I was literally handed The War of Art by my screenwriting partner/mentor, after weeks of thinking “I really should buy this book” (why hello there Mr. Universe). I’ve since read it twice and can see this affair continuing for years to come, like an annual friends with benefits tradition (meow).
A breezy, witty, encouraging read
This book is short and to the point with many mini chapters lasting a half page to 2 pages. You feel extra productive as you zoom through and avoid procrastinating under the guise of self help reading.
I enjoyed Pressfield’s no nonsense approach, sense of humour and gratuitous curse words. He also incorporates some of his own creative struggles so you feel as if you are mates at war.
I think anyone with a dream, be it any art form, entrepreneurial/non profit idea or whatever could benefit from reading this book, especially if you’ve been holding yourself back.
Highlights: On Victim Mentality, Tribal Coding and becoming a professional
- Feeling like a victim is a form of passive aggressive resistance.
- Rationalization prevents you from feeling shamed by the sight of your own fear; it obscures your fear in the form of legitimate reasons why you can’t do your work.
- 1000’s of years ago, survival was guaranteed by being part of a tribe. This tribal mentality lives on in our DNA. Pursuing a creative endeavour requires isolation and breaking from the tribe. Fear of rejection or ridicule for putting yourself out there also stems from this tribal mindset.
- Others in your tribe (family, friends) may give you flack for abandoning the herd. They are grappling with their own inability to break free from the norm.
On a tangent, this tribal mindset gave me a whole new perspective on why childhood bullying can be felt so acutely and why it lingers on the psyche for years to come. Children often ridicule peers for being different – they ostracize them from the popular tribe, sensing the weak and the primal need to be part of a group. At a young, impressionable age without enough life experience to combat primal urges, this plain sucks!
Pressfield’s main solution is to quit thinking like an amateur in relation to your dream and pretend you are a well paid professional. Show up every day no matter what the conditions, don’t get overcome by love of the craft – pretend you are doing it for the money. Don’t take criticism personally, learn and grow from it.
I still don’t think I own my screenwriting dream and fully believe it. I don’t hold myself to the same standards as I do when I am dutifully completing responsibilities handed to me by someone else. I like to have a whole day or large chunk of hours before me in order to write (all Sunday) but momentum is lost in the days between. An hour or two a day can go a long way.
Don’t expect miracles
I’ve heard some people claim this book transformed their life. I can’t say I’m there just yet but I do think it is a very strong, low cost option to kick your butt into creative productivity. Ultimately your results will be based on your ability to overcome resistance each and every day. Love may be a battlefield but so is dream chasing.