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The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

February 2, 2019

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A co-worker who leads our tech team gave me this book. He’d given it to his whole team and said he thought I’d find a lot of it spot on. He was right.

This is an eminently quotable book about the hardest part of the creative process. It’s not about the inspiration, the craft or the selling of your work. It’s about overcoming the forces that keep you from actually doing the work. “There’s a secret that real writers know that fake writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” Any successful novelist (or any artist, really) will confirm this. So much of what makes the greats great is that they show up every day and put in the time.

Pressfield names Resistance as the evil force that stands in the way of you and creative output—he speaks in these terms, using religious terminology to describe the battle that happens. Resistance is anything and everything that conspires to separate the life you live from the life you could live. Doubt, sloth, distraction, procrastination. “The more important a call to action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

In the second section, Pressfield introduces the notion of those who overcome Resistance and those who don’t—Pros and Amateurs. Amateurs stall out for any number of reasons. They have a long list of excuses. They get caught up in the trappings of the artist—talk about being an artist, act like an artist, wear the image of an artist—everything except actually dedicating themselves to doing the work. “The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preoccupation with the mystery. The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.”

This isn’t magic. This isn’t rocket science. But it is simple and true and important.

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