Educate March 2018

Book Review: “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield


Written By: Sharon Brown, Prospect strategy analyst, University of Florida Office of Advancement

Sometimes you come across a book, but you’re not ready for it. “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” has been on my list for a few years, but I didn’t pick it up until recently. It was the right time for me and perhaps it is for you as well. Author, Steven Pressfield’s words and thoughts could be the spark to propel you forward.

Despite the title, this isn’t a book just for traditional artists. Pressfield is also writing for entrepreneurs, people who long to switch careers and even people who want to start living more healthfully. I’ve heard so many people claim they are not creative. He mentions this, too, and we both think it’s ridiculous. Don’t let the title deter you. We are all artists and creators of our own lives.

Whatever your endeavor, you’ve likely noticed that it can be a struggle to begin or maintain. That’s the war the title refers to: the daily battle to do your art. Ideally you show up, put the work in and then do it again the next day. What derails us is what Pressfield calls ‘Resistance.’ This is the enemy, and it is insidious, pervasive and powerful. Pressfield devotes the first third of his book to describing Resistance’s many forms and tactics, and you will immediately recognize how it plays in your own life.

Pressfield’s writing is straightforward and unflinchingly honest. He’ll make you laugh and he’ll make you mad. You will have to stop and put the book down at least once – to ponder something seemingly written just for you, or to catch your breath because he exposed something about yourself that you’ve been denying.

Because the content is so deep and powerful, the format of “The War of Art” helps. Split into three parts, each chapter is ultra-short and every sentence counts. Book One defines Resistance. Book Two is all about “turning pro.” Meaning now that you’ve identified Resistance and recognized how it works against you, it’s time to combat it.

Book Three takes it a step further, into “the higher realm,” where the muses and divine inspiration live. To Pressfield, the source of our art comes from outside of us. This won’t appeal to everyone. Even the man who wrote the forward said he disagreed – he believes that internal talent must exist first before you can become inspired. Either way, there is something to be said for invoking, acknowledging and embracing the ideas that come in dreams, on walks or in the shower. Open and relaxed minds make more connections and create ideas and stories seemingly out of nowhere.

I wasn’t expecting Pressfield to devote so much of “The War of Art” to God, the universe, consciousness, angels and guides. Maybe I have a pre-conceived notion about ex-Marine Hollywood screenwriters, shame on me. Pressfield says a prayer to the Muse every morning before he begins his writing. You don’t have to believe what he believes to get something out of his book. If you’re curious, if you’re feeling a nudge toward anything in this review, if you have a dream or an unlived life, read it. Fight for your art.

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SHARON BROWN is a Prospect Strategy Analyst with the University of Florida Office of Advancement. A graduate of UF’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, she is happy to have found a career that marries reading, writing and being curious. She and her husband, also a CLAS alum, live in Gainesville.

 

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