Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: The War of Art

As I was leaving my office yesterday, I ran into my esteemed colleague, Professor Darrell Grant.(His office is right next to mine!) Grant lent me this great book called The War Of Art (Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles) by Steven Pressfield. I've read my fair share of self-help books(The Road Less Traveled by M.Scott Peck, The Richest Man In Babylon, countless diet and exercise books...), even those which deal with creativity( Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner, The Inner Game Of Music, The Artist's Way....). Pressfield's book is unique in that he writes with a writer's flair for language. The chapters are short and to the point, and each chapter is like a mini-zen lesson in how to be a successful artist. Mind you, in Pressfield's view, which is also my view, the successful artist creates and realizes his visions, although financial compensation is always secondary(unfortunately true, but true artists tend to love the satisfaction of self expression and integrity more than fancy cars and lavish homes. Hey, what do I know, I'm a music teacher by day!).

author Steven Pressfield
The War Of Art is in three books: Book One is about Resistance. This is anything that keeps you from being creative, and creativity takes a lot of work. So many of us put off our own creativity as long as possible, and make excuse after excuse. I have a friend (who will be nameless) who was frustrated by his lack of success on the New York jazz scene. I said to him, "Why don't you form your own band? Take advantage of all the bad-ass cats in New York and do a recording? Write some music?"

"Well, I don't really have any music written?"

"Why Not?"

"Well......I need to get a really good keyboard first, before I write any music....."

You can buy a midi keyboard for 100 dollars, hook it up to Garage Band, and write some music TODAY. This guy was letting 100 dollars stand in his way of living up to his potential. Now, believe me, I make excuses, too. Pressfield's lessons are a reminder of what it takes to be an artist, or really to accomplish anything. It takes overcoming the many forms of Resistance. Excuses and distractions are forms of Resistance. Even close friends can be resistance.

Book Two is called Combating Resistance: Turning Pro. This book deals with the differences in attitude between a professional and an amateur. It has nothing to do with whether you are paid or not for your art. It has to do with perseverance and dedication; showing up every day, through rain and snow, sickness and health. It's not about momentary glories and immediate gratification. It's about slogging it out for YEARS, as Pressfield can truly profess to as a struggling screenwriter. I admire the fact that Pressfield can be so candid about his failures, and how he stuck with it because he believed in what he was doing.

Book Three is called Beyond Resistance:Higher Realm, which concerns even more philosophical aspects of Art, such as The Magic Of Keeping Going, Fear, the Ego, Hierarchical versus Territorial thinking, etc... Another musician friend of mine, drummer Matt Jorgensen, told me his view of the jazz scene these days:" You don't worry about making money, you just keep making music, keep putting out recordings....just keep doing it as long as you can." I think that embodies much of Pressfield's philosophy: you keep at it because that's all you can do. It's a War, and in War, you don't surrender. You keep fighting.

I plan on studying this book further. I think I'll order a copy for myself!


  1. thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Sure it was a wonderful weekend!, I'm happy for you!, your outfit is georgeous!


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