Last year I had the fortune to read for the first time the wonderful book War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
This had been a transformative experience for me, one that would shine a bright light on some things I could never identify, understand or sometimes even fathom.
In his book, Steven explains what is stopping us, almost every single one of us, from doing what is our calling, and he gave it a name, a perfect one : #Resistance.
He describes it as an invisible, untouchable entity, but one that is so incredibly real, and one that acts against us all day long, an entity which main mission is to send us to the grave. I always thought fear was the Resistance, I never thought it was actually something else altogether, feeding on our fears and using them against ourselves.
The following is something that resonates with me deeply:
"It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance".
And as a new writer myself (I only published my first novel #earthlastsanctuary ten days ago), after looking to all the wrong places to find my calling (illustration, cd covers, video games,...), I can tell you that this is absolutely true. Once I'm on the chair and writing, it comes so easily I sometimes feel guilty, like I'm cheating, like I'm just too easy and I'm just too lucky. But then Resistance kicks my ass and I am distracted, diverted, and cast away from doing so. But thankfully every time it gets too bad, I can always turn back to War of Art, and remember these invaluable lessons about Resistance, what it is, how it appears in our lives, how to identify it and how to defeat the sucker!
For this and this alone, I want to thank Steven from the bottom of my heart. I seldom re-read a book. I can watch movies or TV shows I love over and over (and that too is Resistance, at least I know that now), but books, not so much. I know, for a #writer to not re-read his classics or favorite probably sounds strange to some, but rest assured that when I read a book, I read it fully, I don't skip, I don't read diagonally like some of my friends tell me, I read every word, and if my concentration falters and my mind wanders away, I get back to the last word I know I gave my full attention to and start over from there again, fully concentrated. I make a really strong mental image of what I read and I usually remember it very well even many years later. Of course I lose some of the details, I'm no computer after all, even though I have a very good memory. However the main esssence of every book I have ever read is pretty much with me always. But Steven's book I read again and again, even if not always fully, I know which parts inspire and remind me of the things I need to be reminded. When I start to procrastinate like crazy or see things going awry around me, things annoying me, not going how I would want them to, I know something is wrong.
I am then reminded that Resistance can take many faces, that it's tricky and knows how to divert me from what I want, what I NEED to do, the calling of my heart.
The funny thing is that the first pages of the #book will actually give you such a clear picture of what Resistance is, that if you're like me it will click with you instantly. Resistance is the cause of everything that went or still goes wrong in your life and probably in the world. But unless you learn to recognize it, to know it for what it is, then you may and most probably fall for its trick again and again. That's why I consider War of Art the most important book I ever read, and that one book I would never ever part with!
Steven ability to describe this entity with such ease and incredible simplicity (but with great prose too) and great examples of its many manifestations, that I absolutely love reading it quite often. These days not only did Resistance have a hold on me, it was punching me in the face over and over and I felt like I was cracking under an invisible pressure. Thanks to my good friend Walter who reminded me that to become a professional writer I must make sure I manage my days with more efficiency, it reminded me the one tool Steven gives you to defeat Resistance. Becoming a pro! And yes it's as simple as that, you must do the work, every day, without fail... But Resistance will make sure it's not that simple. But knowing when you're affected by it, you can more easily recognize it and fight it. As Steven so eloquently says it: it's a fight to the death.
There's also a good dose of humor in the way he present things, even though I wholeheartedly agree with passages like this one:
"Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction." :)
"Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine."
I also particularly love this part:
"...simply because we don't do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us. If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not the mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage and dandruff."
Funny yet powerful and resonating stuff if you ask me. But I won't spoil you more than I should. As I believe that EVERYONE that has ever wanted to take any craft, any creative activity, be it artistic or humanitarian, or simply willing to realise a specific dream should read this book!
If you feel or hear a call in your heart, have a project you hold dear, then you absolutely must read this book. Believe me you won't regret it. It's an easy read, extremely well written by a writer that usually does fiction but managed to make the perfect non-fiction handbook giving you a shot at getting happy and giving you the tools and formula to break free of Resistance, this ailment that has been bringing you down your entire life. The first revelation is to know it even exists, the next one is to learn to identify it and finally how to defeat it.
So do yourself a favor and read this book, I tell every one of my friends that if they don't like it, I will pay them back, that's how strongly I feel about this book. But I know with every fiber of my being that nobody will ask for that refund, at least not in good conscience. And this morning I was feeling not so well, anxious and unhappy. I read the book again tonight and behold, I am already feeling better, and look, I felt compelled to write about it, and hope to share with you what is definitely my favorite non-fiction / motivational book. And in doing so I can already feel the inspirational juices building up in my own soul and know that tomorrow I must fight again, as I shall not let Resistance dictate my action towards my own self-abuse and autopilot tragectory towards self-destruction. So I now look forward to #write some more today and the day after that, and so on and so forth. Resistance is relentless and will attack you every single day, and so to defeat it you must also become relentless in fighting it! And every time I fall off the wagon, I will be grateful that all I need to do is read War of Art again.
Steven's book, while short, which makes it easy to re-read when needed and has no unnecessary fluff (thank you so much for that Steven!), is divided in three parts. First he presents you Resistance and how to identify it. Part two explains how to defeat it (becoming pro) and the third is more mystical somehow, about the muses and how to properly thank them for their help. Well you know what, this part I usually don't always read. I agree that there are muses, in one form or another, as I know this exact feeling of being in front of my books and typing for hours, without ever having to worry about things, words and ideas not coming up. Of course I get the writer's block, but it's not when I'm in front of the page, it's when I'm not sitting in my chair doing the work I know I must do, when Resistance is taking a swing at me, or worse, when it has already captured me in its web of deception. So I respect and agree with this part, but I can totally see other people, those who might think spirituality and divinity has nothing to do with the act of creating art, or simply not recognizing this force. Cause this is what it is for me, a force, an energy, that flows through me while I create. It permeates me, it guides me, it gives me my ideas. One would argue that maybe my subconscious is doing that, or my memories. I don't really care what it is, as long as it flows I'm eternally grateful. I do not need to express it with a daily ritual as suggested though, I'm holding my thanks in my heart and that seems to work fine with me.
So yeah, part three can be a love or hate affair and one that doesn't take away the invaluable information contained in the first two parts. Even the foreword by Robert McKee mentions that he sees this differently than Steven. While I did find it entertaining, this is usually the part of the book I don't feel compelled re-reading.
But everytime I stray from my writing I will at the very least read Part one, and that barely takes an hour for a slow reader like me. Part two is also useful and I like re-reading it as well, even if I don't always do.
It's time for me to end this lengthy post. If you read the book, let me know your thoughts, and if you didn't, then I really urge you to read it. If you're like me it can do wonders to help you stop procrastinating and doing the work that will actually make you happy from within.
Thank you Steven for your wonderful book!