The War of Art

Summary Written by Roger Ellman
"Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is."

- The War of Art, Preface

The Big Idea

Identifying the Lethal Enemy Within

"Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be."- The War of Art, Preface

The Resistance kicks in every time you attempt to start on a goal. It manifests in our brains and can take the form of seeking trouble, seeking drama (or melodrama – viewing your life as a soap opera), victimhood, self-doubt, fear or isolation, just to mention a few. Whatever the ingredients of the Resistance in your case, The War of Art helps you identify this invisible, lethal enemy within. So for the first time, you are prepared to stare it in the face – and move through it.

The Resistance is the biggest barrier to our own success, according to author Steven Pressfield, and the following two Insights offer ways to combat it.

Insight #1

Turning Pro

"The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying."- The War of Art, Page 108

So now that you have identified the enemy (you!), what is holding you back – how can you defeat it?

The author does not offer a magic bullet, a pill or set of exercises, but instead offers (repeated in home-hitting eloquence and in many different ways), the fact that defeating the resistance is an act of will to pursue your goal. Or, turning Pro, as Pressfield calls it.

Who is a “Pro”? Someone who plays for the love of the game, dedicates his life to it and commits full-time; someone who does not wait for inspiration to inspire action, but rather commands inspiration to come, by starting the action.

On the face of it, this may sound hard, but the author offers that we are already “pros” at our current jobs – so we have the traits, but we need to consciously cultivate them and apply them to our higher calling and aspirations.

An example of how to turn Pro is to clear your schedule for 3 hours, sit down and do one thing. No interruptions, no planning, just sit down and start on the task. e.g. Put some brushstrokes on a canvas, write some words of a book (from the middle, beginning or end), make a phone call, write the first part of a business plan… The point is you do not allow yourself to do anything else before you have devoted this time to this task and have truly tried to work on it.

“The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena , getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot” (page 90).

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Insight #2

Retain Your Identity

"Ah, but when we begin. When we make a start. When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears, something wonderful happens. A crack appears in the membrane."- The War of Art, page 123

In the third part of The War of Art, Pressfield delves into the rewards of unleashing your inspiration; of the “mysterious” forces that come to your aid and the serendipity that reinforces your purpose, once you have turned Pro.

His interpretation of these forces, he calls muses and angels – but you can replace these with your unconscious talent if, like me, you are less mystically-inclined.

The point is, it is sweet on the other side of starting the work. The more you work with dedication on your goals, the easier it becomes to effectively work on them – it may even start feeling effortless, “automatic”.

Clearing your schedule for 3 hours as already mentioned is one starting point. Follow this by writing down how you felt, what you produced, what further steps you can now take based on the work you’ve done already. It is likely you’ll be surprised to find that your creativity is “flowing”, you accomplished a lot more than you expected and that ideas for subsequent actions come to you more readily.

So go back to those saved up ideas, passions and grand goals. Start something. It doesn’t matter so much where it’s going or what it might turn into, just start. No excuses, no procrastination. Don’t let the Resistance win.

This book is very easy and quick to read. Use the book’s powerful insights into why and how you are stopping yourself from getting on with your dreams. After all, as the author correctly points out, if you don’t, you are withholding your greatness from the world.

Read the book

Get The War of Art on Amazon.

Steven Pressfield

STEVEN PRESSFIELD is the author of the hugely successful historical novels Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith in 2000. He lives in California.

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