With a new year comes the spirit to try something new, like, let’s say, reading a nonfiction book on how to kick your inner artist in the butt and get something creative done this year.
I guess I did precisely that.
I usually find nonfiction rather dry and hard to get through. But just as it says in the title, “Break through the block and win your inner creative battles” is exactly what Steven Pressfield achieves with “The War of Art.”
This wasn’t a cheesy business book explaining a hundred life hacks; it brings focus to what’s really holding us back from our creativity and provides helpful observations on the difference between those who succeed and those who do not. If it was the former, I could not have made it past the first 10 pages.
The book is a call to arms for artists. Pressfield attempts to knock down the blocks of pursuing our calling, or our art, with full passion by personifying the obstacles. He describes the invisible force that seems to prevent us from achieving our goals as “Resistance” because that’s exactly what it is. Resisting homework, the gym, or picking up a paint brush all tie in to the concept we can all familiarize with.
It’s the voice inside our heads that justifies procrastination and prevents our true happiness from taking form. Once the reader realizes it’s a force every person has to contend with, whatever the form, a fight has begun to conquer what holds them back.
I have to agree with the way Pressfield underscores the insidious nature of Resistance and gives it mortal ambitions.
“Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable,” he writes. “Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on Earth to give and that no one else has but us. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.”
Scary? Maybe a little. But in this we can understand that as equally as we are capable of succumbing to the Resistance, we can overcome it.
Once I was able to admit to my own Resistance, Pressfield left me with a lot to ponder over. How many times in the past had I shot down a creative instinct? Or convinced myself I didn’t have what it takes to learn something new, like photography? The sad disposition and empty excuses are things I’m certain everyone relates to.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the first two sections of the book, I found the third section less enjoyable. It describes the idea of inspiration and muses and it became too religious and vague for me to understand. Nonetheless, the book provides a sword and shield to fight off the varying forms of procrastination and self-doubt each of us know all too well.
After finishing the book, I feel much better about myself and how I approach my creative work. When I don’t get something done, I don’t berate myself for being lazy or slacking. I now know it’s Resistance fighting to keep me that way.
Pressfield’s ultimate question to his readers rings true: If you were the last person alive on Earth, would you still do what you’re doing?
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to combat the Resistance within them and start achieving goals that have held them back in the past. The idea is simple: Do the work today. Wake up tomorrow and figure how to do it again and again. The tools you need to combat Resistance are already with you as long as you have a passion or a goal worth fighting for. It’s always a battle that can be won in the end.