In this special column, editor reflects on how ‘The War of Art’ had a deep impact on the way he viewed his creative contribution to the world.
The word 'amateur' derives from French for 'the love of'. An 'amateur' is an individual that is so attached to their work, they become anxious and over-invested in its success or failure. By contrast, a professional is one who detaches themselves from the work and the outcome and instead sees their creative work as a contribution that they cease to own.
This is just one insight from Steve Pressfield's book ‘The War of Art'. Pressfield is known for many literary works, including ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, a novel based on the , detailing how the main protagonist, R. Junuh, overcomes obstacles of the golf course.
‘The War of Art’ is an essential manual for any creative leader seeking to understand their own inner contrarians, or rather what Pressfield calls 'resistance'. Written in a conversational and easy to understand style, Pressfield calls on our biggest insecurities and brings them to the surface so that we can better understand them. If we run away or try to fight our insecurities head-on, we'll get tired and lost. Instead, if we simply acknowledge them, we can move forward.
The resistance, or 'inner contrarian', is anything inside of us. It holds us back from achieving what we want. It's the force that actively works against us. When we set upon an endeavour, resistance comes into play, almost with immediate effect. Unless we can acknowledge it, we'll be stuck.
My biggest takeaway from this book was the idea that 'rationalisation' is also a form of resistance. In life, we try to rationalise ourselves OUT of doing things. Rational statements, such as "I don't have time", “we don't have all the information yet", "once I read those books, then I'll be ready", or "it doesn't make sense for me to do this". It's not that rationality should play no part in our decision-making process. No. Rather, we must recognise that at times, our are speaking in the guise of rationality. For creative leaders, we must make bold moves in the face of uncertainty.
For those that are stalling, ‘The War of Art’ will come as a welcome reminder. To quote Pressfield: "Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too."
by Dr Rajiv Chandegra
Dr Rajiv Chandegra is a GP based in London, with an avid interest in global health, policy and humanities. He is also an editor for Tattva Press, an independent publisher with a mission to nurture aspiring authors and ideas at the frontiers of Indian culture.
* is organising a live Q&A with author of ‘The War of Art’, Steven Pressfield, at 6pm GMT on January 9, 2021. To join, register your interest at .