The War of Art’s title immediately caught my intrigue, and the premise of overcoming challenges in creative expression sounds incredibly interesting and useful.
Unfortunately, it’s light on practical advice and very heavy on fluff and spirituality. That’d be fine for a book about spirituality, but for a book that promises to be a solution for not only overcoming creative blocks, but also a guide for such things as starting a business or improving your health, I was hoping for something more concrete.
The War of Art leans too much on religious concepts
Pressfield very quickly establishes a premise that his core concept of Resistance is “the most toxic force on the planet”; the root of the world’s woes including poverty and disease. I could stomach that concept, but when he tells me that it is an evil force because it prevents me from achieving the life that God intended for me, I start to wonder if I’m reading the correct book. I didn’t realize I was walking into a sermon.
I pressed on hoping that maybe the intro was just stylistic flair to hook me in, and that my focus would be rewarded with substance. Unfortunately, as I got farther and farther I realized that this was the substance, and it wasn’t very substantial.
There were glimpses of useful advice amongst some examples of people both being held back by and overcoming the “Resistance”, but any lessons to be learned were incessantly skewed, warped, and ultimately compromised to fit within the book’s fantasy and romanticized take on problem solving.
As the final section begins, Pressfield lets me know that he will be using terms like “muses” and “angels”, and tells me that if that makes me uncomfortable that I have his permission (yes, that specific wording) to think of angels in the abstract. Describing this book as “preaching” is apt in more ways than one.
Comparing “The War of Art” to “The Art of War” is a stretch at best
The War of Art’s product description says:
A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.
This is really nothing less than Sun-Tzu? I know books have to sell but damn, talk about hyperbole.
No, The War of Art is not comparable to The Art of War outside of a cleverly flipped titled and an drawn out metaphor of “War” against creative “Resistance”. This itself feels mostly like a gimmick to force the association with Sun-Tzu’s work.
The War of Art is style identifying as substance. It is a book that attempts to convince you, and possibly itself, that it is a practical guide to creative discipline when it is mostly an exercise in dogmatic grandiloquence.
It does contain some passable storytelling and ruminating, and might be a decent read if it was more honest with itself and less preachy. I can see its concepts working well if written as an exploration of theology and philosophy, instead of problem solving and psychology. As presented, however, The War of Art fails its premise.