The War of Art - Book Review

blog book review Aug 19, 2021

I’ve listened to this book three times in my car in the past two weeks. It’s that good! It’s a short listen (at 1.5 speed) and each time I returned I picked up something new. I laughed out loud, rewound sections to listen two or three times and realized some of my own inner War tactics that were putting a firm lid on my Art.

This book is divided into three sections: Book One: Defining the Enemy - it’s sneaky and persistent, Book Two: Turning Pro - get a plan of action to confront the enemy and Book Three: The Higher Realm - a glimpse of what victory looks like.

Pressfield says that the very dangerous force of Resistance is the biggest enemy of productivity, of creation and of getting our Art out into the world. He talks about how Resistance takes many sneaky forms: procrastination, self-sabotage, self-deception and self-corruption. 

The paralysis of Resistance can produce some pretty relatable behaviours like addiction in all its forms, the need to organize and clean the basement or the garage, that pile of errands that suddenly have to be done, the search for that elusive sock eaten by the dryer … you get the idea.

We learn that Resistance is most seductive when we seek ‘support’ for it. When we are acknowledging its presence and its influence in our everyday lives. Pressfield suggests that Resistance is ancient. It’s been around since time immemorial. He discusses Greek and Roman history, familial patterns and how resisting Resistance may seem futile.

Fortunately, on the same level as Resistance is Art. Our Art is our highest talent, our ability to enter our zone, find our flow, for time to fall away and absorption in a task to be complete. 

The best way to challenge Resistance is to exercise our unique talent.

For most of us, our talent is our unique skills that connect ideas, people and words in ways that no one has done before. This talent produces something new and worthwhile that contributes to a bigger picture in our lives or someone else’s life. It’s a gift.

Many of us realize that this talent comes from within and we recognize it when we are ‘in’ it. When our inspiration connects with our special talent - great things happen! This elusive state is something that many of us chase all day long. 

We wait for this inspiration to strike. We’re disappointed when it doesn’t. We deliberately have habits to find this ‘place’ and many of us have some pretty elaborate routines! These routines vary in length depending upon the day - or the amount of Resistance pushing back against us - with a big grin on its scary hairy face.

‘I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9 am sharp.’ W. Somerset Maugham

Pressfield says that it's not the writing for him that is challenging, but the sitting down to write. Happens to the best of us. But we can’t wait for the stars to align in order to be predictably productive. We have to create our own state of productivity, a ‘fake it till you make it’ kind of deal. Pressfield has some great tips to overcome Resistance.

‘The enemy is a very good teacher.’ the Dalai Lama


By acknowledging the enemy we recognize all the ways that our talent, our unique genius, is being stifled. If you’ve ever tried to complete a challenging task, start a new venture, begin a new diet or fitness routine that will shrink the size of your belly or your bum, get going on any program to add a new habit to overcome an addiction, take a stand about something controversial, express an unpopular opinion - then you’ve been toe to toe and nose to nose with Resistance. And Resistance ‘they’ say, is futile.

The best way to face down the enemy is to take action. Just start. Your Art is right there, always trying to break free and fly in the face of Resistance. Imagine if Art was not given the chance to thrive. We’d have no airplanes, no electricity, no computers. No symphonies, rocket ships, or great literature. No medicines, Pokemon or Tik Tok.

To not allow our Art space and time to flourish we are depriving ourselves, our families and our culture. To give freedom to our Art and allow it the daylight it deserves is not being selfish or begging for attention. In fact, to NOT express our talent is to harm society. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate your great gifts?

Nurture your Art, your gifts. Allow your creativity to flow freely. Take deliberate action in small steps every day to let your talent out into the world. We’ll all be glad you did.

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