Along with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I credit Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (2002) with giving me the inspiration (actually more of a kick in the pants) to complete my book, The Caregiving Zone. I will be forever grateful to my friend, Kevin, for telling me about it.
I go back to this book again and again. There is always a comment or anecdote that enables me to stand up to Resistance one more time. For example, yesterday, I began drafting a program proposal; feeling nauseous at the already anticipated failure with its familiar companions—humiliation and self-attack. I opened the book to this anecdote:
“Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought every day.” (pg. 14)
It is clear from the stories Pressfield tells about himself in the book and on his website that during his 78 years on the planet, he has ranged far and wide to make a living and make a life. The backstory tells of suffering and lostness. It is too easy to look at his current success and ignore that it is forged in pain. I can only imagine what it took to survive those years of struggle. From his website:
I wrote for 17 years before I earned my first penny (a $3500 option on a screenplay that was never produced).
I wrote for 27 years before I got my first novel published (The Legend of Bagger Vance).
During that time I worked 21 different jobs in eleven states.
I taught school, I drove tractor-trailers, I worked in advertising and as a screenwriter in Hollywood, I worked on offshore oil rigs, I picked fruit as a migrant worker …
I am so grateful that he kept on writing! Thank you, Steven!
FYI: you can go to his website and sign up for The War of Art Mini-Course.
In His Own Words…
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.” (pg. 146)
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” (pg. 108)
“Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you’re feeling massive Resistance, the good news is that it means there’s tremendous love there too.” (pg. 42)
“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.” (pg. 12)
“Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. It kicks in when we seek to pursue a calling in the arts, launch an innovative enterprise, or evolve to a high station morally, ethically, or spiritually.” (pg. 17)
“If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.” (pg. 38)
The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification. He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare… The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that. He recognizes it as reality.” (pg. 75)
- The Legend of Bagger Vance, Adapted into the film The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000).
- Gates of Fire, about the Battle of Thermopylae (1998)
- Tides of War, a novel of Alcibiadesand the Peloponnesian War (2000)
- Last of the Amazons, in which Theseus, the legendary King of Athens, sets sail to the north coast of the Black Sea inhabited by a race of female warriors (2002)
- The Virtues of War, about Alexander the Great (2004)
- The Afghan Campaign, about Alexander the Great’sconquests in Afghanistan (2006)
- Killing Rommel (2008), a fictionalized account of a patrol of the British Long Range Desert Group during the North African Campaign of World War II
- The Profession (2011) Pressfield’s first book set in the future, where military force is for hire everywhere. Oil companies, multinational corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.
- 36 Righteous Men (2020), a futuristic noir thriller.
- A Man at Arms (2021), a novel set in Jerusalem and the Sinai desert in the first century AD.
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles (2002)
- Do The Work (2011)
- The Warrior Ethos (2011)
- Turning Pro (2012)
- The Authentic Swing: Notes from the Writing of First Novel (2013)
- The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War (2014)
- An American Jew: A Writer Confronts His Own Exile and Identity (2015)
- Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It (2016)
- The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning (2018)