The War Of Art By Steven Pressfield

These are my personal book notes of The War of Art by the author Steven Pressfield.

It’s time to turn pro.

Let’s dive in.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro.
- Steven Pressfield


  • Author: Steven Pressfield
  • Title: The War of Art
  • Subtitle: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles
  • First published: 2002
  • Type: non-fiction
  • Genre: self-help / mindset / discipline
  • Author’s website:
  • Rating: 4.5/5
  • Recommended: Yes (Hell, Yeah!)

Table Of Contents Of The Book

  • Foreword
  • What I Do
  • What I Know
  • The Unlived Life
  • Book One: Resistance – Defining the Enemy.
    • Resistance’s Greatest Hits
    • Resistance Is Invisible
    • Resistance Is Internal
    • Resistance Is Insidious
    • Resistance Is Implacable
    • Resistance Is Impersonal
    • Resistance Is Infallible
    • Resistance Is Universal
    • Resistance Never Sleeps
    • Resistance Plays For Keeps
    • Resistance Is Fueled By Fear
    • Resistance Only Opposes In One Direction
    • Resistance Is Most Powerful At The Finish Line
    • Resistance Recruits Allies
    • Resistance And Procrastination
    • Resistance And Procrastination, Part Two
    • Resistance And Sex
    • Resistance And Trouble
    • Resistance And Self-Dramatization
    • Resistance And Self-Medication
    • Resistance And Victimhood
    • Resistance And The Choice Of A Mate
    • Resistance And This Book
    • Resistance And Unhappiness
    • Resistance And Fundamentalism
    • Resistance And Criticism
    • Resistance And Self-Doubt
    • Resistance And Fear
    • Resistance And Love
    • Resistance And Being A Star
    • Resistance And Isolation
    • Resistance And Isolation, Part Two
    • Resistance And Healing
    • Resistance And Support
    • Resistance And Rationalization
    • Resistance And Rationalization, Part Two
    • Resistance Can Be Beaten
  • Book Two: Combating Resistance – Turning Pro.
    • Professionals And Amateurs
    • A Professional
    • What A Writer’s Day Feels Like
    • How To Be Miserable
    • We’re All Pros Already
    • For Love Of The Game
    • A Professional Is Patient
    • A Professional Seeks Order
    • A Professional Demystifies
    • A Professional Acts In The Face Of Fear
    • A Professional Accepts No Excuses
    • A Professional Plays It As It Lays
    • A Professional Is Prepared
    • A Professional Does Not Show Off
    • A Professional Dedicates Himself To Mastering Technique
    • A Professional Does Not Hesitate To Ask For Help
    • A Professional Distances Herself From Her Instrument
    • A Professional Does Not Take Failure (Or Success) Personally
    • A Professional Endures Adversity
    • A Professional Self-Validates
    • A Professional Recognizes Her Limitations
    • A Professional Reinvents Himself
    • A Professional Is Recognized By Other Professionals
    • You, Inc.
    • A Critter That Keeps Coming
    • No Mystery
  • Book Three: Beyond Resistance – The Higher Realm.
    • Angels In The Abstract
    • Approaching The Mystery
    • Invoking The Muse
    • Invoking The Muse, Part Two
    • Testament Of A Visonary
    • Invoking The Muse, Part Three
    • The Magic Of Making A Start
    • The Magic Of Keeping Going
    • Largo
    • Life And Death
    • The Ego And The Self
    • Experiencing The Self
    • Fear
    • The Authentic Self
    • Territory Versus Hierarchy
    • The Hierarchical Orientation
    • The Artist And The Hierarchy
    • The Definition Of A Hack
    • The Territorial Orientation
    • The Artist And The Territory
    • The Difference Between Territory And Hierarchy
    • The Supreme Virtue
    • The Fruits Of Our Labor
    • Portrait Of The Artist
    • The Artist’s Life

Key Concepts And Ideas

Do yourself a huge favor and get your hands on this book as soon as possible.

It has the potential to save your life, if you’re struggling with procrastination or other forms of resistance.

Steven writes about the biggest enemy we face in our life, daily: Resistance.

With a capital “R”.

What is Resistance?

At it’s core, it’s fear.

It’s self-doubt, perfectionism, self-sabotage.

Are you facing procrastination?

Read this book. I’m serious.

This book is too important not to be read.

What I Do

[…] I power down. It’s three, three-thirty. The office is closed. How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it.

All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got.

All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.

What I Know

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.

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.

The Unlived Life

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic?

Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice?

Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others?

Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace, or to preserve the environment?

Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be?

Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture?

Then you know what Resistance is.

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 looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.

How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip, and compulsive cell-phone use, 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 to 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.

You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

Book One: Resistance – Defining the Enemy.

Resistance’s Greatest Hits

The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:

  • The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
  • The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
  • Any diet or health regimen.
  • Any program of spiritual advancement.
  • Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals.
  • Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
  • Education of every kind.
  • Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.
  • The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.
  • Any act that entails commitment of the heart. The decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
  • The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.

In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.

Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower.

Any of these will elicit Resistance.

Resistance Is Invisible

Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled.

But it can be felt.

We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential.

It’s a repelling force.

It’s negative.

Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.

Resistance Is Internal

Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves.

We locate it in spouses, jobs, bosses, kids.

“Peripheral opponents,” as Pat Riley used to say when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers.

Resistance is not a peripheral opponent.

Resistance arises from within.

It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.

Resistance is the enemy within.

Resistance Is Insidious

Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.

It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.

Resistance has no conscience.

If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.

Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

Resistance Is Fueled By Fear

Resistance has no strength of its own.

Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us.

We feed it with power by our fear of it.

Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.

Resistance And Procrastination

Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize.

We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.”

Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Remark: We both know, tomorrow never comes.

Resistance Can Be Beaten

If Resistance couldn’t be beaten, there would be no Fifth Symphony, no Romeo and Juliet, no Golden Gate Bridge.

Defeating Resistance is like giving birth.

It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off successfully, with support and without, for fifty million years.

Book Two: Combating Resistance - Turning Pro

It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.
- Telamon of Arcadia

Professionals And Amateurs

Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait.

They all think like amateurs.

They have not yet turned pro.

The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child.

With one stroke, everything changes.

I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.

To be clear: When I say professional, I don’t mean doctors and lawyers, those of “the professions.”

I mean the Professional as an ideal.

The professional in contrast to the amateur.

Consider the differences.

The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps.

To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation.

The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time.

The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.

The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love.”

The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money.

Not the way I see it.

In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough.

If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation.

The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it.

He commits full-time.

That’s what I mean when I say turning pro.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro.

We’re All Pros Already

All of us are pros in one area: our jobs.

We get a paycheck. We work for money. We are professionals.

Now: Are there principles we can take from what we’re already successfully doing in our workaday lives and apply to our artistic aspirations?

What exactly are the qualities that define us as professionals?

  • We show up every day. We might do it only because we have to, to keep from getting fired. But we do it. We show up every day.
  • We show up no matter what. In sickness and in health, come hell or high water, we stagger in to the factory. We might do it only so as not to let down our co-workers, or for other, less noble reasons. But we do it. We show up no matter what.
  • We stay on the job all day. Our minds may wander, but our bodies remain at the wheel. We pick up the phone when it rings, we assist the customer when he seeks our help. We don’t go home till the whistle blows.
  • We are committed over the long haul. Next year we may go to another job, another company, another country. But we’ll still be working. Until we hit the lottery, we are part of the labor force.
  • The stakes for us are high and real. This is about survival, feeding our families, educating our children. It’s about eating.
  • We accept remuneration for our labor. We’re not here for fun. We work for money.
  • We do not overidentify with our jobs. We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.
  • We master the technique of our jobs.
  • We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
  • We receive praise or blame in the real world.

Now consider the amateur: the aspiring painter, the wannabe playwright.

How does he pursue his calling?

One, he doesn’t show up every day.

Two, he doesn’t show up no matter what.

Three, he doesn’t stay on the job all day.

He is not committed over the long haul; the stakes for him are illusory and fake.

He does not get money.

And he overidentifies with his art.

He does not have a sense of humor about failure.

You don’t hear him bitching, “This fucking trilogy is killing me!”

Instead, he doesn’t write his trilogy at all.

For Love Of The Game

To clarify a point about professionalism:

The professional, though he accepts money, does his work out of love.

He has to love it.

Otherwise he wouldn’t devote his life to it of his own free will.

No Mystery

There’s no mystery to turning pro.

It’s a decision brought about by an act of will.

We make up our minds to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.

Book Three: Beyond Resistance - The Higher Realm

The Artist’s Life

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace?

In the end, the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don’t do it.

It may help to think of it this way:

If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.

It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.

Don’t cheat us of your contribution.

Give us what you’ve got.

Closing Thoughts

This concludes my personal book notes of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

As you can see from the table of contents, my personal book notes only cover small parts of this book.

If you like what your read, please consider buying the book from the author.

Thank you for reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
- Steven Pressfield