- "This book discusses the dangers of being mentally stuck, inactive, and prone to procrastination. Its goal is to assist readers in recognizing and being conscious of these negative influences that prevent them from concentrating and finishing their artistic endeavors, allowing them to live a more fulfilled life."
This is The War of Art Summary for those who are short on time and want to know the gist of the book.
Resistance is Your Biggest Enemy
The author has gone to great lengths to make us aware of the evil and regressive nature of Resistance that can take the form of a thousand reasons and gives us countless excuses for distractions, fears, and victimhood. The writer clarifies that the ultimate demon has prevented innumerable people from living their desired, accomplished lives. Numerous unfinished works of art, abandoned health and fitness regimens, incomplete books, and unfulfilled dreams are dead in front of this most treacherous and evil demon, “Resistance.” The book is divided into three parts, defining the enemy, combatting Resistance, and the last higher realm.
This book serves as a well-deserved kick in the ass to anyone who wants to pursue the life of his dreams but struggles to sit down and do the work. To turn pro from a non-specialist, we must keep defeating the Resistance. The author describes his battle with Resistance while writing a book. Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and everything in it.
To understand the war of art, one must fully appreciate the amorphous term “resistance.” The vilest evil the world has ever seen.
Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life inside us, and between the two stands resistance. You’ve got to be conscious of the enemy inside us because there are different manifestations of Resistance. There are numerous forms of Resistance. The little voice in your head says you aren’t good enough, strong enough, or motivated enough to start your creative journey.
- It is an invisible force, but we can feel it. Resistance is a negative force that shoves us away and distracts us from doing our work. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential.
- Resistance is an internal force. It does not emit from our periphery. We try to find it in our spouses, bosses, jobs, and kids, but it’s not in them. It’s inside us.
- Resistance is relentless and ruthless. It comes back no matter how many times we defeat it. It will come at you no matter who you are. Henry Fonda, a famous stage artist, still threw up before every performance at 75.
Resistance and Self-Doubt
Resistance is an insidious force. It will tell you anything to prevent you from doing your work. It will assume any form if that is what it takes to deceive you by persuading, seducing, bullying, and breeding self-doubt in your head. Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of, and desire to do it. If you ask yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are.
Resistance Is Universal
To marshal our forces to combat it, we must remember that it is impersonal. It does not know us personally. It is a force of nature always at work. Like rain, like sunshine, like stars, it will keep working against you. Everyone feels Resistance.
Find Your True Calling Where Resistance Is More Pernicious
Resistance is like a compass with an infallible force that will always point north. The more important a work or calling is to us, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Resistance takes its toll on everyone. The rule of thumb is that it is most pernicious to that calling that is most important for our soul’s evolution. The more Resistance you experience, the more important your calling is to your soul. The amount of work you put in eventually comes back to you.
The Fight Never Ends
It is not unique to one person; Resistance doesn’t know us personally. It is a universal phenomenon. Everyone who has a body experiences resistance. We can never conquer it. The warrior and artist live by the same code of necessity, to fight the battle anew every day. When the famous novelist was asked whether he writes on a schedule or when inspiration strikes him, Somerset Maugham said, “I write only when inspiration strikes… thankfully, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock.”
Resistance Means Business
Resistance means business. It will never inflict a small injury. It will go after your jugular. After the unique, gifted genius, providence has sent you to earth. Resistance feeds on our fear, and it has no strength. Master your fears and overcome Resistance; the degree of fear we feel equates to the power of Resistance we face. Resistance enlists criticism to reinforce the fifth column of fear already at work inside the artist’s head, seeking to break her will and crack her dedication.
Resistance Is Most Strong Near The Finish Line
It always works in one direction. Our pursuit of evolving to some higher moral, ethical or spiritual will always work in the opposite direction. It is most powerful near the finish line. Remember the snooze of Odysseus when he was near the shore and could see the smoke of their family’s fires when his men cut open the sack of winds which kind Aeolus had bottled up for him earlier? The winds bust forth and push him across every league of oceans. A professional must be on high alert near the finishing line. 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.
Resistance Is Self Sabotage
Resistance is self-sabotage and likes to recruit allies. We are aware of the perils of self-sabotage, but we should also guard against sabotage by others. A crab’s highest treason is to leap the rim of the bucket. His mates will drag him down. If others are criticizing you, they are doing it out of their Resistance, and by the same token, if you are blaming others, the same applies to you. Seeing others beginning to live their authentic selves drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.
Resistance and Procrastination
Resistance and procrastination go hand in hand. It is easiest to rationalize; we are doomed once we get into the habit of delaying. We never say to ourselves I am never going to do it. Instead, we say, “I am going to do it tomorrow.” Another symptom of Resistance is the habit of falling for instant gratification like sex, addiction of every kind, self-dramatization, falling into victimhood, rationalization of troubles, self-medication, general low-grade unhappiness, and an eternal search for pleasure-seeking that kicks in a vicious loop of guilt and victimhood and successfully prevents us from doing our work.
How to Overcome Resistance?
The author lays out the strategy to beat Resistance. The evilest thing on the planet, the Resistance by turning pro. When the famous novelist was asked whether he writes on some schedule or when he is struck by inspiration, he replied that he writes every day when inspiration hits him at 9 o’clock sharp. The book provides a blueprint to pursue our ideals. Pressfield writes a chapter explaining the difference between a professional and an amateur and what prevents an amateur from turning pro is called Resistance.
Amateur vs. Professional According to Steven Pressfield
- “An amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps.”
- “To an amateur, his game is a hobby, but for a professional, it is his vocation(business).”
- An unprofessional person plays part-time, whereas a professional play full-time.
- An unprofessional person is a weekend warrior, and a professional is there seven days a week.
A professional loves it so much that he dedicates his whole life to it because he commits full-time. He keeps fighting Resistance throughout his life. Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.
Traits of a True Professional to Fight Resistance
According to Pressfield, the key takeaways in beating and moving past Resistance are summed below:
- Professionals show up every day, no matter what. They show up in health, in sickness, from fear of getting fired. They keep their net inside the water all the time. Consistency is the higher ideal for them.
- They stay on the job all day long until the whistle blows. They battle boredom.
- High achievers are committed over the long haul. They may change jobs the next year or get promoted, but they must work in all possible circumstances.
- For pros, the stakes are high and real. They work for livelihood, to feed their families and for their education, and to pay the bills.
- They labour for remuneration. They are not doing their jobs for fun but for money.
- They avoid overidentification with their jobs. Professionals may take pride in their work but don’t identify themselves by job descriptions. They don’t take failure and success personally and keep a distance from their instrument. Taking too much pride in the success or losing heart from failure are favourite breeding grounds for Resistance. He knows that success and praise, like happiness, are only the by-product of work.
- Professionals always show patience in their pursuits. They are seasoned workers and know that success is ninety per cent perspiration. He is programmed for delayed gratification. The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career but to keep himself from flaming out in each work.
- Professionals take their fields as their territory. We, humans, have territories too. Ours is psychological. Stevie Wonder’s territory is the piano. The territory of Arnold Schwarzenegger 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. Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. The process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Steven Pressfield’s concept of anti-resistance force is your muse.