Book Review: The War of Art

Let me say straight up, this is the best book I have read in a long time. It addresses a battle that cannot be seen, smelt, touched or heard, yet is as real as gunfire in the streets of Kabul. The casualties of this conflict walk past you everyday, and if you’ve sought some worthy creative goal and failed to even start then you’ll understand it’s power. There is a very real war that rages against your noble pursuits, and Steven Pressfield does an admirable job of exposing and addressing it in this must-read-again book.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one defines the enemy, this thing Pressfield calls ‘Resistance.’ Here you’ll find punchy and humorous morsels of wisdom that will resonate with a lot of what you’ve experienced as a wannabe author, artist or musician. Part two moves on to how to overcome resistance with strategies and mindsets that move us from the world of the ‘amateur’ to the ‘pro’. Part three concludes the book with more philosophical thoughts on the origin of creativity and ideas. While not as practical, Pressfield’s new-agey ideas of god, angels and muses stimulated interesting thoughts on this whole subject.

I absolutely loved the way Pressfield writes. His writing is easy to read, witty and refreshingly honest. Somehow he manages to provide a stern reality check to aspiring creatives in a way that is thoroughly enjoyable and inspirational. If you know you’re an artist at heart, but somehow don’t find time to hone your craft, you’ll be called a wannabe, an amateur and a coward within the pages of this book. Nonetheless, you’ll put down this book feeling motivated and equipped to take up once again the battle against resistance.

I’ve come across a lot of the ideas in this book while reading Christian books addressing why humans tend to desire things that ultimately destroy us (for a good example see Kris Lundgaard’s ‘The Enemy Within’). I found this book interesting in that it tied our resistance to pursuing creative ideas to the same root cause, a concept I hadn’t really thought much before. This book unpackaged a lot of core Christian ideas of sin using fewer theological terms and more swear words, and to be honest I quite enjoyed it.

I thought about recommending this book to everyone who aspires to some sort of creative endeavour, but then realised that no matter who you are, you will benefit from this book. All of us experience the conflict of having a life we desire different to the life we live, and this book does an admirable job of exposing the issues in an inspiring and entertaining way.

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