The War Of Art: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield
This book is one of those volumes where the author gets to relish in being a jerk and views himself as superior to fundamentalists while proving himself to be equally as narrow-minded as any fundamentalist, albeit for the sake of art rather than religion. If you have a high tolerance for jerks and hypocrites, there is a lot that one can gain from a book like this, although there are plenty of cringy moments and also some moments where it will be impossible to avoid at least a snicker at the ridiculousness of the author. One particular aspect of the ridiculousness of the author’s claim to be a no bs sort of person is the fact that the author is best known for writing a golf novel where the main character is a Magic Negro (The Legend Of Bagger Vance), although it must be admitted that as far as that sort of trope goes the author does a decent job at it. Still, the writer thinks he is somewhat more professional than he is, the sort of person who has achieved enough to get a book published but not enough to be humble about it or to be remembered decades from now except as a footnote to someone’s thesis on obscure novels or screenplays or the role of the Marines in public culture.
At its heart, this book is a short volume of a bit more than 150 pages that urges the reader to become a professional and to take the creation of art seriously. How does one do this? By taking it seriously, depending on it for one’s living (although the author does talk about living in vans, so it may not go well for a while), doing it day in and day out regardless of how one feels, and focusing on getting work done rather than claiming being a writer or artist as an avocation. The author spends a lot of time talking about resistance, pointing out a valid moral point (although he does not clearly see it), that the darker and baser side of our nature (that side most in touch with Satan, to put it religiously) will resist those actions that we take in order to better our lives or to show growth, and that quite a lot of people will view our attempts at growth and success as a threat to them and an insult to their own complacency. The author also points out the necessity of exposing our precious creations to the cruelty of the real world and of its judgments. Most of the essays are short, as if they were originally part of the author’s blog and simply got combined in a book.
And if that is the case, more power to him. The author certainly does come off as a jerk, although it is intentionally so. And the author’s points remain valid even if he does not put them in the friendliest way. This is not a book that seeks to appeal with a gentle word, but is rather an indelicate kick to the backside to get the reader, who is presumably a creative person of some kind, to get busy working on one’s creations and to take art more seriously. I cannot say how helpful the book is to the reader because I speak as someone who is already doing what the author suggests, but the fact that there are more than half a dozen people in my county’s library system that have requested this book to read after me suggests that the message is certainly appealing to a lot of people. War is an art, and to create art we must war against ourselves, against our laziness and procrastination and our fear of rejection and of our desire to protect our babies from a harsh world of critics. It is a harsh world, and the author suggests that one has to be rather tough-minded in order to deal with it. For all the author’s flaws, I happen to agree with him.