Monday, 20 September 2010

The War of Art

In a bit of a departure from the usual fare, I'm reviewing a self-help book. Written by Author Steven Pressfield it is aimed to help writers and other creative people overcome the obstacles that prevent them from doing the work that they love. The book was recomended to me by Kirk Tuck, himself a prolific photographer, author and blogger. He told me that it has saved more creative lives than a defibrulator.

When the book arrived I immediately locked mytself in the toilet and started reading it. By the time I got to page 21 I relalised that the book was warning me about precisely what I was doing. Instead of sitting in the toliet reading a self-help book what I really should have been doing was editing photos from a recent shoot.

Resistance is the first of three themes in the book. It is a force from within and takes many forms. Steven describes them all with examples drawn from his and other people's life experiences. In my case it took the form of a fear of failure that made me resist looking at the photos I had taken. Getting the book gave resistance an easy way out. What would be easier than turning my back on my fear and doing something pleasurable like reading a book?

Even when I had realised what resistance was up to. it still tried to seduce me away from my work. It told me that reading the book was important. I should finish it. But by then the game was up. The book had unveiled the enemy within and shown it in its many colours. I now have a name I can pin on it. For me this was the most revolutionary thing in the book. Now that I understood what I was doing to myself I could fight back against resistance and it has certainly helped me on a number of occasions.

The second theme is turning pro, resistance and fear will prevent many people from taking that step. Turning pro means dedicating your life to the pursuit of your art. The book discusses what it means to be a professional and how it makes it easier to fight resistance. Like this part of the review its a pretty short section and even if you have no intention of becoming a professional its a good section to read

The final section is the most controversial because it gets a little religious. Its about inspiration. The author sees inspiration as divine, the muses are real and god wants you to be the best you can be. Personally I think this is hogwash, but there is still plenty of goodness when it discusses inspiration and staying true to your vision.

Like most books of this kind, there is a lot or reinforcement and repetition, but this works to help the concepts stick. I think that this book has the potential to be life changing its certainly made a difference to me. It has enabled me to recognise when I'm working against myself and given me a spur to get out of the slump I have been in for most of the year. I would recommend it for the section on resistance alone.

There is also a kindle edition of The War Of Art that would work out a bit cheaper

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