In the War of Art Steven Pressfied encourages creators to fight what he calls Resistance. At only 165 pages, this book was an easy read. The chapters were followed by a page’s worth, sometimes a paragraph’s worth, of text. I truly should borrow a leaf from Pressfield. The point isn’t how many words one writes, but rather how well a point can be communicated in as few words as possible.
Pressfield defines resistance as the obstacles creators have to overcome to achieve anything. It is a force within us that prevents us from sitting down to write, create music, paint, or whatever other creative or artistic pursuits we may have. In his words, resistance becomes evident when we partake in
..any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity. …any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.
Steven argues that siting down every day and creating, whether or not we feel inspired is the only way to overcome resistance. He notes that resistance is greatest when we want to move from a lower level to a higher one. “It hits the panic button right when we are about to cross the finish line.”
Pressfield outlines some of the greatest ways Resistance manifests itself. Procrastination ranks first for obvious reasons. But he also mentions things like sex, self-medication, causing trouble, drama, criticism, self-doubt, among others. He suggests that resistance can be evident in whom we marry. Supposedly, we marry individuals who have overcome resistance because we view them as role models and want to emulate them. All these things either offer us instant gratification, or act as a way to excuse our failure to live to our full potential.
My favorite quote from the book is
When we conceive an enterprise and commit to it in the face of our fears, something wonderful happens. A crack appears in the membrane. Like the first craze when a chick pecks at the inside of its shell. Angel midwives congregate around us; they assist as we give birth to ourselves, to that person we were born to be, to the one whose destiny was encoded in our soul, our daimon, our genius.
Essentially, overcoming resistance means getting up every single day and facing our fears. If an aspect of our lives does not scare us, then we are definitely not growing. My second favorite quote is
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 the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God
This book is a must-read. Writers may argue that they are undergoing a “writers block”, artists may claim they lack “inspiration”. In the end all that matters is consistency. However little our productivity. For him that means sitting down at his desk every single day and writing. We overcome resistance by doing.
The difference between an amateur and a professional in Pressfield’s opinion is that a professional knows that inspiration will not always be there. While the amateur awaits motivation, the professional chooses to work everyday. Sometimes in the process of mundane hard work, he/she is able to draw inspiration. The amateur on the other hand solely depends on inspiration. The rest of the time, he succumbs to resistance
Resistance fun fact from the book
Did you know that Hitler wanted to be an artist? Apparently, he moved to Vienna at eighteen and wanted to study fine arts and architecture. But because resistance got the best part of him, we never got to see a painting by him. Instead, we got a bloody war.
Resistance is the enemy. Start whatever you have always wanted to do now. Don’t wait till you are on your deathbed.