The War of Art – review part two


I am reading the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The book is a wake-up call for writers and other artists that challenges us to overcome our resistance to finally taking control of reaching our artistic dreams. The book is broken into three main sections. The first deals with identifying the insidious nature of resistance; the energy force that works against our fulfilling our dreams. It lays out the case that resistance, in the form of procrastination, self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of success, and a hundred other manifestations, is energy that we allow or manufacture to prevent us from pursuing what we may believe is our life's creative passion.

Reading that section was a kick in the pants to me. After one night with the book before bed, I immediately overcame a two-month layoff from writing fiction and started writing again the next morning. And I have written every morning since as well as started in one the third re-write of a novel I finished at the end of last year.

Even though the book spurred me to action, understanding resistance when you see it is not the whole thesis of Pressfield's work; it's just the foundation of a mental change in the approach to being an artist.

The second section of the book is called 'Combating Resistance' and clearly identifies the difference between a professional artist, one who takes it seriously enough to make their life and their living from their art, and the amateur. If the first section of the book was wake-up call, the second section is an incoming nuclear missile warning. Pressfield is brutally direct:

"An amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps... The amateur plays part-time, the professional plays full-time..."

He is clear about how you should approach the work if you want to consider yourself professional.

"Show up every day... Show up no matter what... Commit for the long haul... Do the work for your living..." And so on.

Reading this section of the book hardened my resolve. And it made me re-evaluate my self-identification as a writer. I used to feel good about myself to be able to say that I published two non-fictions books, I have a hundred or more freelance articles out there, I've received money for writing, and even though I've not yet published any fiction, at least I can say I've finished five novels and a number of short-stories. But by definition, all that list means is that I've life of the hobbyist, an amateur. It was both a painful realization and an awakening. I have to look again at all aspects of my life and re-evaluate how they fit into my goal to make a mark in the world as a novelist.

Thanks to Pressfield's book, I'm evolving.  An example: I have been writing every day for almost a week. More importantly, I have put writing first; writing immediately after I wake up, before I do anything else, before any of the resistances I use to stop myself from moving forward with my writing take over . It helps that I am in the middle of a week off work but I am confident I can keep up the practice going next week when I have to keep office hours again. I'm confident because I realize now that the only real way forward is to commit to the work itself, to put the work first. get it done and out of the way so you can move on with your day and meet all your other obligations knowing that you've done today's bit towards realizing your dream. That's going to mean the sacrifice of things I normally valued above writing. Today, for example, I would normally go for a group bicycle ride with friends first thing in the morning but I chose to write first instead.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this review after I get the chance to absorb the third section of this amazing, transforming book.

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