1-Page Summary: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

the-war-of-art-book-cover

The big ideas

  1. Resistance is the enemy. Resistance stops you from pursuing your dreams: writing a book. running a 10K. building a business
  2. Use Resistance to discover where your dreams and desires lie. Move in its direction, where you feel it most: the cold sweats, the tears, the doubts
  3. Beat Resistance with perspiration, not inspiration. Resistance fears commitment, craft, and dedication
  4. Don’t wait for the Muse to fight the battle for you. She will come only when you no longer need her
  5. Beat Resistance by building a territory. Pour your sweat and hours into it. Make it yours.

We should keep a careful diary of our moments of envy – they are our covert guides to what we should try to do next – Alain de Botton

Related things to read

Favorite quotes (12)

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him.

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. […] It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

Often couples or close friends, even entire families, will enter into tacit compacts whereby each individual pledges (unconsciously) to remain mired in the same slough in which she and all her cronies have become so comfortable.

If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.

The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance.

Now consider the amateur: the aspiring painter, the wannabe playwright. How does he pursue his calling? One, he doesn’t show up every day. Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what. Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day. He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake. He does not get money. And he overidentifies with his art.

A pro views her work as craft, not art. Not because she believes art is devoid of a mystical dimension. On the contrary. She understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. So she concentrates on technique. The professional masters how, and leaves what and why to the gods.

The pro stands at one remove from her instrument — meaning her person, her body, her voice, her talent; the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological being she uses in her work.

Next morning I went over to Paul’s for coffee and told him I had finished. “Good for you,” he said without looking up. “Start the next one today.”

When Arnold Schwarzenegger hits the gym, he’s on his own turf. But what made it his own are the hours and years of sweat he put in to claim it. A territory doesn’t give, it gives back.

*Hat tip to Brian’s Philosophers Notes for his usage of the phrase “the big ideas”. Thanks to Bethany Jae for her cover photo

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.