“The War of Art” – Book review

“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.”
– Steven Pressfield

That’s the last paragraph in The War of Art. Everything else leads up to it.

the-war-of-art-steven-pressfield

Whatever your “creative work” is—a business, writing, a sport, cooking, songwriting—this is a book to motivate you to stick with it. Because it matters. Not only to you, but to others around you.

That’s not always easy for us to believe, but it’s true. As Steven Pressfield says, “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

Although he’s not writing strictly from a Christian perspective, we can identify godly principles in statements like that. As children of God, we’ve all been gifted with varying talents and energy to live out our life’s purpose of glorifying the Father. We just have to discover what they are, then use them.

Pressfield labels as Resistance those forces that get in the way of releasing our gifts.

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

Resistance can take a variety of forms: procrastination, fear, isolation, rationalization, suffering, etc., and Pressfield writes of each.

For example:

“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.’”

and

“What are we trying to heal, anyway? The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free.
He has to play hurt.”

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Book One: Resistance – Defining the Enemy
  • Book Two: Combating Resistance – Turning Pro
  • Book Three: Beyond Resistance – The Higher Realm

All three sections are very easy to read with super short chapters and an abundance of white space (even though that seems wasteful to me, it always draws me in). I also love the beauty of the type and the headings at the top of most pages—not factors that add to the fundamental message of the book, but they do add to its clarity.

And the clear nitty-gritty is this:

“Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.
Do it or don’t do it.”

I hope you do it.

* * *

This book was originally published in 2002 yet continues to receive high praise. Have you read it? What do you think?

20 thoughts on ““The War of Art” – Book review

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Nice Yoda quote. Thanks, TC. It was indeed a motivating book. I’ve been hearing about it for a few years and finally got motivated enough to read it. 🙂

  1. floyd

    I’ve heard of the book, but never heard any quotes from it. Sounds good. Those are great quotes. I’ll have to check it out one of these days. Thanks for the review and for continuing to do what you do!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes these kind of books can all sound alike after awhile. But this one is particularly good in this genre. It was relatively short, too, which I view as a bonus when an author can pack a big message into few words.

  2. Sheila at Longings end

    Thanks for this review, Lisa. I have this book on my list. Your post is prompting me to stop procrastinating, call the library and order a copy. And this…profound…“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I had this book on my list for several years. I’d check my library now and again to see if they had it, but they never carried a copy. So this year I decided to just buy it. 🙂 It was worth it. Hope you enjoy it too if you find a copy.

  3. ceil

    Hi Lisa! I have not heard of this book, so I wrote it down to check out later. It’s always good to read things that encourage the artist in you. I am not a ‘born writer’. I have things to say, but they don’t come easily to me at all. So sometimes I wonder if I should continue trying. Like I said, encouragement is good!

    Thank you for reviewing this classic. I will definitely check it out 🙂
    Ceil

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      As long as you have things to say, I know the Lord will continue giving you outlets to say them, whether it be writing or some other form. But I think you ARE a writer, so keep at that. 🙂

  4. Barbara H.

    I haven’t read it – I don’t think I’ve heard of it unless you’ve listed it on WOYN or somewhere. Sounds good, though! So true that “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those first steps are often the very hardest. Sometimes I just “trick” myself into agreeing to just doing something for 20 minutes (or some small random number). Then once I actually get started, I find that I can do even longer.

  5. kel rohlf

    Lisa- I borrowed it from the library last year…I really was motivated by it and was cracking up at his battle with resistance…I almost bought it because I think it’s a book I should read once a year at least to keep me motivated! Great review!
    Kel

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you’ve read it, too, Kel! I’d heard about the book for awhile, but I saw Steven Pressfield doing an interview about it not long ago, and that pushed me over the edge to go ahead and buy the book since I couldn’t find a free copy. Now I’m glad I did because I’ll have it to return to over and over.

  6. Betty Draper

    This sounds like a good read. I especially like this quote, “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
    What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

    I sense that resistance just sitting down to write something for my blog. As soon as I start my mind gets crowded with all other things to do. It is happening to me right now. I am working on something for a retreat I am speaking at and it’s been hard to just sit down and at least give my self time to do it. Good post Lisa, Informative post.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I understand that resistance, Betty. And usually the bigger the project, the harder it is for me to even get started on it. Like I mentioned above, I usually have to trick myself into small segments, 20-30 minutes, to at least sit down and think about it, whether or not I write anything. That usually starts the ball rolling and pushes me past the sticky part. Praying the words flow smoothly for your retreat!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you “don’t cheat us” at your blog, Jennifer. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your life lessons through your writing and for the comments you leave on mine.

  7. Lori Kibby

    I love this quote, “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” It is the second time today I have run across a quote like this. I guess I just give up way too easy….Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

    1. Lisa

      That quote really spoke to me, too. Too often I forget that God has already equipped me with whatever I need to accomplish his will in this day. And if I need something different tomorrow, he’ll supply that too. I need to live it out now instead of thinking I’m not quite ready yet….


%d bloggers like this: