The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle


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A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor-be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.

The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline. Think of it as tough love . . . for yourself.

Whether an artist, writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life.

Author Biography: Steven Pressfield is the author of international bestsellers The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. He lives in Los Angeles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781590710036
Publisher: Rugged Land
Publication date: 06/01/1902
Edition description: REV
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.66(w) x 8.16(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction
Robert McKee
Bestselling Author of STORY: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
On The War of Art
Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art for me. He undoubtedly wrote it for you too, but I know he did it expressly for me because I hold Olympic records for procrastination. I can procrastinate thinking about my procrastination problem. I can procrastinate dealing with my problem of procrastinating thinking about my procrastination problem. So Pressfield, that devil, asked me to write this foreword against a deadline, knowing that no matter how much I stalled, eventually I'd have to knuckle down and do the work. At the last possible hour I did, and as I leafed through Book One, "Defining the Enemy," I saw myself staring back guilty-eyed from every page. But then Book Two gave me a battle plan; Book Three, a vision of victory; and as I closed The War of Art, I felt a surge of positive calm. I now know I can win this war. And if I can, so can you.

To begin Book One, Pressfield labels the enemy of creativity Resistance, his all-encompassing term for what Freud called the Death Wish-that destructive force inside human nature that rises whenever we consider a tough, long-term course of action that might do for us or others something that's actually good. He then presents a rogue's gallery of the many manifestations of Resistance. You will recognize each and every one, for this force lives within us all-self-sabotage, self-deception, self-corruption. We writers know it as "block," a paralysis whose symptoms can bring on appalling behavior.

Some years ago I was as blocked as a Calcutta sewer, so what did I do? I decided to try on all my clothes. To show just how anal I can get, I put on every shirt, pair of pants, sweater, jacket, and sock, sorting them into piles: spring, summer, fall, winter, Salvation Army. Then I tried them on all over again, this time parsing them into spring casual, spring formal, summer casual... Two days of this and I thought I was going mad. Want to know how to cure writer's block? It's not a trip to your psychiatrist. For as Pressfield wisely points out, seeking "support" is Resistance at its most seductive. No, the cure is found in Book Two: "Turning Pro."

Steven Pressfield is the very definition of a pro. I know this because I can't count the times I called the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance to invite him for a round of golf, and although tempted, he declined. Why? Because he was working, and as any writer who has ever taken a backswing knows, golf is a beautifully virulent form of procrastination. In other words, Resistance. Steve packs a discipline forged of Bethlehem steel.

I read Steve's Gates of Fire and Tides of War back-to-back while traveling in Europe. Now, I'm not a lachrymose guy; I hadn't cried over a book since The Red Pony, but these novels got to me. I found myself sitting in cafés, choking back tears over the selfless courage of those Greeks who shaped and saved Western civilization. As I looked beneath his seamless prose and sensed his depth of research, of knowledge of human nature and society, of vividly imagined telling details, I was in awe of the work, the work, all the work that built the foundation of his riveting creations. And I'm not alone in this appreciation. When I bought the books in London, I was told that Steve's novels are now assigned by Oxford history dons who tell their students that if they wish to rub shoulders with life in classical Greece, read Pressfield.

How does an artist achieve that power? In the second book Pressfield lays out the day-by-day, step-by-step campaign of the professional: preparation, order, patience, endurance, acting in the face of fear and failure-no excuses, no bullshit. And best of all, Steve's brilliant insight that first, last, and always, the professional focuses on mastery of the craft.

Book Three, "The Higher Realm," looks at Inspiration, that sublime result that blossoms in the furrows of the professional who straps on the harness and plows the fields of his or her art. In Pressfield's words: "When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us...we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete." On this, the effect of Inspiration, Steve and I absolutely agree. Indeed, stunning images and ideas arrive as if from nowhere. In fact, these seemingly spontaneous flashes are so amazing, it's hard to believe that our unworthy selves created them. From where, therefore, does our best stuff come?

It's on this point, however, the cause of Inspiration, that we see things differently. In Book One Steve traces Resistance down its evolutionary roots to the genes. I agree. The cause is genetic. That negative force, that dark antagonism to creativity, is embedded deep in our humanity. But in Book Three he shifts gears and looks for the cause of Inspiration not in human nature, but on a "higher realm." Then with a poetic fire he lays out his belief in muses and angels. The ultimate source of creativity, he argues, is divine. Many, perhaps most readers, will find Book Three profoundly moving.

