Alexandre Lim

The War of ArtBy Steven Pressfield

Things worth doing create Resistance. The more important, the more Resistance. To live up to your potential and to live the life you really want, you have no choice but to fight against Resistance...every day. This book is about Resistance. It will teach you everything you need to know about it. Find yourself through commitment. Give us what you've got.


Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.

Resistance will appear from any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.

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.

The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.

Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with power through our fear of it. Master that fear, and we conquer Resistance.

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we're about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it's got. The professional must be alert to this counterattack. Be wary at the end. Don't open that bag of wind.

The best and only thing that one artist can do for another is to serve as an example and an inspiration.

Never forget: At this very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.

The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work. The working artist banishes from her world all sources of trouble. She harnesses the urge for trouble and transforms it into her work.

What finally convinced me to go ahead was simply that I was so unhappy not going ahead. I was developing symptoms. As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.

The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work.

The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.

Here's the trick: We're never alone. As soon as we step outside, the campfire glow, and our Muse lights on our shoulder like a butterfly. The act of courage calls forth infallibly that deeper part of ourselves that supports and sustains us.

It's one thing to lie to ourselves. It's another thing to believe it.

Instead of showing us our fear (which might shame us and impel us to do our work), Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn't do our work.

The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

Though he accepts money, the professional does his work out of love. He has to love it. Otherwise, he wouldn't devote his life to it of his own free will.

However, the professional has learned that too much love can be bad. Remember what we said about fear, love, and Resistance. The more you love your art/calling/enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it and the more Resistance you will experience facing it.

Technically, the professional takes money. Technically, the pro plays for pay. But in the end, he does it for love.

The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification.

The professional steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.

The professional cannot live like that. He is on a mission. He will not tolerate the disorder. He eliminates chaos from his world to banish it from his mind.

A pro views her work as craft, not art.

The professional masters how and leave what and why to the gods.

The professional shuts up. She doesn't talk about it. She does her work.

The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then, he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.

The professional has learned better. He respects Resistance. He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he'll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow.

The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you're finished. The pro doesn't even pick up the phone. He stays at work.

The professional conducts his business in the real world. Adversity, injustice, bad hops and rotten calls, even good breaks and lucky bounces all comprise the ground over which the campaign must be waged. The field is level, the professional understands, only in heaven.

The professional is prepared at a deeper level. He is prepared, each day, to confront his self-sabotage.

His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily and steadily as he can.

The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.

The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to own the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.

The pro stands at one remove from her instrument — meaning her person, her body, her voice, her talent; the physical, mental, emotional, and psychological being she uses in her work. She does not identify with this instrument.

Resistance is the enemy. The battle is inside our heads. We cannot let external criticism fortify our internal foe, even if it's true. That foe is strong enough already.

The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. She assesses her stuff coldly and objectively in the face of indifference or adulation. 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.

The professional gives an ear to criticism, seeking to learn and grow. But she never forgets that Resistance uses criticism against her on a far more diabolical level.

The professional cannot let himself take humiliation personally. Humiliation, like rejection and criticism, is the external reflection of internal Resistance.

The professional endures adversity.

He reminds himself it's better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.

The professional cannot allow the actions of others to define his reality.

The professional learns to recognize envy-driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had had the guts.

If we think of ourselves as a corporation, it gives us a healthy distance from ourselves. We're less subjective. We don't take blows as personally.

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.

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.

Resistance feeds on fear. We experience Resistance as fear. But fear of what? Fear That We Will Succeed. We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are.

Most of us define ourselves hierarchically and don't even know it. 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 have entered Mass Society. The hierarchy is too big. It doesn't work anymore.

Artists can’t look to others to validate their efforts or their calling. They must operate territorially. They must do their work for its own sake.

In the hierarchy, artists face outward. Meeting someone new, they ask themselves: “What can this person do for me? How can this person advance my standing?” They look up and down. But, the one place they can’t look is the place they must: within.

Qualities of a territory:

  • Provides sustenance.
  • Sustains us without any external input.
  • It can only be claimed alone.
  • It can only be claimed by work.
  • Return exactly what you put in.

What about ourselves as artists? How do we do our work? Hierarchically or territorially? If we were freaked out, would we go there first? If we were the last person on earth, would we still show up at the studio, the rehearsal hall, the laboratory?

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.

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.

Last Updated

July 20th, 2022