Sunday, October 14, 2012

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

I read this book twice during my holiday. A slim little volume at 165 pages, but meaty and inspirational.

The author is an accomplished writer of historical fiction, and has also written other books about creativity. To quote Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City, "I've never read a self-help book that wasn't fatuous, obvious and unhelpful. Until The War of Art. It's amazingly cogent and smart on the psychology of creation. If I ever teach a writing course this would be one of the first books I'd assign, along with the letters of Flannery O'Connor."

In Book One, Pressfield writes about Resistance in all its forms, that force that gets between you and your accomplishment, whether it's starting an exercise program, a new business or charity, or finishing your paintings, poems or screenplays. Resistance can manifest itself as procrastination, addiction and recovery. It can show its power in ongoing family drama, allowing oneself to be victimized, and psychosomatic illness.

I was briefly a fan of The Artists's Way, by Julia Cameron. Then I decided that rather than journaling daily about my struggles with creativity, it would be better to just get in there and spend that time making my art. "Just do it." This is very much the theme of Book Two. By comparing the amateur to the pro,  Pressfield makes his points about the importance of showing up and doing the work every day. The author speaks from long personal experience that having a professional attitude is a prerequisite to achieving one's goals.

Book Three is a thorough discussion of Inspiration, and all the good things that follow from doing the work. An excellent book that would be helpful to the aspiring artist, the entrepreneur wannabe, and anyone with a dream.

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