I, on the other hand, believe that the source of creativity is found on the same plane of reality as Resistance. It, too, is genetic. It's called talent: the innate power to discover the hidden connection between two things-images, ideas, words-that no one else has ever seen before, link them, and create for the world a third, utterly unique work. Like our IQ, talent is a gift from our ancestors. If we're lucky, we inherit it. In the fortunate talented few, the dark dimension of their natures will first resist the labor that creativity demands, but once they commit to the task, their talented side stirs to action and rewards them with astonishing feats. These flashes of creative genius seem to arrive from out of the blue for the obvious reason: They come from the unconscious mind. In short, if the Muse exists, she does not whisper to the untalented.

So although Steve and I may differ on the cause, we agree on the effect: When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty. And when Steven Pressfield was writing The War of Art, she had her hands all over him.

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The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 125 reviews.
Susannyc More than 1 year ago
I love this book.  Steven Pressfeild accurately describes the inner voice of resistance that I hear chattering away at me daily, telling me all sorts of lousy, unkind things. The voice lies to me, wants to keep me fearful, unhappy and unproductive.  He then introduces the concept of "Turning Pro".  The Pro still hears all that  racket but does his work or follows “the pursuit of any calling” regardless of what the internal noise says.  The Pro knows the voice will always be there.  The Pro keeps working no matter how loud resistance tries to speak. Another book I love addresses resistance in a brilliant way.  How to Have a Match Made in Heaven: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating, and Marriage is a fabulous and inspiring book by Ariel and Shya Kane.  The authors offer an amazing possibility regarding resistance: notice the resistance, without judging it, and the resistance falls away.  The mere act of noticing and allowing whatever is happening to simply be the way it is, allows the very thing to dissolve.  I’ve tried it and it works.  This innovative book has a unique and exciting feature: each story has an online web address that links you to a video of the very people you were just reading about.  I love that I can “watch” part of this book as well as read it's wisdom.  I am touched and energized by both of these smart and enlightening reads. 
StellaByStarlight More than 1 year ago
Resistance...oh, boy. A killer...of manifesting so many plans, dreams, hopes. Immediately attracted to The War of Art when I came across it, I was then so frustratingly resistant to overcoming my Resistance that I kept avoiding reading it. I kept it on my night table so I wouldn't forget it was there. Then I forced myself to read a little at a time. I began to recognize how Resistance does its work in so many aspects of my life, and the harder I tried to avoid reading further, the more I knew I had found a true ally in my battle to come to terms with the force of Resistance that stood in my way. Steven Pressfield's style in laying out the battle plans for the War of Art is straightforward, clear, respectful, hopeful and truly effective. I am sincerely grateful for his willingness to share his experience and insight with the rest of us poor slobs who struggle to express our art, whatever that art might be. "Just do it" sounds so easy, but we all know how difficult it is to do just that. This powerful little book illuminates the Enemy and teaches us strategies in how to set free our individual ability to meet Resistance on a daily basis and kick its ass. I'm not only painting again, I've started writing the novel that's been living in my head for years. The best part, though, is that I finally realize that it is not the end result that is really is the day-to-day doing of the work that matters and is so satisfying. If you don't read any other "motivational" book in your life, read this one.
turnerguns More than 1 year ago
Steven Pressfield's historical novels are well-researched, vividly imagined, and satisfyingly dramatic. Having read THE WAR OF ART, I now understand why. Pressfield has learned how to defeat (or at least to battle to a stand-still) what he calls "resistance," that self-defeating, self-destructive negative energy residing within all of us, the negative energy that defeats would-be writers, dieters, addicts, students, artists, entrepreneurs, heroes, and change-agents many times. "Resistance," says Pressfield, "cannot be reasoned with. It understands nothing but power. It is an engine of destruction, programmed from the factory with one object only: to prevent us from doing our work. Resistance is implacable, intractable, indefatigable. Reduce it to a single cell and that cell will continue to attack." Worse, "The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it." This is more than mere writer's block; it is the fear we experience when we strive to reach a high plane of being. If you go low, decide to end your work as an artist and go into a career in advertising, Pressfield says you have nothing to worry about, resistance will not hinder you. Pressfield's book reminds me a bit of Emerson's "Self-Reliance." Emerson said that our desire to conform and be one of the gang combined with our desire for consistency of self to prevent us from realizing our potential. Pressfield recognizes the power of social pressure: losers want to hang with other losers, so they sabotage anyone who tries to rise above. He also gives us advice--avoid trouble, whether it arrives in the guise of consumerism or intoxicants: "The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work. The working artist banishes from her world all sources of trouble. She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it in her work." So, don't smoke dope, don't get drunk, don't allow the world to be too much with you, getting and spending, lest you lay waste your powers. But even when you understand the power of resistance, it does not die easily. The way to kill it is with work, hard work, sometimes unrewarded hard work, the work done for its own sake, the work the artist must do to achieve his vision. That sounds about right.
