Just finished The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a book about the struggle to create art, to live to our higher calling, and to be and become what we are intended to be. And it has entered a very select category for me: Books That Changed My Life.
If you think that’s hyperbole, think again. Pressfield nails three concepts that any artist — indeed, any human — struggles with daily:
- Resistance — that force that tries to prevent you from achieving what you are supposed to achieve.
- Professional versus Amateur — how to approach your calling with the attitude of the Professional, not the Amateur — including the realization that Resistance is real and must be both respected and overcome, every day.
- Muses and Angels — the idea that when you commit, even in the face of Resistance, there are forces outside of you that come to your aid and align themselves with you.
I’ll be honest — I wasn’t expecting that third section. Every since I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I have wondered about her assertion that the Universe helps you when you are moving down the right path, and that only by starting down that path will we find that out. Seemed too “new agey” for me. But even while I struggled with the concept, I had to acknowledge that there were times when my life felt “in the flow” and times when it didn’t. And, there were times when committing to write or create seemed to unleash forces within me, or even outside of me, that I didn’t know I had.
Pressfield’s discussion of Resistance is worth the cost of the book, all by itself. By putting a name and a personality on the force that seems to oppose our work, he gives us a way to identify, discuss, and defeat that force. It has already helped me to say “this is Resistance at work” in various areas of my life, and to begin using Pressfield’s strategies to fight back.
And lest any of you think this is only for artists, let me point out that Pressfield takes pains to note that Resistance and Being a Pro apply to any activity in our lives that can be classified as either Calling or Higher Purpose. He talks about writing, music-making, starting a business, helping others — almost any human activity that comes from Self and not Ego.
And yes, at the end of the book he ties it all together with a discussion of Ego versus Self. It provides a surprising ending to a surprising book. Whether or not you accept his metaphysical approach to Angels and Muses, the distinction he makes between Ego (the seat of Resistance) and Self is useful and insightful.
This is an important book for anyone looking to better understand the forces in their lives and the path to fulfilling their life’s purpose and calling. Get it, read it, apply it. It may become part of your collection of Books That Changed My Life.