The War of Art by Steven Pressfield Notes

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A must-read for anyone who wants to create. Short but powerful. Odds of re-reading: close to 100%.

  • There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t and the secret is this: It’s not hard to write. It’s hard to sit down to write.
  • Resistance is the most toxic force on this planet.
    • From age 24 to 32, Resistance kicked Pressfield’s ass from East Coast to West Coast and back thirteen times, and he didn’t even realize his biggest enemy was staring him in his face (relatable)
  • Defeating Resistance is about listening to our hearts. What would happen if we listened to our inner calling?

Resistance: Defining the Enemy

  • Any act act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long term growth, health, or integrity will elicit Resistance.
  • The more important a call or action to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
  • The warrior and the artist live by the same code: the battle must be fought every day.
  • The danger of Resistance is greatest just before the finish line. If you’re just about to publish, you might just stop because you think “it’s not good enough.” Fuck that.
  • There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.
  • The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing the work.
  • All of society exists to feed your Resistance [HF!].
    • Attention Deficit Disorder, Seasonal Affect Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder aren’t diseases. They’re marketing ploys created by marketing departments and drug companies.
    • Instead of applying self-knowledge, self-discipline, delayed gratification and hard work, we simply consume a product
  • Doctors estimate 70-80% of their business is non-health-related.
  • What does Resistance feel like?
    • First – Unhappiness. We feel like hell. Misery. We’re bored, restless. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source.
    • Second – Vices. Dope, booze, adultery, web surfing.
    • Third – Clinical. Depression, aggression, dysfunction.
    • Fourth – Actual crime and physical self-destruction.
  • The truly free individual is only free to the extent of his own self-mastery (Socrates)
  • Resistance leads to criticizing others. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement.
  • If you’re asking yourself, “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
  • The more we feel fear about something, the more certain we can be the enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul
  • The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.
  • You’re not alone when you’re with your craft.
  • The more energy we spend stroking support from friends/colleagues, the weaker we become and the less capable we are of handling our business.
  • Defeating Resistance is like giving birth. It seems absolutely impossible until you remember that women have been pulling it off for the past 50 million years.

Combating Resistance: Turning Pro

  • The professional is there 7 days a week.
  • “I write only when inspiration strikes,” Somerset Maugham. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
  • Professional has a sense of humor about his failure.
  • Tony Koppelman on failure – “You’re where you want to be, aren’t you? So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price of being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.”
  • The professional knows fear only exists in your head. When you are in action, fear goes away.
  • The professional knows he does not know everything.
  • Editors are not the enemy, critics are not the enemy (external). These are outside forces. Resistance is the enemy (internal). 
  • The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget her work is not her.
  • It’s better to be in the arena getting stomped by the bull than it is in the stands or in the parking lot.
  • The professional does not allow the actions of others to define his reality. Tomorrow morning the critic will be gone, but the writer will be facing the blank page.
  • Ancient Spartans knew any enemy was nameless and faceless.
  • The pro keeps on coming.

Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm

  • Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.
  • Pressfield missed Watergate because he was working (sign of a professional).
  • As soon as you finish one, start the next one. The work is the reward.
  • The work exists only as potential. It needs a human to bring this into the material plane. 
  • Once one commits to a project, all sorts of things occur that otherwise would have never occurred. Whatever you can dream, you can do. You need to begin though.
  • INCREDIBLE TIP: Take a pocket recorder on walks
  • Artists are modest because they know they’re not doing the work, they’re simply taking dictation (Joe Rogan talks about this re: standup).
  • There is no difference between “creative people” and “non-creative people.” We’re all creatives. Only some execute on that voice in their head though.
  • Your ideas in your head (your thoughts) are powerful forces that are as real and solid as the earth
  • The moment a person learns they have terminal cancer, a profound shift takes place. At one stroke, he’s become aware of what really matters.
  • Faced with imminent execution, all assumptions are called into question: What does our life mean? Have we lived it right? Are there vital acts we need to perform, crucial words to speak? Is it too late?
  • Miraculously, cancers go into remission. Is it possible the disease itself evolved as a consequence of actions taken (or not taken)?
  • The Ego’s job is to take care of business in the real world. It’s an important job. But there are worlds other than the real world. That’s when the Ego gets into trouble.
  • Ego vs. Self.
  • The Self believes:
    • 1. Death is an illusion. The soul endures and evolves through infinite manifestations. 
    • 2. Time and space are illusions. Time and space operate only in the physical sphere, and even here, don’t apply to dreams, visions, transports. In other dimensions, we move “swift as thought” and inhabit multiple planes simultaneously. 
    • 3. All beings are one. If I hurt you, I hurt myself. 
    • 4. The supreme emotion is love. Union and mutual assistance are the imperatives of life. We are all in this together. 
    • 5. God is all there is. Everything that is, is God in one form or another. God, the divine ground, is that in which we live and move and have our being. Infinite planes of reality exist, all created by, sustained by and infused by the spirit of God.
  • When suburban kids take Ecstacy and dance all night at a rave, they’re seeking the Self. When we try to alter our state, we’re seeking the Self. The Self is our deepest being.
  • Ego responsible for Resistance.
  • Ego fears we will succeed.
  • We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
  • Van Gogh never found a buyer for any of his art in his entire lifetime (!!)
  • The artist must do the work for its own sake. To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.
  • The new mom weeps in awe at the little miracle in her arms. She knows it came out of her but not from her, through her but not of her. Ask yourself, like the new mother: what do I feel growing inside of me? Let me bring this forward, if I can, for its own sake and not for what it can do for me or how it can advance my standing.
  • What would Arnold Schwarzenegger do on an unusual day when he wasn’t feeling like himself? He wouldn’t phone a friend. He would work out. For working out is the reward.
  • Do the work for its own sake, not for attention or applause.
  • Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention. It’s a gift to the world. Don’t cheat the world of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

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