ohromujici More than 1 year ago
With most books I would recommend, I am glad to have learned something new but with this book, I almost want to write the author and thank him for writing this wonderful book that has changed so many lives. There are a few books which qualify as a game-changer and this is one of them. The author gets down to the very core of why we don't achieve success and what we can do to ultimately triumph. Also, I have to compliment the author for a book that is totally lacking in fluff. The book is short and sweet and a person could read it in one evening if necessary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've recommended this book to every writer I know and bought multiple copies for gifts. Pressfield's book will nail your inner procrastinator. You'll cringe as you recognize yourself on his pages. But best of'll be a better writer (and person) for having read his book.
Havalina More than 1 year ago
This book will change your life. period. (for the better!)
SerendipitousAura More than 1 year ago
We were introducing ourselves to new members in my writers group and I spontaneously introduced myself as a writer of many genres who knows my work is good but has an inner sabateur that won't let me take my work to the next level and send it out to publishers. Someone in the group said, "You know, there's a wonderful book that addresses that," and recommended this book to me. I was skeptical, with my full-time job and full-plate life, that I'd even find the time to read the book, but lo and behold, a friend in the group purchased it for me as a gift. I had to take my son somewhere and kill some time, so I started reading it in the car. Every word seemed to have been written directly to me. I was able to put it down and pick it up again whenever I could, but I found it near impossible to put down. And when I finished it, everyone in my writers group wanted to read it and so it is currently being passed from writer to writer. This book is like a Bible for creative souls. Because it is written in concise, easy-to-digest chapters, even readers with ADD or busy schedules can tackle it. I highly recommend that anyone who has ever encountered resistence to anything that they have wanted to do in their life read this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am probably the last person on Earth to read, let alone praise a 'you can do it', 'just try your best' self-help book. But this one surprised me. The author clearly has faced down the demons of doubt and distraction that plague most aspiring writers. I was shocked by how much of the book rang true for me. This is an excellent work that just might help get you off your feet and on your butt so you can finally get some writing done. It certainly helped me. I'm a published author now and I have to give a little bit of the credit to this fine book that I might have arrogantly condemned 'without reading' once upon a time. The text is tight so it's a quick read. At times the author gets a bit too hocus pocus for my tastes, but that's okay. He makes strong points and offers invaluable advice. Read it and start writing, today! Guy P. Harrison, author of 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God 'Prometheus Books'
eelrebmik More than 1 year ago
WOW! Can you say the biggest kick in your butt you have ever received! This has helped me listen to my muse and now i have finally found my bigger vision that is leading me to my a higher purpose in life! Yea....thats what i mean..biggest kick. But thats not all, this is the funnest book to lend out..because no one returns it to you. The key is to keep reminding them that you need it back, that eventually gets the person to actually finish the book. then you tell them that the 2nd time around of reading it right away makes it a completely different book to read. that might take them another month to give it back. my book club spent forever on this short book! but we loved it! its phenomenol guidance is helping immensely in all of us moving forward to fulfill ourselves in 2013. We are arriving!
grouter More than 1 year ago
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield was recommended to me by a professional artist friend and I will be ever grateful. The essence of this little jewel is quite simply to do the work you were created to do. Just do it. Today. Without fear of reward or criticism. Do it simply because it's in you and needs to be expressed. Any inspirational writing can be dissected, scrutinized and discounted based on any single tone. Likewise, I may not be in complete alignment with every single expression, there is undoubtedly profound truths that anyone, regardless of profession or calling, will find resonates on a very deep level.
jclark19 More than 1 year ago
Great advice without all the BS. Pressfield boils this book down to just the essentials and gives you the advice straight up. Short sections, to the point writing, and honesty sum up the style. The content is excellent. READ IT.
Hostirad More than 1 year ago
