Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Hi, my name is Dave Baldwin. This is the first time I’ve ever had the honor and privilege to guestpost on Alice’s blog, so I couldn’t think of a book more fitting. This is a book that every writer, every artist, and every entrepreneur should read immediately.

Those who know me well, know that I don’t read books twice. Ever. Why read the same book twice when you could spend the same amount of time reading another book? Occasionally, I’ve read the best books a second time, but only after months and years had passed.

When I read The War of Art earlier this year, I finished the book in one sitting and decided to give it a second reading that week. Fast-forward six months. When I saw The Social Network (the film about Mark Zuckerberg and the invention of Facebook) for the second time, I noticed myself getting more out of the second viewing than the first.

I never paid attention to anything the second time until I read Pressfield’s work.

Why such high praise for this book? It not only transformed the way I think, operate and do business, but it’s also impacted my interactions and relationships with other people. Pressfield’s analogy between creativity and war is a highly useful one. When I looked at my own writing projects through this lens, I started to fully appreciate that discipline, not creativity, is what makes a great writer (or any great artist).

When I saw this, my approach to developing myself as a writer shifted immediately. My first step: I gathered a group of aspiring writers and entrepreneurs onto a daily conference call at 5:25 a.m., seven days a week. Why so early? Pressfield taught me to appreciate that in order to overcome Resistance, the enemy of creativity, it’s necessary to engage that enemy on its own turf regularly and repeatedly; lest I become weak and vulnerable to attack.

I also began to notice all of the areas where I had been attempting in vain to strategize my writing and force my creativity to look a particular way. The War of Art helped me to see that it was indeed possible to generate creative ideas on schedule, per specifications. The key: developing the critical warrior’s balance between patience and unshakable determination.

Let me be frank here; I have a long way to go in the nobility and enlightenment department. But Pressfield’s words have indelibly impressed upon my subconscious mind a certain something that has made all the difference during those moments of truth that test me the most. For example, when I walk past the bags of junk food in the grocery store aisle, I have found myself thinking of the creative implications and opting not to take home a bag of fried salted snacks more often than not since The War of Art made its debut into my life.

At the time of this writing, it’s November, and I’m now more than halfway through producing my first NaNoWriMo novel (that’s short for National Novel Writing Month). What made the difference? The War of Art taught me something raw and simple about writing. When you’re not sure if you’re writing the right thing, just push into the resistance and keep moving forward anyway. This simple axiom has allowed me to enjoy the art of writing purely for what it is. I no longer edit as I write (except to fix spelling errors) and the whole process has become simple and delightful.

Before The War of Art, writing for a deadline was pure living Hell. Now, it’s just a fun game.

What I’ve written here does not do justice to even the tip of the iceberg. There are only three words that do justice to this brilliant piece of work: Just Read It.

About Dave
Dave Baldwin is a freelance writer and editor in Raleigh, NC. Baldwin has written three books, including Get That Book Out of Your Head.