Book Summary: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

First published: 2002

Author: Steven Pressfield

Genre: Self-help book

Where to get it: Amazon

The book starts by talking about Resistance, the force within us that prevents us from doing our work. It is an evil presence that shows up whenever we want to do something that is beneficial to us and it manifests itself in various forms.

You will notice the presence of Resistance anytime you start doing something that benefits you in the long-term. Things like starting a new project or exercise routine. You won’t see or hear anything, but you will feel the pressure of the force as it comes and distracts you from your work.

Resistance most often appears in the form of procrastination. Putting off important tasks until later and preferring the instant gratification of unimportant but easier tasks.

We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Rationalisation is another major tool employed by Resistance. It tries to convince us that backing out of our work makes sense with excuses that sound legitimate so that we don’t feel the shame that we would feel if we faced what cowards we are for not doing our work.

Characteristics of Resistance

You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

How to use the presence of Resistance to your advantage

How to defeat Resistance

In this very moment, you can decide to fight against Resistance and win. The only way to beat Resistance is to sit down and do your work. If you don’t do this — short of a family tragedy or World War Three — Resistance has won.

Beating Resistance is a daily struggle. It’s not something transient. If you beat it today, don’t relax because it’ll come back even stronger tomorrow with an improved attack strategy aimed solely at preventing you from working. Before you can conquer Resistance consistently, you have to turn pro.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro

The professional and the amateur

You are a professional if you can identify with the following characteristics:

Let’s contrast those characteristics with those of an amateur. Consider the differences.

The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes. I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.

How to turn pro

Decide you want to be a pro, then sit down and do your work.

Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

That’s a pro.

What happens when you turn pro

What happens if you don’t turn pro

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

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