The War of Art

What prevents us from being great creators? In this classic of the self-help genre, Steven Pressfield defines the concept of inner Resistance and proposes solutions to overcome it.

Defining Resistance

Writing is not hard. Starting to write to get momentum is the hard thing. Just writing one sentence can help you get enough momentum to reach 200 words or more. You have to sit down and start writing without over-thinking.

Resistance is the force preventing us from realizing our full creative potential. Whenever you feel too lazy to work on something that is dear to you, this is Resistance. Procrastination is a by-product of Resistance.

The dearer the goal, the stronger the Resistance. If you have a life project that you absolutely want to finish before you die, chances are your Resistance to work on it will increase.

Don't be fooled by story telling, everyone has its own Resistance. Resistance takes many shapes and is highly subjective.

Resistance must be kept in check. It never goes away. Beating it once doesn't mean that you can rest. You have to keep the ball rolling.

Resistance feeds on your fear. Fear is the primary factor preventing us from realizing ourselves.

There is a fear of starting, and a fear of finishing. Both are hard to fight and take practice.

Waging war against Resistance is an everyday battle. Don't start tomorrow. Do it today.

Resistance wins when we give in to escapism. Escapism is "the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment". Sex, drugs, mindless travels, binge-watching, binge eating, shallow work... all of those are common forms escapism can take.

Resistance is fought using introspection (looking inwards, reflect), discipline, delayed gratification (resisting the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later one) and persistence (regular practice and quantity to reach quality).

Letting Resistance win ends up in unhappiness: when you are not working toward your dreams, a vicious cycle takes place. Guilt and regrets eat you from inside. Don't wait for it to happen.

Humans are social animals, but great artists arise from a strong individuality ("Who am ? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life?").

Interesting quotes:

"Those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern them."

"Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement."

Success is not a goal, but a by-product. Working toward success is useless, as it cannot be acted upon directly. Showing up every day to put in the work is what matters now.

Leaving the comfort zone will not make you alone. Greater forces ("Muse") will accompany you. Related to 12), a strong independent spirit is necessary to develop an original perspective. It doesn't mean that you will be alone on this journey. Your dreams and aspirations will be there for you.

No one else ("support") can do the work for you. Creation is first an internal journey.

Being rational is the surest way to fail any creative venture. Rationalization prevents you from putting in the work. Just do it. Don't think of what happened or might happen. Carpe Diem and you will thank yourself no matter the outcome.

Overcoming Resistance

A professional is fully committed to a craft, it's an identity. An amateur has no skin in the game, the craft becomes a hobby.

Inspiration has its triggers. Find your own.

Principle of Priority: do what's important first, then the urgent. Learn to distinguish the two, and learn to celebrate the everyday victories.

Learn to love pain: anything worth pursuing in this world demands a high pain threshold.

Overidentifying with your job prevents you from failing and experimenting with new things. Statuses are limiting.

Consistency is what makes a pro: "show up every day, show up no matter what, stay on the job, be committed over the long haul".

There is no art without both technique and judgment: learn your katas, improve, and get yourself out there for the whole world to judge.

Love your craft, but always be detached and stay objective.

Be patient, be persistent, never settle.

"Eliminate chaos from your world in order to banish it from your mind": Work in a tidy environment.

Don't sacralize your work, intellectual wanking won't get the job done.

Fear never vanishes, learn to live with it, channel it.

Get rid of your excuses, always find a way to sit down and practice your craft.

The real world or nothing: confront reality, adapt yourself to it.

Always be prepared, nothing can stop a versatile artisan.

Do not show off, glory is a trap.

Be a constant apprentice: learn from others, always get back to the basics.

Be detached from your tools, your successes, and your failures: they are not you.

Improving and getting things done is the only self-validation you need. Criticism is only here for you to integrate into your work, not to feed your ego.

Stay out of adversity and competition, you have your own path to walk.

You are not limitless, address your shortcomings by collaborating with others.

You will live many lives: reinvent yourself and don't dwell on grief.

Think of yourself as a one-man business: hire yourself, or get fired.

Becoming an Artist

Be grateful to the Muses before you start working. Be humble, a bit of spirituality never hurts to inspire your efforts.

Start working and keep going. Surrender to the unconscious layer of your mind from time to time by resting or taking a break. There are invisible forces involved in the creative process: dreams, visions, meditations. Take them seriously.

Resistance is a by-product of fear. There are many fears, but the fear of success is the worst. Success implies change, we are scared of what change brings: the void. It remains an irrational fear though: change is not a loss, it's an cosmic exchange where you lose some, but where you also win some.

We are born with a unique DNA, a specific personality. Our job is to figure out who we are and embrace our destiny.

Most individuals define themselves by their social status. The artist must do his work regardless of others, looking both inwards and outwards. Don't do something because it will please your audience, do it because you want to and you believe it's important.

Become territorial: find a self-sustainable niche you can own through your work. The process of nurturing your territory is self-rewarding, and the amount of work you put in eventually comes back to you.

An artist doesn't create an idea, he incubates it. Your job is to make it come out, without wondering how you can benefit from it, its sole purpose is to exist. An artist is an oracle.

The artist disregards failure, only the work matters.

The artist focuses her attention on the process, not the outcome. Remove your ego.


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