Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (a must-read for writers and creatives)

Title: The War of Art
Author: Steven Pressfield
Why I read it: I heard of this while reading a book by one of my favourite authors, Jeff Goins. It’s a book that helped him as a writer so I thought it would help me too.

My summary: This book is about becoming who you are meant to be and doing what you are meant to do.

It’s divided into three parts. The first part looks at Resistance: the thing that stops us from doing what we’re meant to do and can be summed up by one word: fear. The second part looks at how to combat Resistance: by turning pro and doing our work. The third part looks at the muse: the opposite of Resistance.

It was a quick and easy read that was packed full of great advice and insights that helped me in my writing journey. Pressfield doesn’t mess about; he can be blunt, giving me the slap I need to get to work.

What I got out of it as a writer:

So much! The biggest thing: To just do the work of sitting down and writing.

Some other things:

  • To not fear failure and to fail, because it means you’ve done something.
  • To give the work my best, and then let it go, knowing my job is to work but I am not my work.
  • To not worry about how people will respond to my work, because as long as I know I gave it my best, I’ll always be okay with it.
  • To write because it’s in me to write and that’s all I have to do.

This book gives me courage to write, to do the work of giving it my best, and to let my writing be seen.

What I got out it as a reader:

I read it on my laptop through the Kindle Cloud Reader, so it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as if I held a paperback in my hands. Thus it may have affected how I see this book: I don’t look upon lovingly as if it were a dear friend, but rather like a cold master giving me some hard truths.

It’s entirely valuable to me, though, a must-read. I looked forward to reading it for the practical tips I could get out of it but not to get lost in the writing.

Maybe due to reading it on my laptop, I wasn’t immersed in this book. Instead, as I read it kept taking me out of the book to face the reality of my situation. But maybe that’s the whole point of the book. To wake us up.

What I got out of it for life:

I know now that my only job is to write. That is my work.

I don’t have to worry about succeeding or failing as a writer. I don’t have to worry about people loving or hating my writing. I don’t have to worry about getting my worth or identity from what people say about my writing.

All I have to do is write those words that are inside me and want to come out. All I have to do is show up, do the work, and give it my best.

What happens with my writing after I do the work is not up to me; I don’t control how people respond to it. The only thing that is within my control is doing the work.

It’s incredibly freeing to think this way and for that I am thankful for this book.

My rating: ★★★★

Simply because it didn’t immerse me and wasn’t a book that delighted me, I can’t give it the full five stars. As a reader, the joy of reading it for the sake of reading wasn’t there (and that aspect of a book deserves a full star, in my view).

But as a writer and a human looking to do what I was made to do, it is brilliant. And any book that can change how I think and my actions is gold. It’s on my list of books must-read books, books I need on my shelf, and books I need to re-read.

I read this book two and half years ago and its stayed with me, so I feel like the lasting impact of it gives it that extra star. I think if I bought the paperback and read it again, I might end up giving it five stars.

My recommendation:

If you’re a writer or want to be a writer, read it.

If you want to pursue a creative vocation, read it.

If you want to pursue any vocation, read it.

For those who have read it: How did this book help you?
For those who haven’t: Do you want to read it?

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