The War of Art is Hard Won

The war of art is a phrase coined by writer Stephen Pressfied in his book of the same title.  It's about the struggle creative people have in making a living from their talents, and believing in themselves enough in the first place.

Pressfield suggests that for people trying to become successful at something, the hardest, blackest point is always the period just before success.  He suggests there is a force behind this blackpoint and he call it 'Resistance'.  This force is a factor relative to our own fears. 

I love this theory, it explains much about the human condition (and my condition in particular).

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I wrote this page because, apart from my own experiences, I meet quite a few people who confide in me they have the desire to do something creative and fulfilling with their lives (different to what they are actually doing).

I think Pressfield's main point is that art/creation is so hard to make a livng from, it is easy to give it a half-hearted try, then give up before you give it a real chance.  Or not do it at all for fear of failure and ridicule - or just relegate it to a hobby pastime.

it takes bravery and commitment to just do it and to heck with the consequences - especially if you are the breadwinner.  Being on the breadline is not fun, and so daily life is constructed in such a way as not to make it easy to follow your heart.

The Wobbles

I find Pressfield's theories useful because he warns you of what is likely to happen to you if you do go ahead and follow your heart. 

Essentially, he tells us you have the 'wobbles' (my word not his).  He prepares us for what to do when we have them.  The more naturally creative your talent is, the more you wobble, according to Pressfield.

He was a wannabe script writer in Hollywood.  He had no idea if he was ever going to get anywhere with his chosen career - it is a very competitive area where many never achieve their ambitions.

For many years he was a failure, having script after script rejected.  He lived in an old camper van so untidy, he would often not be abe to find his typewriter.

One day, he had a film-script accepted.  It was the best day of his life.  He felt his life had finally begun. The film was made.

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He went to the screening.  He realised it was a really bad film.  It failed dismally.  He went into obscurity again, if he had ever come out of it in the first place.

Wind on several years and keeping at it, when he could so easily have given up, he began to have limited success and make a name in the  business.  He turned to writing novels and his first one, 'The Legend of Bagger Vance', was made into a 2000 film starring Will Smith and Matt Damon.

He no longer lives in the back of a van.  He has won his war of art.

For me, the message is about believing in and persevering with your talent.  I think Pressfield is saying 'Go for it and stick at it'.  This certainly helped me and I felt I was taking to a wise friend who understood.

Some quotes

Here are some quotes I'd like to share as they seem fitting to this discussion on the war of art.


I enjoyed Stephen Pressfield's book and it helps my mental approach.

I suggested my daughters read it as it gives an interesting take on life in general - both my older two daughters are in creative work.

I felt it would be appropriate to tell people about it here, as it may apply to those interested in sculpting.

The message I like particularly is that many people have a burning inbuilt creative imperative, but have little confidence. 

These two factors seem to go together somewhat and constitute one of the  main themes of the war of art.

Pressfield suggests these individuals have a built in advantage in the creative stakes because those who believe in themselves the least and feel they deserve nothing are often the most creatively talented.  This is a good message, and hopefully can spur people on when they need some encouragement, whatever is in their heart.

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