Book Review–The War of Art

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You’ve probably heard of Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. (2002) And if you haven’t, never fear, this short review is here to help. Before I get there, though, you might want to know that Pressfield wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance, is a former Marine, and was made an honorary citizen of Sparta, Greece.

Take from the above:



Spartan warrior ethos

Add in:

William Blake



Don’t forget:

Actual time doing the work and overcoming Resistance.

And you’ve got Pressfield’s recipe for overcoming your creative blocks.

He’s not alone. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich from the 1930s and Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret from 2006 both cover some of the same territory. Pressfield occupies a singular space here, in that he acknowledges the divine (for lack of a better word) arena in which true creativity comes out to play, while at the same time peppering his work with examples from golf, war, and the movies. His tendency here started to jar me as a reader when I realized that he has a really hard time putting himself in the shoes of a female creative. When talking about women and creativity, he defaults, more often than not, to talking about maternity.

I get it, these are his idioms. As a golfer and former marine and man who writes about ancient Greece, he is using the metaphors and illustrations that are close to hand. I just remain somewhat surprised that it was totally unremarkable (in the sense that no editor remarked on it) in 2002 that a book on overcoming creative blocks would be so masculine oriented. It probably wouldn’t be that remarkable today, either–which I find depressing.

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