Recap: The War of Art

I went in expecting to love this book. At first I did love this book. I had my disagreements with Steven Pressfield, but they weren’t on the writing advice.

The War of Art is a collection of connected short essays about being an artist. Pressfield writes extensively on what he calls Resistance. Resistance is the personification of anything and everything that keeps you from doing your work.

This is my review of the book as a whole. I have some contention with various specific details that I might go into another time.


In the first part of the book, Resistance: Defining the Enemy, Pressfield sets forth the nature of Resistance. This section of the book was my favorite. It was relatable, though repetitive. I’ve encountered a lot of what he mentions in my own life and creative pursuits. I do think he goes a bit far in defining Resistance, in some cases, though. On page 55, for example, he discusses rationalization. He admits that the excuses may be valid, but still calls them Resistance. “Our wife may really be in her eighth month of pregnancy; she may in truth need us at home…. What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.”

In the second part of the book, Combating Resistance: Turning Pro, Pressfield defines a “professional” and how to beat Resistance. This section boils down to “Just Do It.” The whole section is about sitting down and getting to work. Doing it despite Resistance. I’ve heard that before, so I did not find it particularly helpful or valuable. I’m implementing that in my own life. I have been for quite a while now. I’ve been blogging every day since October and have 167 other posts on this blog since July. Pressfield has a position about the distinction between pros and amateurs that I somewhat disagree with.

In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

p. 63

This ignores the monetary hurdles committing full-time can have. If I quit my job at Panera to blog and write full-time, I will starve. I will not be able to financially support myself if I don’t keep writing on the side for now. It’s my true passion, yes, and I want to do it full-time because I love it so much. I can certainly take steps to changing this. In fact, I have. My poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head is available for sale. I’ve applied to freelance writing jobs. I write every day and share my blog on social media. I have Patreon set up. But right now, I make no money so I cannot quit my job. It is what it is. I’m resigned to it only because I know I can and will change this reality. I call myself a “pro” even though I’m doing it as a labor of love because I show up every day.

In the last part of the book, Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm, Pressfield’s creative self-help book turns into a spiritual exploration. This part bothered me the most. Not because I’m an atheist. But because that’s not what I signed up for. I did not read this book to have Pressfield’s view of spirituality as it relates to art pushed on me. On the second to last page, he writes, “In the end, we arrive at a kind of model of the artist’s world, and that model is that there exist other, higher planes of reality, about which we can prove nothing” (p. 163, emphasis added). I have a problem with the lack of evidence in his assertions. I’m given zero reasons to believe his claims that inspiration comes from the Muses or angels or God or beings from invisible realms. He just says it must be that way, that it is that way, and I’m expected to accept it. This whole section of the book felt ridiculous and frankly unnecessary. I would have enjoyed The War of Art more without it.

My Plans and Goals for 2019

I’ve done a lot in 2018, and there’s still a few days to do more.

I created and published a poetry collection. I started two blogs, Insanity’s Hiding Place (this blog) and Over the Invisible Wall. I took my novel-in-progress over 30k words. I finished my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan.

Next year I want to do as much as I can.

I’ve made a habit of daily blogging and that will be continuing. Writing every day is important to me, so I will not quit.

In April I’ll be moving to apprentice with one of the business partners with Praxis. That’ll be at least six months, maybe longer. I’m going to do great work, push myself, and grow a lot personally and professionally through this experience.

January is the philosophy module at Praxis, which has a lot of reading, but it will be an adventure. That’ll kick off the new year with some hardcore thinking.

inish my novel-in-progress, Mystical Warriors. I don’t know how long it will be, I don’t know how much work it will take. But it’s taken long enough so far. I need to finish it. I’m not sure when I want my target to be for the first draft’s completion, but I want to push myself to finish it.

Make the manuscript for my next poetry collection. I don’t want to release another poetry collection for a while, but I have the start of another poetry collection. I’m going to scrap what I have and start over, though. Now that I know the basics of making a collection, this one should be a breeze. It will be much longer, though, so that might present its own troubles.

Develop Gràďlutut to a point where it’s possible to have conversations. I’d like to make short video lessons about/for the language, but there’s not enough to it yet for that to even be possible.

Develope N’Zembe, write more stories, develop more species, write more history. I have so little knowledge of the system, I’d like to change that. The worldbuilding is still so lacking, and that’s the whole point of the project. I’m creating a whole star system to host stories, and the process is fascinating to me. I already know I will never stop working on this, and I made it vast purposefully. There’s 10 inhabited planets out of 18, and a ton of moons, which may or may not be habitable or inhabited. The base language is the same, but the derivations and evolution of that on different planets will be drastically different.

These are my main writing and career goals for 2019.

Working Unmotivated

This past week has been hard.

