Suggested Reading: The War of Art

“Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an inidcator of aspirations. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are.  The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is sacred to death.

—The War of Art by Steven Pressfield


A few years ago I had a job where I could listen to music and podcasts every day, so I absorbed a lot of information during that time. I got into a bunch of these entrepreneurial podcasts from people like Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, and Hal Elrod. Also many hours of the Joe Rogan Experience.

Many of the hosts and guests would recommend certain books to the listeners, and one that kept coming up was this book by Pressfield. I’d never heard of it but everything I heard made it very interesting. When I finally purchased a copy, I was not disappointed.

I turned to this book often during my campaigns, and it is still one that provides me with lots of inspiration on slow days (if I need a little jumpstart I’ll just read one short section from the book at random and away I go).

The War of Art is about getting things done. Although the principles apply to any endeavor, it is geared mostly towards creative types, those trying to achieve a specific goal (like writing a book or losing weight), or people that need a little kick in the pants to get moving.

And this book will definitely kick you in the pants! Pressfield describes what he calls Resistance and how this nasty little devil will creep into every little crevice of your mind (and your habits) and keep you from getting your work done. Resistance makes sure we’re distracted, disheartened, and disconnected from our work. It lives on our failure to accomplish. It is the enemy.

Luckily, Resistance can be overcome, and the way to do that is to “turn pro.”  By creating habits and mental reserves for ourselves that bring us to do the work of the “pro,” we can learn to avoid the devious traps set by Resistance as we accomplish our goals. Pressfield outlines many of the attributes of the Professional, including creating a daily routine and denying instant gratification. A passage from the book describes a pro well:

“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied. ‘Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’ That’s a pro.”

And from there he goes into a higher level discussion about the artist’s source of inspiration— the Muse. Artists are unique in their ability to speak of unseen forces taking part in the creative act, without being deemed a schizophrenic. Connecting with that creative source inside, the intuition and the imagination, is the goal of all artists (and in truth all people are artists whether they know it or not).

To end with another quote from the book:

“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.”