This might be the most practical, down-to-earth guidebook for explaining the work we need to do in order to be creative. Make no mistake about it: creative productivity requires work. You may be familiar with Thomas Alva Edison's saying, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident. They came by work." Steven Pressfield's book explains why being creative is a difficult challenge and what kind of work we must do in order to meet that challenge. The primary obstacle to creativity, according to Pressfield, is our own resistance. Resistance, which manifests in many forms, is our own natural inertia and entropy toward creative activity. Without proper mental attitude and a plan for regular work, resistance will win every time, thwarting any creative effort--whether the creativity is writing, composing, other artistic activity, self-improvement or spiritual development programs, entrepreneurial ventures, or any creative Good. We must be warriors who are willing to fight our inner resistance every single day in order to succeed. In clear, concise steps, Pressfield teaches the specific steps we can take to be successful warriors. Only if we are willing to engage every day will our Muse appear to provide the 1% inspiration that we need to create what is good. My own experience as a psychologist, writer, composer, and spiritual seeker tells me that Pressfield got it exactly right. I give this book my highest recommendation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A strong read. Every lazy person should read this.
KaneH More than 1 year ago
This book is required reading for all creative people. It wasn't what I was expecting-- Pressfield surprises us with a different take on creativity and Resistance. This was useful, informative, and inspirational. By telling us how war is constantly waged on our creativity by Resistance, the author explains what it is, and why it's always trying to keep us from doing what we are meant to do. Yes, we are in a war, and we lose most days. I feel much better about myself and how I approach my creative work. When I don't get something done, I don't berate myself for being lazy or slacking, I just know it's Resistance fighting to keep me that way. That gives me the urge to fight back, to create, to beat the Resistance for that day. And that's what it's all about. Do the work this day. Wake up tomorrow and figure how to get it done then, because Resistance will be waiting, always waiting, to ambush us with every dirty trick in the book. It's a lovely metaphor to explain our life and our work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A buddy at the gym- a writer - suggested this book to me since I had been working on a book project and was treading water. It changed my life. A cliché perhaps, but no less true. This book got my hand moving and turned me into a 'professional'. I am so grateful that I've sent 5 copies to friends. This book isn't just for writers. If you have anything important you want to accomplish, this book will show you how to get it done. It's the real deal.
Kinga Wilson More than 1 year ago
Replace the word Art with life and you have a book that anyone can use to create greatness in whatever medium they choose. For me, this book is like the bible for creating anything in this world. A great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fabulous and inspiring - Pressfield dissects the countless ways we run away from our true calling in life. He labels this "resistance" and tells us how to beat it. If you're an expert procrastinator, this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book I recommend to nearly everyone I meet. I must be responsible for a pyramid of Pressfield's book sales. Whether a mechanic, a cook, a lawyer, an artist, all said it improved their life and business activity. Essential reading even if you've read other self-help/metaphysical books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been plugging away on MY book for two years and making decent progress. But now I'm moving along a lot quicker, faster and better thanks to Pressfield's book on why we should be doing what our Muse or God's angels really had in store for us from the beginnig. Read the last page first and you'll be hooked! His very very short chapters make it easy to pick up and read in either long or short bursts without having to go back and reread. Anyone who has a creative bent will profit from this. It's really about the whole process of becoming successful at whatever we do best and should be doing in order to bless the world with our own special gifts. Great stuff!!!
Anonymous 9 months ago
The War of Art Definitively breaks down the element of Resistance that creates conflicts for artists in all lanes. I found great use for the content, particularly in two areas of my life. The Dreamer in me that typically takes precedence in my interactions with opposing views in my world benefitted the most. On a daily basis the urge to create work that recognizes my vanity, but still maintains a conscious expression of my fight through the earlier mentioned element of resistance fuels the dreamer. Not flattering the dreamer with external praise has become a dynamic I have added to my repertoire. Acquiring this skill has allowed me to maintain an unmatched cool in this War. The scholar in me gained the Courage to face my challenges, and remain hungry for more each day as I rise to Greatness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Deceptively complex book that starts off talking about what keeps you from whatever creative venture you’re meant to pursue and eventually morphs into a call (demand, really) that you pursue the creative venture that calls to you.
chriszodrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Main theme: Don't make excuses, get to work. Profound, subtle, robust? Hardly. Comparing this to Tzu is like comparing my desk-lamp to the sun. Please.
Iralell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For anyone who can't seem to sit down and write that novel, start that business, stick to the exercise plan, this book will be the last you'll ever need.
reddnas1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book for writers and other artists. Helps explain writer's block and how to stop it.
bordercollie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dove-tailing nicely with Eckhart Tolle's works, this little gem about Ego's Resistance to the creative process is informative and inspirational. He also talks about hierarchical and territorial aims; the first is to impress others, the second is what we would do if we were the only person on earth. A definite keeper to be read again and again.