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Resistance is Futile
on 7 August 2011
The War of Art (nice title) is based on the premise that there is something called `resistance', which prevents artists or anyone doing anything to better themselves from getting on with the task. Resistance manifests itself in lots of different ways, but ultimately in work not getting done. Split into three parts, each comprised of several pages which are often nothing more than a pithy paragraph, The War of Art isn't heavy reading. The first part of the book identifies the problem; the second part of the book identifies the qualities of the professional who does not succumb to the problem. These parts are witty, concise, and quite inspirational. In common with some other reviewers here, I was expecting far more practical advice about how to overcome `resistance'. What War of Art effectively boils down to is an impassioned call to arms from a hotheaded military leader against a ruthless and bloodthirsty enemy. That's well and good, "but what about the tactics?" says the poor grunt about to charge the enemy guns. "Well, there aren't any. Good luck, give `em hell..."
If parts one and two are good as far as they go, the third part of the book jumps off a very high pier. It's largely concerned with the author's loopy religious and philosophical ideas, which, if you didn't know better, would place him somewhere around the early 20th Century, before Freud's ideas found common currency, before World War I made people rethink the idea of progress. Back then, the best explanation for irrational drives in our lives was probably something like bad demons and good angels, which is what the author of The War of Art has settled on as the most likely explanation. To be fair to Pressfield, he does say you can call it what you like; I called it `wishful thinking'. Of course the author is entitled to his beliefs, but since the book begins with a no-nonsense call to arms against irrational beliefs about the artist, you might, like me, look back from page 166 and find yourself a long way from home.