Book Reviews

The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

32. The War Of Art - Steven Pressfield

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Rating: 9/10

Date of reading: 18th-20th of August, 2017

Description: When you write an entire book about the fear of the blank page known as the Resistance and it becomes a bestseller, then you know you’ve hit the spot with other writers. The Resistance is the fear every single creative (writer) feels when they need to sit down and produce something. You fight this battle every single day of your life. Try to have more days where you win and you will become a successful writer.


My notes:


“in London , I was told that Steve’s novels are now assigned by Oxford history dons who tell their students that if they wish to rub shoulder s with life in classical Greece , read Pressfield .” ( :9)

“What’s hard is sitting down to write . What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance .” ( :15)

“Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’ t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture ? Then you know what Resistance is.” ( :16)

“Have you heard this story: Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of writing Tex-Mex songs she gave up to raise a family (or starts studying classical Greek , or moves to the inner city and devotes herself to tending babies with AIDS) . Woman’s friends think she’s crazy; she herself has never been happier . There’s a postscript . Woman’s cancer goes into remission .” ( :18)

“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. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway : it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas .” ( :19)

“1 ) The pursuit of any calling in writing , painting , music , film, dance , or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional . 2) The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise , for profit or otherwise .” ( :22)

“In other words , any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth , health , or integrity . Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower . Any of these will elicit Resistance.” ( :23)

“It will perjure, fabricate , falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean.” ( :26)

“Though it feels malevolent , Resistance in fact operates with the indifference of rain and transits the heavens by the same laws as the stars. When we marshal our forces to combat Resistance , we must remember this.” ( :28)

“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.” ( :29)

“Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage romance , even when he was seventy-five . In other words , fear doesn’t go away . The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity , which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.” ( :31)

“We feed it with power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance .” ( :33)

“Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower to higher . It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise , or evolve to a higher station morally , ethically , or spiritually . So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing . . . relax . Resistance will give you a free pass .” ( :34)

“The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we’re about to beat it. It hits the panic button . It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.” ( :35)

“The reason is that they are struggling , consciously or unconsciously , against their own Resistance . The awakening writer’s success becomes a reproach to them. If she can beat these demons , why can’t they? 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 .” ( :36)

“Never forget : This very moment , we can change our lives. There never was a moment , and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second , we can turn the tables on Resistance .” ( :39)

“Of course not all sex is a manifestation of Resistance . In my experience , you can tell by the measure of hollowness you feel afterward. The more empty you feel, the more certain you can be that your true motivation was not love or even lust but Resistance .” ( :40)

“It’s easier to get busted in the bedroom with the faculty chairman’s wife than it is to finish that dissertation on the metaphysics of motley in the novellas of Joseph Conrad .” ( :41)

“Cruelty to others is a form of Resistance , as is the willing endurance of cruelty from others.” ( :41)

“Why put in years of work designing a new software interface when you can get just as much attention by bringing home a boyfriend with a prison record ?” ( :42)

“It’s more fun than a movie . And it works: Nobody gets a damn thing done.” ( :42)

“I once worked as a writer for a big New York ad agency . Our boss used to tell us: Invent a disease . Come up with the disease , he said, and we can sell the cure.” ( :43)

“Attention Deficit Disorder , Seasonal Affect Disorder , Social Anxiety Disorder . These aren’t diseases , they’re marketing ploys. Doctors didn’t discover them, copywriters did. Marketing departments did. Drug companies did. Depression and anxiety may be real. But they can also be Resistance .” ( :43)

“A victim act is a form of passive aggression . It seeks to achieve gratification not by honest work or a contribution made out of one’s experience or insight or love, but by the manipulation of others through silent (and not-so-silent ) threat.” ( :44)

“And if we’re the supported partner, shouldn’t we step out from the glow of our loved one’s adoration and instead encourage him to let his own light shine?” ( :46)

“Resistance also told me I shouldn’t seek to instruct , or put myself forward as a purveyor of wisdom ; that this was vain, egotistical , possibly even corrupt , and that it would work harm to me in the end. That scared me. It made a lot of sense.” ( :47)

“Unalleviated, Resistance mounts to a pitch that becomes unendurable . At this point vices kick in. Dope , adultery , web surfing . Beyond that, Resistance becomes clinical . Depression , aggression , dysfunction . Then actual crime and physical self-destruction . Sounds like life, I know. It isn’t. It’s Resistance .” ( :48)

“By selling us a product , a drug, a distraction . John Lennon once wrote:  Well , you think you’re so clever and classless and free But you’re all fucking peasants. As far as I can see. Who am I? Why am I here ? What is the meaning of my life?” ( :50)

“The fundamentalist entertains no such notion. In his view, humanity has fallen from a higher state. The truth is not out there awaiting revelation ; it has already been revealed . The word of God has been spoken and recorded by His prophet , be he Jesus , Muhammad , or Karl Marx.” ( :51)

“Fundamentalism is the philosophy of the powerless , the conquered , the displaced and the dispossessed .” ( :51)

