Patience: keep him from flaming out. Steels himself at the start of the project.
Seeks order: eliminates chaos from his world in order to banish it from his mind.
Demystifies: views his work as craft, not art. Masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods. The pro shuts up and doesn’t talk about it.
Acts in the face of fear – fear can never be overcome.
Accepts no excuses and plays it in the real world with adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls.
Is prepared at a deeper level, each day, to confront his own self-sabotage. The goal is not victory but to handle himself.
Does not show off and dedicates himself to mastering technique. “By toiling beside the front door of technique, he leave room for genius to enter by the back.”
Does not hesitate to ask for help.
Distance herself from her instrument “Madonna does not identify with ‘Madonna.’ Madonna employs ‘Madonna.”
Does not take failure (or success) personally. “The professional self-validates and is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still.”
Endures adversity: cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality. Blows critics off.
Recognizes her limitations: brings in other pros and treats them with respect.
Reinvents himself: does not allow himself to become comfortable or successful.
Recognized by other professionals.
Distanced from ourselves with a corporation, Me, Inc.

Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm

Muses and angels: the forces we can call our allies
“When we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.”
“Eternity is in love with the creations of time.” – William Blake.
“Chaos itself is self-organizing. Out of primordial disorder, stars find their orbits; rivers make their way to the sea.”
The ego and the self: angels make their home in the Self, while Resistance has its seat in the Ego. The fight is between the two. Ego believes in material existence, takes care of business in the real world. Believes in 1) death is real, 2) time and space are real, 3) Every individual is different and separate from every other. 4) the predominant impulse of life is self-preservation. 5) there is no God. But Self believes in 1) death is an illusion, 2) time and space are illusions, 3) all things are one. 4) the supreme emotion is love, 5) God is all there is.

Fear: Resistance feeds on fear. The mother of all fears: Fear that we will succeed. We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are. We lose friends but we find friends too. They’re truer, better friends.

The authentic self: we’re not born with unlimited choices. We come to this world with a specific, personal destiny. Our job is to find out who we already are and become it.

Territory vs. Hierarchy: Hierarchy breaks down when the numbers get too big. The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake. “To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”

Being a Hack: condescends and panders to his audience, writes hierarchically.
Qualities of a territory: 1) provides sustenance. 2) sustains us without any external input, 3) can only be claimed alone. 4) can only be calimed by work, 5) returns exactly what you put in.

Difference between territory and hierarchy: ask yourself: If I were the last person on earthy, would I still do it? If yes, you’re doing it territorially. The supreme virtue for an artist: contempt for failure.

Portrait of the artist: “They know they are not the source of the creations they bring into being. They only facilitate. They carry. The are the willing and skilled instruments of the gods and goddess they serve.”

Very inspiration last chapter:
“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.”