Book Review: The War of Art

“Creating soap opera in our lives is a symptom of Resistance. Why put in years of work designing a new software interface when you can get just as much attention by bringing home a boyfriend with a prison record?…”

This is the first passage from a page titled “RESISTANCE AND SELF-DRAMATIZATION” in one of Steven Pressfield’s major works The War of Art – Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” (2002).

In my reading experiences, I have been impressed by some writers of novels. In the 1990’s I read the entire Aubrey/Maturin novels written by Patrick O’Brien (Master and Commander (2003) was a theatrical version of a few of the stories).

Although I had read historical war novels before associated with the British Royal Navy, such as C.S. Forrester’s venerable Horatio Hornblower, O’Brien wrote with such incredible detail of the Napoleonic Era, you would think he lived in that time himself.
While they were not books on personal self-help, they do provide philosophy via the ethos of the characters and a reflection of the values that I believe to give life value and dignity.

There is another writer, whom I have read, who is comparable (though a bit saltier) to O’Brien in his historical detail and understanding of human nature of men at war and that is Steven Pressfield. A former U.S. Marine, several of Pressfield’s books are on the reading lists of military academies and one is even on the curriculum of the Naval War College (

Steven Pressfield.  Source:

Steven Pressfield. Source:

In 2011, one of the first books I read in pursuit understanding leadership was “Gates of Fire” (1998) where I was transported into the ancient warrior culture of Sparta and the famous Battle of Thermopylae.

Pressfield’s ability to achieve a high level of authenticity earned him an Honorary Citizenship of the Greek city of Sparta. How cool is that!

Recently I completed his self-improvement masterpiece “The War of Art” (2002). The title seems like a clever take off on an ancient Chinese writing on war strategy by Sun-Tze, yet the material of the book stands solidly on its own feet in clearly defining the all-pervasive force he calls “Resistance”. In The War of Art  we are all described as having an inner “artist” which could be aligned with any form of self-expression.

“Resistance” is introduced as the barrier between the life we live and the unlived life within us.

When I read this book I was driven to read through as I was buzzing from revelations made possible by being able to put an identity on the insidious entity we feel as fear. If I wasn’t abuzz from new insights, I was in Pressfield’s presence through his dry humor and occasional and familiar need for salty expressions.

“The War of Art” is a compilation of three major sections
Book #1: “Resistance – Defining the Enemy”
Book #2: “Combating Resistance – Turning Pro”
Book #3: “Beyond Resistance – The Higher Realm”

As the titles indicate, Pressfield, from an auto-biographical perspective as a writer, provides a thorough briefing on the antithesis of our self-expression and provides important keys on how to overcome it .

Although Resistance he defines as an indifferent and constant force in the universe, in a Biblical Proverbs-like fashion, he takes us on a compelling page-by-page trek to create a comprehensive picture of an arch-enemy whose “goal is not to wound or disable … [but] aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, and the priceless gifts we were put on earth to give…”

Virtually every aspect of peoples’ inability to attain their goals and dreams of self-expression are captured in the detailed characterization of Resistance … the Enemy.

Here the continuation of the excerpt I started at the top of the article from Book #1: “Resistance – Defining the Enemy”:



“… Sometimes entire families participate unconsciously in a culture of self-dramatization. The kids fuel the tanks, the grown-ups arm the phasers, the whole starship lurches from one spine-tingling episode to another. And the crew knows how to keep it going. If the level of drama drops below a certain threshold, someone jumps in to amp it up. Dad gets drunk, Mom gets sick, Janie shows up for church with an Oakland Raiders tattoo. It’s more fun than a movie. And it works: Nobody gets a damn thing done.

“Sometimes I think of Resistance as a sort of evil twin to Santa Claus, who makes his rounds house-to-house, making sure that everything’s taken care of. When he comes to a house that’s hooked on self-dramatization, his ruddy cheeks glow and he giddy-ups away behind his eight tiny reindeer. He knows there’ll be no work done in that house.”


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I’ll see you… on the next page

Challen Yee

Challen Yee



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