The War of Art: An Artist’s User Manual

The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield has popped up on my radar for a while now, and I finally got around to picking up a copy. I liked it so much, I got the audiobook version as well.

I’m going to start off by quoting my own review over on GoodReads:

Pressfield seems to have distilled the essence of the creative blocks we face, and provides some valid advice for moving past them. This book is succinct, not short. At first the small chapters we off-putting, but after completing the book I realized that this could be read in one sitting, and I think it was designed that way.

Less of a how-to book and more of a lens to help focus. I found myself nodding in agreement as well as reframing and understanding events, thoughts and choices I’ve made in the past (and those I’m resisting in the present) in a new light.

Pressfield has written a book that feels like someone took all the vague thoughts you’ve had as an artist about being an artist, and put them together in a way that’s both universal and personal. Less inspirational and more of a user manual.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the nuts and bolts, in-your-face tone Pressfield takes with the concepts he presents. Often as I was reading and Pressfield described the numerous creative blocks — “Resistance” as he names them — which an artist struggles with, I found myself knowingly smiling. Resistance seems not only universal in its presence but also familiar in its manifestations. It’s difficult to see self-criticism as “true” when it’s the exact same critique that every other creative person runs through their minds.

I love books like this that expose the “man behind the curtain”. So often people put on a persona of confidence that can make your own struggles seem isolated to just you. Pressfield’s exposé of the “daemons” that haunt anyone undertaking a new venture help to diffuse the power they can strangle you with.

Although The War of Art has the word “art” in the title, don’t think this book is limited to artists only. Pressfield’s observations and insights apply to almost any undertaking where procrastination or self-doubt creep in, convincing you that your efforts are not worth the time spent. The “art” is that project, that job, that itch you’ve been putting off, ignoring, and telling yourself you’re not quite ready to take on.

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15 thoughts on “The War of Art: An Artist’s User Manual

    1. Amy – Please share your links! One of my favorite aspects of the book is the length, that it can be a quick read for those days where Resistance is at it’s strongest. I plan on re-reading many times as well.

  1. George, thanks for the great shout-out. At the risk of flogging my own stuff, I’ve got a follow-up out to “The War of Art” called “Turning Pro.” If you’ll send me your mailing address to steve [at] stevenpressfield.com, I’ll put a couple in the mail to you. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

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