Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Picking up from where we left off before we got into holiday mode, I was on stuck on a crossroad somewhere trying to figure out which direction to take. I am still out here looking. I’ve even stopped a couple of other “pedestrians” that happen to be on the same road (or have been on it) to ask for some directions – and it seems we’re all trying to figure out where our different destinations are. However, to give me some sort of perspective in understanding where I am now and where I am headed, I had just started reading a book recommended to me by a good friend, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
I finished reading the book today and oh boy, did it speak to my existence or what? It made me realize that first; I have a calling. I know, like duh! It’s not like I didn’t know that, maybe some reaffirmation by a complete stranger who doesn’t even know I exist and who wrote a book that speaks to me was what I needed. Second, is that resistance is real and that is what has been holding me back every damn time. There couldn’t be a better diagnosis to my quandary than resistance; because as he puts across all its characteristics and manifestations, I can clearly see myself in that maze trying to find my ideal exit. And that’s basically what book one is about.
In book two, he talks of combating resistance by turning pro (professional). Have you ever at one point asked yourself whether you can actually do what you love for a living? That is, pursue your calling out of love, and at the same time earn a living from it. He says that a pro loves his vocation so much that he’s able to dedicate his life to it, and as scary as that sounds, I admire the fact that he encourages you to think in the non-conventional way. The conventional way has been that you should separate the two, but why can’t you achieve both? And that’s how he separates the amateur from the professional.
The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will.
The more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it. The payoff for playing-the-game-for-money is not the money (which you may never see anyway, even after you turn pro). The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude. It inculcates the lunch-pail mentality, the hard-core, hard-head, hard-hat state of mind that shows up for work despite rain or snow or dark of night and slugs it out day after day.
He shares the different aspects of being a professional and to be honest, each of them serves as a great reminder of the qualities we should posses (if we don’t already). Things like patience, order, preparation, acting in the face of fear, accepting NO excuses, not showing off, not taking failure (or success) personally, enduring adversity, self-validation,and my favorite, dedicating yourself to mastering technique . And these are just but a few I’ve singled out. It’s the way he tackles each aspect and conveys the message backed with so much wisdom that really fascinates me. It doesn’t feel like self-help, it feels more like,“if you’re not with it, then that’s how you’re losing out and experiencing the battle within.”
The professional dedicates himself to mastering techniques not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.
And of course there’s that final kick on your butt to get you moving. In book three, he attributes that ability to go beyond resistance to the Higher Realm, you know, those invisible psychic forces that support and sustain us in our journey. And he talks of invoking the muse and how different artists have done it – I still have to read this bit over because it was a bit philosophical ( and it didn’t quite sink in), with the mention of Zeus and his daughters and the Homer’s Odyssey.
That aside, I can personally attest to it, because sometimes all I have to do is just open a blank page and next thing I know I have poured out my body, mind and soul into something in a way I didn’t think I could. So strange that I have a colleague who’s figured me out and she would call me out every time she thinks I’m onto something. It’s like I’m physically disconnected from the rest, but internally, I’m engaged. I can barely explain it, but I think as he describes the cause of Inspiration, it’s a reflection of what I experience.
“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bud for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” Steven Pressfield
I found this book profoundly moving and it could be because I needed someone to just decipher what’s currently going on in my mind, whilst giving me some inspiration to keep doing, and his philosophy from beginning to end fit me to a T. He does it so naturally and with so much simplicity. If you’re a fast reader and not-easily distracted like me, you can even read it in a day or two. If you resonated with my last post, I would recommend this book for you too.
I don’t have a physical copy yet, but I sure need one soon, because I feel like I need to scribble on it some more. Yes, scribble on it. It’s one of those books that you need to read over and over again until it all comes to you naturally. And even then, you still continue reading it – because it feels like he’s directly talking to you or even mentoring you. Crazy, right?!
Happy Reading. Let me know what you think of it when you’re done reading it.
Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*