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Book Summary: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Updated on May 17, 2016

The War of Art in a Nutshell

Don’t take this book for face value and assume it only applies to “Art” art. On the contrary, this book is a motivational kick in the pants for anyone and everyone pursuing a passion. Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art examines the human pursuit of creative endeavors and decomposes the internal and external factors that prevent us from achieving these goals.

These factors manifest themselves in a variety of ways, but ultimately are the result of a larger force which he has appropriately dubbed “Resistance”.

The War of Art vs The Art of War

It’s hard not to draw parallels to Pressfield’s obvious inspiration for The War of Art – Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The book is laid out in a similar fashion, with the message detailed in short concise observations and statements, over short sections that seek to categorize and deconstruct Resistance further. The inevitable realization is that Resistance is the absolute enemy to the creative process.

What did Sun Tzu have to say about the enemy?

“Thus it is said that one who knows the enemy and know himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement.”


So what is Resistance, and how can you recognize it?

“Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”

— Steven Pressfield

Takeaway from The War of Art

Pressfield goes on to describe how we experience Resistance in our lives and then touches upon mitigation strategies where appropriate, but his ultimate message for combating Resistance is remarkable in its simplicity...

...above all else, sit down and do the work.

The War of Art is a quick and effective read. No matter your personal background or long term goals, this book will resonate somewhere inside of you. It is thought provoking, inspirational, and will cause you to re-examine the discipline with which you approach work in all areas of your life.


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