March 25, 2011 In business, life

the war of art: book review

i bought a book called the war of art, by steven pressfield because i read on donald miller’s blog that he loved it. i love donald miller and i assume i’ll love what he loves. donald calls it one of his favourite books on writing ever written: i have to agree. but it’s so much more than writing. it’s a book about life. i read it in a day this past week and i haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

within the first few pages of the book, we are introduced to this concept of the Resistance. not a new concept to me, having previously read linchpin by seth godin [as mentioned in this blog post] however, pressfield expands upon this idea in much greater detail.

the opening paragraph is as follows, “most of us have two lives. the life we live, and the unlived life within us. between the two stands Resistance.” pressfield continues on the next page, “to yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. If you believe in God you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius.”

the war of art is a short book, an easy read at only one hundred and fifty pages. there are some concepts in the book i do not agree with including all the mumbo-jumbo about “muses” whispering into our ear and such. pressfield is a theist–not a Christian, so he & i differ on quite a few things. that being said, this book was an eye-opener.

i believe in a God, who has given us unique gifts and talents and abilities. He has our days written in His book, knows what person would be best for us to marry, what career we would flourish most in, where we should live for which seasons of our lives, which challenges He should bring along to refine us. He knows it all. He knows what you were created to do. and i believe He’s already spoken it to you.

i’m learning more everyday about what i was created to do. when you find something doing something you were not created to do [wasting time, employed in a job you’re not passionate about, spending time with people that drag you down, staying silent about the things you believe in] think about the Resistance. why are you letting ____ stand in your way of what you truly want to do which is ______? this will take some thought.

i see this in my business, in my writing, in my time-management. i don’t like it. but when i can recognize those times as Resistance, it makes me excited, because i have a choice. i was on my way home from the studio the other day. i was tired: i was up too early, working too hard, my hoodie and yoga pants were calling me from the couch in my bedroom. i drove to the gym, arguing with myself the whole way, it’s only one workout. you can skip it. NO! i will get on that treadmill and that elliptical and i will prove to myself, prove to this Resistance that this is going to take thirty minutes out of my day and push me closer to health: what i was created for. felt so wonderful afterwards. :)

i was rocked when i took this concept one step further, applying these ideas into my Christian walk. i am a Christian. i believe in Jesus and i believe that He has saved my soul and i’m spending eternity in Heaven. i know that my sole purpose on this Earth is to tell people about Jesus’ saving grace. yep. sole purpose. okay, so if you’re tracking with me, that is the work i was created to do. therefore, anything that stands in between the life i’m living NOW [assumedly wasting time and not sharing the gospel] and the life i want to live [unashamedly sharing about my faith verbally on a daily basis] is RESISTANCE.

this Resistance [which Pressfield so aptly calls evil in the first chapter] is killing my purpose in this life. this Resistance causes me to procrastinate on telling that person about my faith, asking that friend about Jesus, going out of my way to avoid someone because really… my to-do list today needs to be accomplished. one page, titled “Resistance and Rationalization, Part Two” made me think. to summarize, Resistance is fear. and we try to rationalize our way out of those fears: reasons why we shouldn’t act. the worst thing is, we’re smart and often these rationalizations make sense. personal example: some people will think i’m nuts when i talk about Jesus. that’s truth. that’s also me rationalizing as to why i shouldn’t talk about Him. dangit! i want to overcome this Resistance. i see men like carl lentz, judah smith, richie wilkerson jr: they’ve overcome this Resistance [with the help of the Lord, of course.] they tell anybody who sits beside ’em about their faith. i want to do that.

i’ve had conversations with my family before about this and it always come up, “some people have a gift of evangelism.” and it’s true, sure, i believe some have an exceptional gift and that men like carl, judah and richie could have this gift. however. i’m not convinced of it. they are men with fear, just like you and i. i think these are THREE men who have stood up and said, screw resistance and not standing up to what God has called the church to be. ordinary men stepping up to an exceptional purpose. — if you’re not a Christian, i hope you can see how this would still apply to your life and whatever message you feel passionate about sharing.

the last page of the book kills me. SO GOOD:

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… if you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony… and you don’t do it, you not only hurt 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 millimetre 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.

WORDDDDDDD!!!!!!
[i never say that, i just didn’t know what else to say. i feel like standing up on a stage with a microphone somewhere and preaching my face off. this is so good.]

ps. all excerpts are from “the war of art” by steven pressfield and i recommend you buy it & ignore everything about muses. hahah!

  • Steven Barks

    I’ll get right to it boss!

  • I think you’re real, Jamie. Really, really real. There are so many photographers/writers/artists out there that drop the name of Jesus once in awhile to make something of themselves look “good” or “Moral?” But I can tell that you really love Him! Thanks for continuing to help me love Him more. You’re a “real” inspiration :)

  • Sarah Penner

    You are blessed to know this so young. My passion was ballet. I was dedicated to it. I was also talked out of it by the church, my family, my friends, my mentors and as a teen I walked away convinced I was surrendering it to the Cross. That decision made a twisted mess of my life.

    Countless other decisions also ruined the last decade of my life, all good decisions, all pure, all righteous, but all very wrong, and have left me a confused mess, passionate about nothing.

    Don’t let people be the resistance in your life to what you know is right, even if they are well meaning, wise, older and more spiritual. We know more than we think we do, and if God’s given you something, don’t let it go, be a bull dog!

  • Totally agree with you. We are created for a sole purpose, to bring glory to God by bringing more people to him. Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to keep fighting the resistance with everything in me. :)

  • leez

    Jamie, it is always a delight to read your blog!

  • Great review, just finished this book a week ago, after reading about it on your blog haha I also differ on the theist vs Christian point you make, but the overall message and the way he explains art and its purpose in this world really struck a chord with me. The last page was awesome.

    P.S. If you haven’t seen the movie Legend of Bagger Vance which he wrote I highly recommend it. Beautiful movie, always encourages me.

  • Just put it on hold at the library – looking forward to reading it!

  • Inspiring post! As a Christian and an artist I also do not believe in the “muses” but I do believe if you are praying about your art(photography,music, or whatever creative avenue) the Holy Spirit will give you so much inspiration! This is the first time I have been to your blog and I’m looking foward to more post! Thanks for the book recommendation, I just might have to go to the library this weekend!

  • I’m so ordering that book right now.

  • Matthew 10: 26-33 ESV
    “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
    (And here’s the really good part…)
    So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

    Jamie, Keep talking about Jesus! Don’t ever let that fear stop you!! :)
    P.S. I’ll probably buy this book. Nice review!

  • Shanna Elizabeth

    That paragraph you shared from the book was certainly powerful!! Thanks! =D

  • Sigh….welling up with tears. Call it conviction. Moving blog post, requires me to act and to stop thinking about acting.

  • KB

    I bought this after J* mentioned it in her last cL workshop. Still on my bookshelf, unread, but… any day now, ha!