Book Review: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Several prominent writers and bloggers I admire recommend this book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

So it was an easy pick when I looked for the next book to read.

I couldn’t wait to dive in, learn, be inspired, gain some invaluable insight and so on.

Unfortunately for me, the book was a bit of a letdown.

I expected the book to be either motivational or educational, if not both.

It offered neither.

But don’t let my unflattering review stop you from reading the book.

Going by its glowing 5* reviews, lots of people find the book resonates with them. And I’m glad for others it has a positive impact on them.

It’s a shame I didn’t find it to be the case.

The Artist’s Book

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield has been hailed as a heroic work of art among the creative mind ( so it seems).

Anyone who wants to explore their potential through art, business or creative endeavours who often find the worst enemy within themselves is supposed to find the book immensely valuable.

It tackles the issue of resistance stemmed from fears, doubts and distractions that keep us from creating.

Not long after reading this book, I read Think Like an Artist by Will Gompertz, which has more substance and depth. It’s far more engaging. And encouraging. 

You can read my review here. 


The key takeaways for me are from the second part where the author distinguishes between a professional and an amateur.

A disparity in the way we treat our work. Our attitudes towards it. Day in day out.

It was a timely reminder for me as working from home could hamper work ethic compared to working in an office where a boss is watching you over your shoulder.

What exactly are the qualities that define us as professionals?
1. We show up every day.
2. We show up no matter what.
3. We stay on the job all day.
4. We are committed over the long haul.
5. The stakes for us are high and real.
6. We accept remuneration for our labor.
7. We do not overidentify with our jobs.
8. We master the technique of our jobs.
9. We have a sense of humor about our jobs.
10. We receive praise or blame in the real world

I adhere to the first three, if nothing else, and keep a high level of work ethic.

No excuse for slacking because you work from home.

Another gem is on self-validation:

The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still. She’ll work harder. She’ll be back tomorrow.

What I liked

The distinction between a pro and an amateur, their attitudes towards work.

I uttered, “it’s so true”, a couple of times while reading this part.

What I didn’t like

I couldn’t get into the writing style. It wasn’t engaging.

Throughout, I felt remote and distant, not invested in any way (other than the time to read and the price I paid for the book!).

The second part above was the saving grace which short-lived.

To make it worse, in my Kindle version, the majority of the book was written in bold letters which I found far too distracting.

I’m not generally fussy over grammatical errors and such.

I’ve read many indie books that were riddled with errors and typos. None of them took away my reading pleasure when the story (and the writing style) was engrossing.

But with this book, as I struggled through it, bold letters only amplified my frustration.

The creative endeavour can be a slog and frustrating with endless internal battles at times.

But I also consider it as a joyful – even blissful – endeavour, a labour of love.

So, it’s not surprising the author’s view who portrays creating art / the process as miserable didn’t fare well.

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