I’ve had a lot of hours at work, there’s been some crazy mood swings, and a lot of lows. I sat down to write my blog posts feeling awful. I love to write, but I didn’t want to.

Most of the time I feel pretty great, motivated, exuberant even. For about a week things seem to suck. I don’t want to do anything, even what I love.

But I push through that. I work anyway. I do the things I love, even if I temporarily enjoy them a bit less. I know it won’t last, that I’ll start picking back up soon.

I’ve tried to put in more work on my posts this week, to have substantial, valuable content. That’s made my posts more article-like than is sometimes par for the course here. Not that sharing recent poetry or past poetry or fiction or worldbuilding details or updating about my personal life is always bad. But I can’t only post that without providing any value to anyone.

I have to work longer to create well when I’m unmotivated. I try to push the keys, force out a few words. Even if it’s crap and I hate it. I do something, trying to break the funk, find my way out of the fog, wake up from this zombie-like state.

I don’t give in to the lack of motivation.

It takes longer to get started and it’s harder to do well, but I make sure to show up and work.

This Post is Clickbait

Clickbait is a negative phenomenon online where the title or featured image of an article or video entices you to click. Then the article or video does not discuss that topic.

This isn’t always how the word is used now, but it was a couple of years ago. The common usage is about it grabbing your attention. Hence, clickbait. But the word “bait,” has an implication of drawing you in for bad reasons.

That thumbnail on Youtube that never appears in the video and never discussed? Possibly clickbait.

That title that really grabs your attention but the introduction makes you doubt that’s the topic? Possibly clickbait.

I will say it happens that titles, featured images, and thumbnails can appear clickbaity but actually deliver on the promised topic. Appearing to be clickbait does not make something clickbait.

If you have the title “Why I Will Never Eat at (Restaurant),” that looks like clickbait. If you tell your story succinctly and don’t waste time getting to the why, it’s not clickbait. If, on the other hand, you follow the model of a lot of “storytime” Youtubers, and take a while to meanderingly get to your point, that’s sort of clickbait. It’s not entirely, because you do discuss the topic, but you waste time getting to the point.

Clickbait is bad because it wastes people’s time and makes them distrustful of your content. If you have a video or article that will seem clickbaity, I don’t think you need to specify that it isn’t clickbait. Rather, you need to grab and hold people’s attention and be aware of the time you are asking them to spend with you.

Don’t waste people’s time with your content and they won’t cry “clickbait” with every engaging title.

Focusing on Projects

I can be very easily distracted. But I can also sit and write for hours without realizing.

I start the day with a list of activities I need to do. I set out exactly what I plan to accomplish with the day at the beginning so I know how to spend my time. The specific amounts of time on each task isn’t important, it’s crossing each item off the list by the end of the day.

I keep a glass of water at my desk. I take care of my physical needs, then I get to work. I think only of the writing.

I sit down to write my blog post and I think. Even when I have an idea, I take a moment to think about it before writing anything. I don’t jump in immediately.

I stare at the blank page, let it stare back at me before writing words. They don’t have to be the right words, they don’t have to be organized, they just need to get on the page. I can fix them later.

I can’t go from blank page to masterpiece if I never start writing.

At first, I have to force myself to write. I force out a few sentences before I get into the flow. I have to get in the “zone,” that place of mental concentration if I want to build momentum. For a blog post draft, I might need only about thirty minutes.

Once I cut out distractions, I get to writing. I put one word after another, and keep going. I think about what comes next and the overall message. I pour out words until I reach the conclusion. I don’t look at the clock to see how long it took. I work to silence and the clacking of my keyboard or the scratch of my pen on paper.

I try to write as long as I can without a break. Sometimes that means staring at the page trying to find the words.

For a longer project I work as long as I can, then take a short break. If I can’t finish that in one go that’s fine. What matters is I put in the work and got in the zone.

I cut the distractions I can control. I make sure I’m awake and need nothing. I stare at the tauntingly blank page, then force myself to write until I’m not forcing it. My thoughts hone in on the the work and topic at hand. The words start to flow and I get in the zone. I make it last as long as possible or as long as needed.

Then I take a break and come back to do it again.

Indifference

“The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, p. 42.

Both love and hate are a feeling, indifference is the lack of a feeling.

This line in the War of Art struck me. I’d never heard or read something like this.

We so often view love and hate as diametrically opposed to each other, as opposites, and in a way they are. But the opposite of feeling is not feeling, apathy, indifference.

When we love or hate or are angry because of something, we have a feeling. We care about it in some way, positive or negative. If we’re indifferent or apathetic, we don’t feel anything.

In that way, Steven Pressfield is right.

As far as a spectrum of emotions, love and hate may appear opposite.

But they are really rivaled against indifference.