Photo by Jeremy Lishner on Unsplash

The war of art, the short version

In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield outlines his concept of “resistance” – the force that keeps each and everyone of us from doing what we feeling most called to do, whether it be write a book, run for office, ween off junk food, or run a marathon. The War of Art is the internal war we all must wage to overcome resistance and to step into what we are here to do.

The war of art, the longer version

According to Steven Pressfield, for almost all of us, there is a huge gap in our lives. It’s the gap between the life we live and the unlived life within us. We aspire to be one way (e.g., to write a book, to cure cancer, to run a marathon, etc.), but behave in another way. There is some project or endeavor we yearn for, but never quite make the time for. Something holds us back from living the life of our dreams: Resistance.

Resistance is that pervasive force that pushes back against our hopes and dreams. It tell us that we aren’t good enough, aren’t the special, that everyone will laugh at us if we try to give our gift to the world. It convinces us to not try or that we will try, but just not today. Resistance does everything it can to keep you from you doing your work. Resistance says you are better off not trying and keeping yourself safe from criticism and vulnerability than to dare to do what you feel called to.

For Pressfield, the war of art is the battle waged inside all creators to do their work, today, every day. Winning the war is not about producing high quality work. It’s not about finishing. It’s only about putting in the time to do the work, to get something on the page. When we sit down and just do the work, we automatically win.

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Ultimately, the goal is not to kill resistance, to never feel it. The goal is to keep on going in spite of the fear we feel or even to use it to our advantage. For Pressfield, resistance is almost a gift. When we feel resistance, we know we are on the right path. Resistance only shows up for the projects that feel so big and important and juicy that our ego is terrified by it. If we don’t feel resistance, then the project probably isn’t worth our time. Resistance is our North Star for identifying the projects that really light a fire in our souls.

What’s the project that is so big, so juicy, so important, so scary that you’ve been avoiding it like the plague? What would it take for you to sit down right now, for 15 minutes, and make one step toward that goal, no matter how small or imperfect? Take just one step and you win today’s battle. Wake up tomorrow and do it again. That’s the war of art.

Recommended reading

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

by Steven Pressfield

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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