I first encountered The War of Art by Steven Pressfield when an artist whose work I love and whose work ethic I strive for, David Cheifetz, started posting quotes from it on Instagram. I quickly became hooked on the no-nonsense, no-excuses mentality. The first lesson that I took from the book was not to procrastinate: and, in that spirit, instead of saying I should probably buy it and read it, as I so often do, I went ahead and ordered the book on amazon. A few months later, I've now finished reading it for the fifth time.
Simply put, if you want to paint, draw, learn a foreign language, start a business, read more, exercise, diet, engage in any humanitarian or religious cause that involves improving your life and other people's lives, or in any way make an answer to the voice in your head that wants you to do things, but also tells you you can't, then you need to read The War of Art.
The book is split into three parts: in the first, Mr. Pressfield gives a name to a force of nature destroys most people without them even knowing it: Resistance. The author anthropomorphizes Resistance as the enemy of all human progress. It comes from inside of us, and takes the form of procrastination, distraction, getting into trouble, getting discouraged, rationalization, etcetera..., absolutely anything that prevents us from doing our work. For me, this takes the form of Instagram (ironically, how I came in contact with this book), netflix, and going to school to do design work instead of sitting down and painting. Resistance is what prevents most people from doing most things most of the time.
Luckily, as Pressfield explains, Resistance can be defeated; if it couldn't, there would be no Man on the Moon, no Sistine Chapel ceiling. In part two, he gives a straightforward methodology for combating Resistance; what he calls Turning Pro. Namely, sit down and do your work. That's it.
In part three, Pressfield lays out his personal philosophy on where, on a deeper level, both our creativity and our Resistance arise from. This section will give insight on why defeating Resistance is so important. As he puts it: "If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet....creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."
What have I gained from reading this book? Look at my gallery page. I've painted nearly as many pieces in 2017 as in each previous year. It's still January. That means I've done a year's worth of work in three weeks. How? By sitting down and doing my work.
I've learned that Resistance presents itself differently to different people. For me, Resistance says, "You just finished painting today. Have a drink. Watch a movie. You earned it." I now know better than this. I know that the hardest part of painting is starting; therefore, when I finish a painting, I start the next one that same day, while I'm already warm.
There are other applications, but for the sake of brevity, I'll let you discover them on your own. Read The War of Art. Even if you have no creative inclination whatsoever, Resistance for you may be the tendency to work overtime instead of spending time with your kids. Learning to defeat Resistance one day at a time may improve your life in ways you can't anticipate.
"The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don't just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.
"Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.
"This second, we can sit down and do our work."
- Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.