The War of Art (I’m guessing a play on the title “Art of War”) by Steven Pressfield is a wonderful little book that exposes the blockages everyone faces when embarking on, or even just considering, a venture, an artistic pursuit, anything of value that’s not instant gratification. Pressfield calls these blockages ‘resistance’ and he personifies resistance in this book from every angle imaginable. It exposes resistance from the shadows so we can identify it in our own lives. Pressfield says that the activities that most commonly elicit resistance are:
- The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
- The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
- Any diet or health regimen.
- Any program of spiritual advancement.
- Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.
- Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
- Education of every kind.
- 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.
- The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavour whose aim is to help others.
- Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
- The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.
In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favour 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.
Pressfield then goes on to detail what exactly Resistance looks like, where it is found, how it is identified, what it’s attacking, how it very cleverly leads you to something that sounds good or logical to make you avoid the thing you really should be doing. He says that “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole…It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimetre in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned…”
At the end of the book Pressfield offers this to those who should be pursuing a creative path…
Are you born a writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.
Do it or don’t do it.
It may help to think of it this way. 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.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimetre farther along its path back to God.
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.