“The War of Art”: A Book Review

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book starts strong. Pressfield does a good job at rallying the troops to fight the Resistance (that part of us that doesn’t want to do what we know is the right next thing to do). He especially channels this motivation towards writers who struggle to write – more generally towards artists who need to create or anyone who has some “calling” to do something special.

The book slowly digresses from there, and the author soon sounds almost like a sermonizer waxing hot against our sin nature. But before we make the mistake of misidentifying him as a Bible-thumper dropping incendiary bombs on drunkenness, substance addictions, and meaningless sex, Pressfield shoehorns a diatribe against (mostly) religious fundamentalism about a quarter into the book. Apparently fundamentalism is a part of the Resistance (again, this is Pressfield’s term for what most Christian theologians would probably call the sin nature).

“Fundamentalism and art are mutually exclusive,” he says and later adds, “To combat the call of sin, i.e., Resistance, the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts. He loses himself in these, much like the artist does in the process of creation. The difference is that while the one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return to a purer world from which he and all have fallen.” It’s good that Pressfield chooses writing as his art form, because he paints with such a wide brush that I’m afraid barns would be the most suitable canvas for his artistry.

The last part of the book is where the wheels really fell off for me. This is where the author goes from motivational speaker to New Age mystic. He speaks on Muses, angels, gods, God, etc. Having assured everybody that he is not to be mistaken for a fundamentalist, the author leaves no doubt as to his theological/spiritual worldview in this final section.

Pressfield’s book has enough real-life wisdom for me to not consider his book a complete waste. It was good in some parts. I especially liked this sentence: “…the most important thing about art is work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”

And to that, this Bible-thumping fundamentalist says “Amen!”

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