Book Review: The War of Art by Steve Pressfield

Since I’ve become a bit of a productivity nut, one new thing I’m going to try out over the next few months is adding some reviews of some of the best books that I read that I find insightful, inspiring, or just plain useful.

I’m going to start this off with Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.

The War of Art cover

Overview of The War of Art

Sun Tzu’s Art of War is a book about how to defeat an enemy – an enemy soldier or army.

Steve Pressfield’s The War of Art is how to defeat one specific enemy – Resistance.

According to the author, Resistance is all the reasons why people don’t do something. Fear, fatigue, rationalizations, busywork, social media, Netflix, etc. are all forms of Resistance. And Resistance is the enemy of anyone and everyone that tries to accomplish a goal – be it musical, business, technological, or anything else.

Like The Art of War, instead of a narrative or overarching story, this book is broken into short single-page snippets that each illustrate a specific point. These snippets are categorized into three main parts:

  • Book 1: Resistance – Defining the Enemy
  • Book 2: Combating Resistance – Turning Pro
  • Book 3: Beyond Resistance – Higher Realm

These three sections are pretty self-explanatory. I found myself nodding my head in agreement more times than I care to mention during Book 1 when he discusses the different types of Resistance and how they manifest in different ways at different times. Since the book came out in 2002 some references are a bit dated, but most of the forms of Resistance are pretty timeless in any case.

Book 2 delves into the differences between those who show up every day (not an exaggeration) and get their work done – no matter what – and those that don’t. Here, Pressfield lists lots of different obstacles and situations that are encountered by anyone in a creative situation and shows how the situations are handled by Professionals and by Amateurs.

In Book 3,  Pressfield shares his thoughts and musings about angels, gods, the self vs. ego, hierarchical vs. territorial thinking, among others. This section of the book was, for me, the most hit or miss – some stuff was great, other stuff was a bit too out there for me to really enjoy.

While Pressfield’s discussions are mostly about doing the work of writing (he is, after all, a professional writer) they are pretty easily adapted to any sort of endeavor where you are required to do your own work – and the only person checking up on it is yourself.

My Thoughts on The War of Art

While it may not work for everyone, I like the way this book is written. The fact that the separate “chapters” in each book are all about 1 page long makes it easy to digest and get a lot out of a short 5-10 minute read. It’s really an easy book to dip in and out of if you need a bit of extra motivation or are looking for a kick in the pants to

The lack of a cohesive narrative may make this book a bit of struggle for some, but I like it. Plus, the short, bite-sized chapters make this book easy to put down and get (back) to work quickly – a long narrative may make this book a form of Resistance all its own!

I definitely got a lot out of the first two books. Like I said, I identified quite a few places where I was letting Resistance get the better of my own personal goals and obligations and Steve’s no-nonsense approach to getting work done really resonates well with me.

This is one of those books that I keep handy on my Kindle to dip into whenever I’m feeling a bit unmotivated or lazy. I often find that after reading just a chapter or two I’m motivated to get back to work doing whatever it is that I needed to be doing. I really can’t recommend it enough if you’re in a creating field.

You can find the book on Amazon (physical or Kindle versions), iBooks (digital), and Google Play Book (digital).