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The War of Art

The War of Art
==============

Book notes for “The War of Art”, by Steven Pressfield

#### Quick review:

I did not like this book. The book is around 100 pages long (if you were
to remove the blank half pages), and the useful parts take up maybe 1%
of that. It begins as a pretty standard self-help book, and slowly
descends into madness.

> Artists have invoked the Muse since time immemorial. There is great
> wisdom to this. There is magic to effacing our human arrogance and
> humbly entreating help from a source we cannot see, hear, touch, or
> smell.

No, there is not. That is insanity.

> I believe it. I believe there are angels. They’re here, but we can’t
> see them.

This is not taken out of context, as far as I can tell, this is not
metaphorical.

> Is it possible, Tom Laughlin asks, that the disease itself evolved as
> a consequence of actions taken (or not taken) in our lives? Could our
> unlived lives have exacted their vengeance upon us in the form of
> cancer? And if they did, can we cure ourselves, now, by living these
> lives out?

No, cancer is not caused by living an unfulfilled life.

* * * * *

One of the passages I liked (although it was not actually an idea of the
author, tellingly):

> I learned this from Robert McKee. A hack, he says, is a writer who
> second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he
> doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market
> is looking for. The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s
> superior to them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more
> accurately, scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of
> writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is
> interesting.

#### Questions raised:

Why on earth was this recommended so strongly?

#### Insights, lessons learnt:

Sometimes you will read bad books, this will make you cherish good books
all the more.

#### Highlights:

If tomorrow morning by some stroke of magic every dazed and benighted
soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his
or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business.
Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would
collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment
businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the
medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic abuse would become
extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraine headaches, road rage, and
dandruff. Read more at location 112

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still, small voice
is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times before, the
calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell
you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than
you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real?
Resistance will bury you. Read more at location 116

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s
evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. Read
more at location 167

Often couples or close friends, even entire families, will enter into
tacit compacts whereby each individual pledges (unconsciously) to remain
mired in the same slough in which she and all her cronies have become so
comfortable. The highest treason a crab can commit is to make a leap for
the rim of the bucket. Read more at location 200

The acquisition of a condition lends significance to one’s existence. An
illness, a cross to bear. Some people go from condition to condition;
they cure one, and another pops up to take its place. The condition
becomes a work of art in itself, a shadow version of the real creative
act the victim is avoiding by expending so much care cultivating his
condition. A victim act is a form of passive aggression. It seeks to
achieve gratification not by honest work or a contribution made out of
one’s experience or insight or love, but by the manipulation of others
through silent (and not-so-silent) threat. The victim compels others to
come to his rescue or to behave as he wishes by holding them hostage to
the prospect of his own further illness/meltdown/mental dissolution, or
simply by threatening to make their lives so miserable that they do what
he wants. Read more at location 253

Resistance also told me I shouldn’t seek to instruct, or put myself
forward as a purveyor of wisdom; that this was vain, egotistical,
possibly even corrupt, and that it would work harm to me in the end.
That scared me. It made a lot of sense. Read more at location 273

Unalleviated, Resistance mounts to a pitch that becomes unendurable. At
this point vices kick in. Dope, adultery, web surfing. Read
more at location 281

Even in a book like this, which has no characters, I don’t feel alone
because I’m imagining the reader, whom I conjure as an aspiring artist
much like my own younger, less grizzled self, to whom I hope to impart a
little starch and inspiration and prime, a little, with some hard-knocks
wisdom and a few tricks of the trade. Read more at location 385

Rationalization is Resistance’s right-hand man. Its job is to keep us
from feeling the shame we would feel if we truly faced what cowards we
are for not doing our work. Read more at location 429

There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an
act of will. We make up our minds to view ourselves as pros and we do
it. Simple as that. Read more at location 746

Artists have invoked the Muse since time immemorial. There is great
wisdom to this. There is magic to effacing our human arrogance and
humbly entreating help from a source we cannot see, hear, touch, or
smell. Read more at location 857

Note: Artists have invoked the Muse since time immemorial. There is
great wisdom to this. There is magic to effacing our human arrogance and
humbly entreating help from a source we cannot see, hear, touch, or
smell.

> no

I believe it. I believe there are angels. They’re here, but we can’t see
them. Read more at location 886

Is it possible, Tom Laughlin asks, that the disease itself evolved as a
consequence of actions taken (or not taken) in our lives? Could our
unlived lives have exacted their vengeance upon us in the form of
cancer? And if they did, can we cure ourselves, now, by living these
lives out? Read more at location 979

We humans seem to have been wired by our evolutionary past to function
most comfortably in a tribe of twenty to, say, eight hundred. We can
push it maybe to a few thousand, even to five figures. But at some point
it maxes out. Our brains can’t file that many faces. We thrash around,
flashing our badges of status (Hey, how do you like my Lincoln
Navigator?) and wondering why nobody gives a shit. We have entered Mass
Society. The hierarchy is too big. It doesn’t work anymore. Read
more at location 1086

I learned this from Robert McKee. A hack, he says, is a writer who
second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t
ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking
for. The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to
them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately,
scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he
really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting.