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Book Summary – The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Do you feel frustrated trying to come up with new ideas or finish your most important projects? In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield explores how to overcome creative  barriers, unlock your full potential and achieve what you were born to do. This book is one of three books focusing on creative barriers, with The War of Art diving into the root of creative blocks and how to overcome it. This free version of The War of Art summary explains the common enemy—Resistance—and how we can confront it to achieve creative breakthroughs.

The ideas discussed are valuable for artists, entrepreneurs, athletes, and anyone trying to break through their internal barriers to success.

What is The War of Art about?

In this book, Steven Pressfield defines “creative” as using your intrinsic talents, insights, or passions to create or produce something new.

This goes beyond the traditional definition of “artistic endeavors” like painting, writing, or music. It includes any activity where developing new ideas and expressing yourself are important, like starting a business, doing scientific research, or creating new products.

Pressfield names the invisible enemy of creativity as “Resistance” and discusses how to win the battle against it in his book.

This summary addresses the struggle against Resistance in 3 parts:

(i) What is Resistance?
(ii) Winning the war against Resistance
(iii) Living your creative potential

Part 1: What is Resistance?

Author Steven Pressfield depicts Resistance as the arch-nemesis of creativity and inspiration. It is an omnipresent force actively working against you, preventing you from doing what you’re meant to do. To successfully fight Resistance, you must first recognize and understand it. Resistance is:

  • An unseen enemy: You can’t see, hear, touch, or smell Resistance. However, you can feel it, like an energy field repelling you from your work or pushing back against your creative efforts.
  • Omnipresent: It affects everyone, and it’s not personal.
  • Powered by fear: Resistance is powered by fear. If you can conquer your fear, you can conquer Resistance.

How Resistance Manifests?

Resistance manifests in various forms, including procrastination, self-doubt, and self-destructive behaviors. Here’s a visual snapshot:The War of Art Summary - What is Resistance?

• We procrastinate by putting off a task till later. The more you procrastinate, the more it becomes a habit.

• We might also seek out instant gratification through sex, drugs, sweet/fatty foods, or mindless entertainment.

• Resistance could also appear as a voice in your head, telling you all the reasons you can’t/shouldn’t do what you want to do.

• Resistance can even lead to self-dramatization and victimization. Doctors estimate that 70 – 80% of patients aren’t truly sick; they’re just dramatizing their condition to get attention or to get out of a situation.

Resistance can also sabotage us through the actions and needs of others close to us. It manifests as external distractions when it actually comes from deep inside us. When you decide to tackle an important task or are on the verge of a breakthrough, Resistance ensures that something urgent suddenly pops up. This could be anything from family emergencies to an unexpected illness, keeping you from your desired path.

Resistance makes you criticize others. You project your fears and inaction onto others instead of tackling your own challenges.

Resistance doesn’t just act through our action/inaction. It also acts through feelings of restlessness, unhappiness, and self-doubt, pushing us to abandon our true callings.

The more fear and resistance you feel toward something, the more important it is likely to be. Otherwise, you will simply feel indifferent toward it.

Part 2: Winning the War Against Resistance

The best way to combat Resistance is to become a professional. Steven Pressfield describes being “professional” as embracing a mindset, not a role like a lawyer or a doctor.

What does it mean to be a professional?

Professionals treat their work with the seriousness and dedication it deserves. They show up consistently to do their work, continually hone their skills and self-mastery, and remain committed to their craft over the long haul.

By contrast, amateurs focus on external validation and fear of failure, preventing them from fully committing to their true calling and creative potential.

Here’s a brief visual summary of the differences between a pro and an amateur:

The War of Art summary - The difference between Amateurs and Professionals
In our full 12-page version of The War of Art summary, we break down the differences in much greater detail, comparing how professional and amateurs think and act differently with regard to: dedication to their craft, love and passion for their work, approach to money, motivation, discipline, instant gratification vs delayed gratification, originality , improvement, and fears.  These concepts are elaborated further in Pressfield’s book Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work.

Anyone can become a professional. All it takes is a real decision: commit to start, then keep doing the work. Win the war against Resistance by becoming even more relentless than it is.

Part 3: Living Your Creative Potential

In our complete version of The War of Art summary, we also address how to:

Collaborate with higher forces—whether you call them God, spirit, consciousness, the Muse, or infinite intelligence—to translate intangible potential into tangible creations; and

Embrace your calling—to overcome fear and Ego, embrace your distinct identity and intrinsic purpose, and thrive within a “territorial framework” (as opposed to a hierarchical one).

Ultimately, our goal in life is to discover and realize our inherent potential, be it artistic creation, nurturing a family, or challenging societal injustices. This book addresses how.

Getting the Most from The War of Art

If you’re ready over overcome Resistance and move forward in your creative journey, do check out our full book summary bundle that includes an infographic, 12-page text summary, and a 22-minute audio summary.
The War of Art summary - Book Summary Bundle

This book is packed with real-life examples, personal struggles, experiences, and perspectives to motivate readers in their creative pursuits. You can purchase the book here or visit stevenpressfield.com for more details.

Check out our Deep Work summary for more insights on how to overcome distractions and enhance your focus, or gain more creative tools and techniques in our summary of Think Like Da Vinci.  Or, if you’re keen to explore your calling or “reason for being”, do read more in our Ikigai summary.

About the Author of The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles was written by Steven Pressfield. Born in 1943, he is an American author known for his historical fiction and screenplays. He spent 27 years writing, taking on various jobs to support himself before achieving significant literary success. He has worked as an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, attendant in a mental hospital, and fruit picker. His breakout novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was later adapted into a major motion picture.

This book was also published as “The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle.”

The War of Art Quotes

“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

“The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it.”

“It’s one thing to lie to ourselves. It’s another thing to believe it.”

“A professional schools herself to stand apart from her performance, even as she gives herself to it
heart and soul.”

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

“Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is Resistance.”

“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.”

Click here to download The War of Art infographic & summary

 

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