Book Review – The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
First Published: 2002 by Warner Books
The War of Art defines the stumbling blocks and distractions we put in our own way every day to stop ourselves living the life we dream of living. Why do we do this? Resistance. Is this resistance caused by fear? Yes, sometimes. Is it our self-limiting beliefs holding us back? Yes, those too, along with so many other things.
I’ve written a book. It took a long time for me to do this. I had the beginning of a story in my head that I couldn’t shake off. I knew I had to write it down. It excited me. It took me about a year to say that out loud. I told my ever-supportive husband who presented me with a laptop shortly after that. Nothing could stop me now, right? Wrong, resistance was still hanging around. It took about a year before I got myself to sit down and start. Amazingly when I did this the words just flowed out onto the screen in front of me until I would stop to sleep.
The interesting thing was that, although it was easy, I still struggled to sit back down again and do more. It took 5 years to ‘finish’ the book. When I say ‘finish’, there is a beginning, middle and end, but in my mind, it is still not good enough, still needs work, tweaking……etc but I just don’t have the time to do it (resistance!). No one has read it because it’s not good enough yet. Resistance.
‘The Enemy is a very good teacher’ the Dalai Lama
This is how ‘Book 1 – Resistance; Defining the Enemy’ begins. Even before I got to this page, I was smiling. It defines resistance as ‘evil’, a powerful negative force that lives within us all and never leaves us unless we can conquer the fear that it feeds off. Becoming aware of its power and ability to come at us from all angles is step one to overcoming it.
Pressfield writes about resistance from a personal perspective and gives resistance a personality that once we are aware of, we can see it constantly rear its head in ourselves and others. It shows up in so many ways, but what it develops within us is an unhappy, restless misery that continually builds up unless challenged. It demonstrates the lengths that resistance will go to win. The best disguise of all? ‘Rational thought’.
Book 2; Combatting Resistance – Turning Pro
The difference between an ‘amateur’ and a ‘pro’ in the battle against resistance is the Pro realises that the only way to win is to continually put in the work – it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just must be done, pushing through fear every day. The Professional does what he does out of love but the more love there is, the more resistance there will be too. The Professional evolves, changes with his needs, stands up daily to the bully of resistance and learns the need to be even more determined and resolute than Resistance. We simply have to chose to become a Professional. Easy!
Book 3; Finally, some good news! We have active, energised allies, counter-poised against resistance and there to help us become our true selves. Pressfield gives us options as to how we view them, but the most visual is ‘angels’.
The final book goes deep – believing in the energy and inspiration that is in us and surrounds us, showing us that there are forces at work, helping us grow, work and create. He makes the interesting point that resistance/fear is rooted in our ‘ego’ which likes things to stay as they are, whereas the ‘angels’ (as I would describe as positive forces) are in the ‘Self’. Our ego holds us back for fear we might succeed. When we are born, we have our ‘self’, we have a true destiny, a defined purpose already. Our goal is to recognise and action this by getting past fear, resistance and ego. We see that once we continue to challenge the bully that is resistance, it will back off and leave us to do what we are here to do.
The War of Act is a very amusing, interesting and personally challenging book to read. It has taught me a lot. There are things in life that I was born to achieve, that I am here to accomplish. Being made aware of ‘resistance’ in all its guises has made those goals more achievable. I can’t let myself stand in my own way. With the help and guidance of the positive forces in me and around me, I will win the War of Art.
Books that change lives – The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
Review by Dairin Patry, a graduate of the Diploma in Executive and Life Coaching
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