Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield snagged a prominent place in my TBR (to be read) list of library books.      

Why did I read the War of Art?

Always on the prowl for writing books to improve my craft, one of my favorite published authors (don’t ask me to remember whom) recommended this pocket-sized book of wisdom for aspiring writers. I still consider myself an “aspiring writer,” even though I’ve bludgeoned through my first draft of Playing God, have outlined two others and am working on a fourth. I know…I know. Notice the arrogance surrounding my nil accomplishment.

First things first, I looked the book up at my local public library catalog. Heck, if I can get it free, why buy the book? Bingo - in stock!  I added it to my holds queue (along with the max number of books on hold at any given moment).  

I read it first. When I’m plucking through that stack of books on my “reading couch,” I gravitate towards the shorter reads versus the epic-length literary works. The pocket-sized brevity of this book signaled success: I could finish it before the library due date.

 

What one take-away point did I receive from The War of Art?

If I could only choose one, I’d pick the opening quote of section 1:

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard.  What’s hard is sitting down to write.

This theme struck me as ironic.  We are writers.  Don’t we always want to block out time to write? 

Career writers view their writing as their art, but most of all, it’s their job.  Each writer experiences days where they would rather be anywhere else besides staring at that blank page with the blinking cursor.   

There is a stark contrast between the amateur and the professional.  The amateur writes only when inspired (not often).  The professional prioritizes writing time, whether or not the muse lights upon the shoulder.

 

How can I apply this lesson to my writing?

I have a choice to make.  Either I can dabble in the writing profession with a careless attitude, or I can become a professional writer through my dedication to the craft. It’s my choice. In five years, where do I want to be in my writing career? Still fiddling with that first novel idea? Or, working on my 10th book?

Pressfield triggered some tender spots in my developing artist. I cringed when he pinpointed my weaknesses. I must address these issues. Struggling against that negativity will empower me, only if I dedicate myself to the War of Art.  

Would I recommend this book to fledgling writers or artists?  

Most definitely.  It’s a short read, best absorbed through snippets of reading. Though you may decide to read it all in one sitting, the War of Art is better used as a writer’s devotional. I crammed the reading into 3 evenings. Looking back, I wish I would have savored each lesson, each page, each quote with relish - like a satisfying morsel of literary dark chocolate.