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Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield is the author of international bestsellers The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, Tides of War and Last of the Amazons. Given his success you would expect that writing comes easy to Steven. In the War of Art he shares his secret:

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

And so begins The War of Art, a book that nails exactly what everyone deals with if they set out to accomplish something extraordinary – whether it is writing a book, building a business or launching a new program. If you are creating something new you will deal with the beast Steven calls Resistance.

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

The book is divided into three parts:

Part One defines the beast Steven calls Resistance in all its different forms – self doubt, rationalization, isolation – what it looks like, what fuels it, and what the cost is.

Part Two describes ways to Combat Resistance, what Steven calls Turning Pro – structure, routine, support, persistence. For example Steven has a stringent routine when he is writing – he gets up, has his breakfast, pays bills and then is at his desk at 10am. From 10am until mid afternoon Steven is at his desk and writing – even if what he is writing is garbage – it is the act of writing whether he feels like it or not, whether he can use it or not that is the secret to his success.

Part Three is titled “Beyond Resistance, The Higher Realm”. The point here is that you often hear people saying that they are waiting to be inspired, waiting for the idea to appear to them. The Secret is to be in action, and in Steven’s words “Muses and Angels will show up to guide the way”

“Because when we site down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.”

I found The War of Art to be an enlightening and enjoyable read. It’s a book that you can pick up and read through it in about an hour, but it stays with you for a long time. I often think to myself when I am tired, or I don’t feel like sitting down to do what I know needs to be done – am I an Amateur or am I a Pro.