The War of Art: Book Review

The War of Art is a book written by Steven Pressfield that deals with strategies for overcoming what is commonly known as “writer’s block”, along with finding success in creative endeavors. He argues that the main obstacle most people will encounter when pursuing their goals is resistance. Resistance, according to Mr. Pressfield, is a negative force that can manifest itself both internally and externally and constantly works to keep you from achieving those goals dreams that you wish to accomplish.

Resistance works by employing methods such as distraction, procrastination, and other similar manifestations that prevent you from achieving work. In the book, Mr. Pressfield analyzes this concept from a more mystical/religious lense, while frequently employing words and concepts such as evil, angels, muses, etc. If it is not to one’s taste, it is relatively easy to work through such wording and extract value from the relevant concepts in the book.

Overcoming resistance is of crucial importance because in its absence we are empowered to achieve our dreams, succeed in our goals, both big and small, and on an even more basic level, fulfill our daily tasks, duties, and responsibilities. I’m sure that we are all familiar with situations where people we know have succumbed to resistance, and whose lives have subsequently been worse off, their potential never being fulfilled.

In order to overcome resistance, it is of crucial importance that we identify the enemy and take proactive measures to mitigate against the risks resistance poses on our daily lives. By employing a concrete act of the will, Mr. Pressfield encourages his readers to overcome resistance by knowing what we can be, acknowledging the potential paths resistance may take to prevent us from getting there, and acting to make sure those paths never materialize.

Ultimately, I found the aspects of the book that touches upon resistance to be of value in conceptualizing that force which prevents us from achieving the work we desire to do. However, I felt that the author’s message was weakened by the integration of quasi-religious arguments that lack any theological or philosophical consistency and depth. Aside from this point, his own philosophical arguments contain many contradictory statements across the book, especially when he touches upon the importance of reaching complete individual self-sufficiency.

Humans are in essence social animals and while a more individual-oriented mindset is essential for critical and abstract thinking, it would be foolish to separate ourselves from our fellow man in order to achieve pure hyper-individuality. For creative-oriented individuals, I believe that isolation would prevent him from extracting creative value from other people. Through interaction with others, you gain a greater understanding of the human experience, which allows the artist to create works that are more attuned to that very experience.

Despite advocating for this hyper-individualism, there are moments in the book where Mr. Pressfield’s arguments shift towards redefining your social circle in such a way that it provides value instead of holding one back. This is a major shift from the previous arguments in the book emphasizing individuality and complete self-sufficiency.

Overall, I found the book’s ideas on resistance to be of great value, but it was unfortunately mired by incomplete philosophical arguments, contradictory statements, and quasi-religious support arguments that lacked the proper depth to justify their inclusion. I would recommend The War of Art to anybody who is having difficulty with resistance, but provide the proper warnings in regards to other things discussed in the book.

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