“The fundamentalist (or, more accurately , the beleaguered individual who comes to embrace fundamentalism ) cannot stand freedom . He cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past. He returns in imagination to the glory days of his race and seek s to reconstitute both them and himself in their purer, more virtuous light. He gets back to basics . To fundamentals .” ( :52)

“Rather , his creativity is inverted . He creates destruction . Even the structure she builds , his schools and networks of organization , are dedicated to annihilation , of his enemies and of himself .” ( :52)

“The difference is that while the one looks forward , hoping to create a better world , the other looks backward , seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen.” ( :53)

“The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery . While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” ( :54)

“If you find yourself criticizing other people , you’re probably y doing it out of Resistance .” ( :55)

“Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others . If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement . Watch yourself . Of all the manifestations of Resistance , most only harm ourselves . Criticism and cruelty harm others as well .” ( :55)

“It reflects love , love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself  (and your friends) , “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? ” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident . The real one is scared to death .” ( :56)

“Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you have  massive Resistance , the good news is, it means there’ s tremendous love there too. If you didn’t love the project that is terrifying you, you wouldn’t feel anything . The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference .” ( :59)

“they ‘re not aware of time or solitude while they’re chasing their vision . The hour s fly. The sculptress and the tree – climbing tyke both look up blinking when Mom calls , “Suppertime! “” ( :62)

“This way of thinking (are you ahead of me? ) is a form of Resistance .” ( :65)

“bulletproof . In fact, the more troubles we’ve got , the better and richer that part becomes .” ( :66)

“P . S . When your deeper Self delivers a dream like that, don’t talk about it. Don’t dilute its power . The dream is for you. It’s between you and your Muse . Shut up and use it.” ( :69)

“Rationalization is Resistance’ s right-hand man. Its job is feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we are for not doing our work.” ( :70)

“Because if Resistance lets us see clearly that our own fear is preventing us from doing our work, we may feel shame at this. And shame may drive us to act in the face of fear. Resistance doesn’ t want us to do this. So it brings in Rationalization .” ( :72)

“Resistance presents us with a series of plausible , rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work .” ( :72)

“What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate .” ( :72)

“What Resistance leaves out, of course , is that all this means diddly . Tolstoy y had thirteen kids and wrote War and Peace. Lance Armstrong had cancer and won the Tour de France three years and counting .” ( :73)

“It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’ s life. —Telamon of Arcadia , mercenary of the fifth century B.C .” ( :76)

“The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation.” ( :77)

“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on time or only when struck by inspiration . “I write only when inspiration strikes, ” he replied . “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp. ” That’ s a pro.” ( :79)

“I’m keenly aware of the Principle of Priority , which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important , and (b) you must do what’s important first.” ( :80)

“1 ) We show up every day. We might do it only because we have to, to keep from getting fired. But we do it. We show up every day.” ( :84)

“2) We show up no matter what. In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger in to the factory. We might do it only so as not to let down our co-workers , or for other, less noble reasons . But we do it. We show up no matter what.” ( :84)

“I was crushed . Here I was, forty-two years old, divorced , childless , having given up all normal human pursuits to chase the dream of being a writer; now I’ve finally got my name on a big-time Hollywood production starring Linda Hamilton , and what happens ? I’m a loser, a phony; my life is worthless , and so am I.” ( :87)

“Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in : It uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion . It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity . We will hit the wall. We will crash.” ( :90)

“The professional cannot live like that. He is on a mission . He will not tolerate disorder . He eliminates chaos from his world in order to banish it from his mind. He wants the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept, so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.” ( :92)

“The professional master show, and leaves what and why to the gods . Like Somerset Maugham she doesn’ t wait for inspiration , she act s in the anticipation of its apparition .” ( :93)

“I’m not talking about craft; that goes without saying. The professional is prepared at a deeper level. He is prepared, each day, to confront his own self-sabotage.” ( :97)

“The Bhagavad-Gita tells us we have a right only to our labor, not to the fruits of our labor.” ( :103)

“The Bhagavad-Gita tells us we have a right only to our labor, not to the fruits of our labor. All the warrior can give is his life; all the athlete can do is leave everything on the field.” ( :103)

“Twenty more minutes passed . Finally the producer’s door opened ; he came out pulling on his jacket . “Oh, I’m so sorry! ” He had forgotten all about me. I’m human . This hurt. I wasn’t a kid either; I was in my forties, with a rap sheet of failure as long as your arm.” ( :104)

“The professional endures adversity . He lets the birdshit splash down on his slicker , remembering that it comes clean with a heavy-duty hosing .” ( :104)

“reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena , getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.” ( :105)

“An amateur lets the negative opinion of others unman him. He takes external criticism to heart, allowing it to trump his own belief in himself and his work . Resistance loves this.” ( :106)

“Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone , but the writer will still be there facing the blank page . Nothing matters but that he keep working .” ( :107)

“Making yourself a corporation (or just thinking of yourself in that way) reinforce s the idea of professionalism because it separate s the artist-doing-the-work from the will-and-consciousness-running-the-show .” ( :112)

