The War of Art

The War of Art
BY : STEVEN PRESSFIELD
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A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

  • Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
  • You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
  • RESISTANCE’S GREATEST HITS The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:
    1)   The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
    2)   The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
    3)   Any diet or health regimen.
    4)   Any program of spiritual advancement.
    5)   Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.
    6)   Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
    7)   Education of every kind.
    8)   Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.
    9)   The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.
    10)   Any act that entails the commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
    11)   The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity. In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.
  • Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
  • The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.
  • Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.
  • The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.
  • RESISTANCE AND SELF-MEDICATION Do you regularly ingest any substance, controlled or otherwise, whose aim is the alleviation of depression, anxiety, etc.? I offer the following experience: I once worked as a writer for a big New York ad agency. Our boss used to tell us: Invent a disease. Come up with the disease, he said, and we can sell the cure. Attention Deficit Disorder, Seasonal Affect Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder. These aren’t diseases, they’re marketing ploys. Doctors didn’t discover them, copywriters did. Marketing departments did. Drug companies did. Depression and anxiety may be real. But they can also be Resistance. When we drug ourselves to blot out our soul’s call, we are being good Americans and exemplary consumers. We’re doing exactly what TV commercials and pop materialist culture have been brainwashing us to do from birth. Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification and hard work, we simply consume a product. Many pedestrians have been maimed or killed at the intersection of Resistance and Commerce.
  • What does Resistance feel like? First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless. We can’t get any satisfaction. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unloved and unlovable. We’re disgusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves. Unalleviated, Resistance mounts to a pitch that becomes unendurable. At this point, vices kick in. Dope, adultery, web surfing. Beyond that, Resistance becomes clinical. Depression, aggression, dysfunction. The actual crime and physical self- destruction.
  • The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.
  • The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
  • Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the surer we can be that we have to do it.

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