Read time: 3 min
Overall Review - Good Advice, Void of Humor
This funky play on the classic title "The Art of War" caught my attention. It compelled me to read yet another book about how to get my life in gear. Despite the title, this book is not just for artists or creatives; it is written for anyone who needs to push past the things holding them back from their true potential.
Whatever you strive for in your life, you likely notice it is difficult to begin and, particularly for me, to maintain. This is the 'war' author Steven Pressfield details in this book. He refers to the force that stops us as 'Resistance' and dedicated the book's first third to describing what Resistance is and how it shows out in our lives. Part two is filled with tips and tricks to Combat Resistance, and part three is additional advice about maintaining your stance against Resistance.
Seems intriguing, no?
Honestly, out of all the books I have read this year, The War of Art has been my least favorite. I found this surprising, as I had initially heard the recommendation from a podcast I really enjoy, and the reviews from ThriftBooks (where I typically buy books from these days) were all five-star raves.
Here is a review from a rather enthusiastic reader.
"If you have a passion in your life — writing, painting, music, sculpting, dancing, acting — and if this passion is the reason you believe you're alive, then check out this book. One of Pressfield's premises is that we're all MEANT for something, we're each here for some reason, to create something in the world (Eternity is in love with the productions of time), and if we don't live for and through this, then we're wasting our time. He blasts away even the most stubborn and alluring resistances - the excuses we tell ourselves for not doing the work. This book can rev you up — it's short (165 pages)and powerful. I breezed through the book in a few hours and felt energized."
I mean, wow. That sounds so promising! Yet, I can't say I had the same experience with The War of Art.
But to claim that this book was terrible would be a disservice to you. Pressfield's writing is blunt, filled with hard truths, and lots of brilliant advice. An inspiring read with some great things about Resistance and putting in the work as a creative. I simply felt it painstakingly challenging to read.
I love books with humor and sass and fun anecdotes, and this book was almost entirely void of all those characteristics. This book read as though it was written by a cranky old white man, which, of course, it was, but that's not the point. The point is that it was tough for me to get through. I actively avoided picking the book up, and it took far longer to get through than a 160-page book should have.
This was not a complete bore of a read, though. As I mentioned, there are some genuinely profound statements that (almost) made it worth my suffering. Here are a couple of my favorites:
"Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlives life within us. Between the two stands resistance."
"The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more we can be that we have to do it."
The other thing that bothered me about this book was the formatting. Each topic has a title and is confined to its own pages, meaning when the subject was finished, the next topic would begin on a new page, even if the previous page only had four lines on it. So really, claiming this book is 160 pages is pushing it a little. Formatting isn't a deal-breaker for me, but it is certainly something I notice, especially when I'm already not thrilled with what I am reading.
Overall, The War of Art was an okay book. One, I likely will never read again and wouldn't offer as a recommendation to anyone. I feel that much of the advice given here can be read in similar books and in a much more exciting and friendly manner. Yet, it was not a complete waste of time.