“the conference room and the boss goes over what assignments each team member is responsible for in the coming week. When the meeting breaks up, an assistant prepares a worksheet and distribute s it. When this hits your desk an hour later, you know exactl y what you have to do that week. I have one of those meetings with myself every Monday . I sit down and go over my assignments . Then I type it up and distribute it to myself .” ( :113)

“Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding , something mysterious starts to happen . A process is set into motion by which , inevitably and infallibly , heaven come s to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause ; serendipity reinforces our purpose .” ( :121)

“protect , and defend the Constitution of the United States.” I came out. What’s going on? “Didn’ t you hear? Nixon’ s out; they got a new guy in there.” I had missed Watergate completely .” ( :124)

“I never did find a buyer for the book. Or the next one, either. It was ten years before I got the first check for something I had written and ten more before a novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was actually published.” ( :125)

“Rest in peace, motherfucker. 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.”” ( :125)

“I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’ s couplets : “Whatever you can do , or dream you can , begin it. Boldness has genius , magic , and power in it. Begin it now.”” ( :135)

“This is why artists are modest . They know they’re not doing the work; they’re just taking dictation .” ( :140)

“It’s also why “noncreative people ” hate “creative people. ” Because they’re jealous .” ( :140)

“Of course , this is nonsense . We’re all creative . We all have the same psyche . The same everyday miracles are happening in all our heads day by day, minute by minute .” ( :140)

“The moment a person learns he’s got terminal cancer, a profound shift takes place in his psyche . At one stroke in the doctor’s office he becomes aware of what really matters to him. Things that sixty second s earlier had seemed all-important  suddenly appear meaningless , while people and concerns that he had till then dismissed at once take on supreme importance .” ( :145)

“It moves from the Ego to the Self. The world is entirely new, viewed from the Self. At once we discern what’ s really  important . Superficial concern s fall away , replaced by a deeper , more profoundly grounded perspective .” ( :147)

“Miraculously , cancers go into remission . People recover . Is it possible , Tom Laughlin asks, that the disease itself evolved as a consequence of actions taken (or not taken) in our lives?” ( :147)

“hammered . It’s because they’re talking about the Ego. It’s the Ego that gets blasted, waxed, plastered . We demolish the Ego to get to the Self. The margins of the Self touch upon the Divine Ground . Meaning the Mystery , the Void, the source of Infinite Wisdom and Consciousness . Dreams come from the Self. Ideas come from the Self. When we meditate we access the Self. When we fast, when we pray, when we go on a vision quest, it’s the Self we’re seeking.” ( :152)

“The Ego hated Socrates and Jesus , Luther and Galileo , Lincoln and JFK and Martin Luther King .” ( :153)

“Fear That We Will Succeed. That we can access the powers we secretly know we possess. That we can become the person we sense in our hearts we truly are.” ( :156)

“We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us. What will become of us? We will lose our friends and family, who will no longer recognize us. We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space, with nothing and no one to hold on to.” ( :156)

“We can’t be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific , personal destiny . We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become . We are who we are from the cradle , and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” ( :159)

“If we were born to paint, it’s our job to become a painter . If we were born to raise and nurture children , it’s our job to become a mother . If we were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world , it’s our job to realize it and get down to business .” ( :159)

“If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life. The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake.” ( :164)

“In the hierarchy, the artist faces outward. Meeting someone new he asks himself, What can this person do for me? How can this person advance my standing? In the hierarchy, the artist looks up and looks down. The one place he can’t look is that place he must: within.” ( :164)

“The hack condescends to his audience . He thinks he’s superior to them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately , scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really feels or believes , what he himself thinks is interesting . He’s afraid it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling word ) wants , then gives it to them.” ( :165)

“We humans have territories too. Ours are psychological. Stevie Wonder’ s territory is the piano . Arnold Schwarzenegger’s is the gym. When Bill Gates pulls into the parking lot at Microsoft , he’s on his territory . When I sit down to write, I’m on mine. What are the qualities of a territory ?” ( :167)

“4) A territory can only be claimed by work. 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.” ( :168)

“5) A territory returns exactly what you put in. Territories are fair. Every erg of energy you put in goes infallibly into your account . A territory never devalues . A territory never crashes . What you deposited , you get back, dollar-for-dollar .” ( :168)

“She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her.” ( :169)

“Instead let’s ask ourselves like that new mother: What do I feel growing inside me? Let me bring that forth, if I can, for its own sake and not for what it can do for me or how it can advance my standing.” ( :170)

“If you’re all alone on the planet , a hierarchical orientation makes no sense . There’ s no one to impress . So, if you’d still pursue that activity , congratulations . You’re doing it territorially .” ( :171)

“The sustenance they get comes from the act itself, not from the impression it makes on others. I have a friend who’s nuts for clothes .” ( :172)

“It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself , even destroy yourself . You hurt your children . You hurt me. You hurt the planet .” ( :177)

Check out more book notes at How I Read 90 Books In The Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages A Day

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