STANWOOD insights

Book review: The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles - Steven Pressfield

Oct 22, 2019 9:11:27 AM / by Hannes Kleist

Our head of catering Hannes, reviews the books he reads.

This week Hannes read a a book on procrastination.

This might very well be the most eye opening and influential book I read since the 4-hour work-week

I found that every single major fuckup of the last 10 years (there are hundreds) can be traced back to me procrastinating on something. I am a world class procrastinator. My excuses why "this is not procrastination" are the gold-standard.

Also: The writing of this book is super funny.

Note: "Resistance" in this book refers the "innerer Schweinehund" or "Instant Gratification Monkey" that pushes us to not do the important task.

RESISTANCE IS INFALLIBLE

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.

Word!

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.

Oh, don't I know that feeling. Whenever I had a difficult task that ends with sending an email. I push sending that email to the next day. What a wimp!

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

So here I am

It goes without saying that this principle applies to drugs, shopping, masturbation, TV, gossip, alcohol, and the consumption of all products containing fat, sugar, salt, or chocolate.

Resistance has all those tools at it's disposal to keep us from the important task.

RESISTANCE AND THIS BOOK

As soon as I sat down and began, I was okay.

Totally. Even stuff I push for months are only terrible for like 3 minutes. Once I started, it does not feel even remotely as horrible. I cannot believe how much I suffer for months on end sometimes because I do not tackle a task. Only to find out, that once I tackle it, if only feels bad for a minute.

RESISTANCE AND UNHAPPINESS

As artists and professionals it is our obligation to enact our own internal revolution, a private insurrection inside our own skulls. In this uprising we free ourselves from the tyranny of consumer culture.

Amen! But surly this does not include any product from Apple Inc.

RESISTANCE AND SELF-DOUBT

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

That is a nice tell-tale sign to look out for.

RESISTANCE AND BEING A STAR

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

I struggle with that. There are activities that I would describe as "flow". I enjoy them tremendously and feel great every minute I do them. Time flows by and I feel immense accomplishment. But those tasks are at best 5% of my "work". Should I do more of them or less of them?

A PROFESSIONAL

"I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp."

LOL

WHAT A WRITER'S DAY FEELS LIKE

(a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what's important first.

This trips me up very often. I "reason" myself into a corner.

I try something new

  • I check emails only once per day at noon and work off unread emails
  • Everything that I can do within two minutes. I do that right away.
  • I only keep must-dos. They stay in the inbox.
  • I say "no" to everything else. All the "maybe", "someday" topics.
  • I work of all those tasks ONLY chronologically - first in first out
Hopefully this will catch my procrastination.

 

HOW TO BE MISERABLE

The artist must be like that Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.

There you have the answer, if you want to do "flow" or "shit" tasks. Do shit and love it.

FOR LOVE OF THE GAME

The professional has learned, however, that too much love can be a bad thing. Too much love can make him choke.

Keep it Zen: It's just a job. An important job to be sure - but just a job. You have a partner, kids, family, your community, friends and hobbies. There will be other jobs. If you obsess over your job you will burn out.

A PROFESSIONAL IS PATIENT

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

Good life advise. There are actually studies with children that show, that kids who can delay gratification are more successful in later life.

Some things where I deliberately withhold gratification.

  • Eating - Do intermittent fasting
  • Drinking & Smoking - Do not drink during the week - at least when at home
  • Facebook, Instagram etc. - Do not use them. Period. This will also help with deep work.
  • Email - Only check them once per day
  • TV - Only watch it on the weekend
  • Sex & Porn - Only on the weekend or at night
  • Comfort food - Only on the weekend
  • Tasks - Do shitty tasks first

 

A PROFESSIONAL PLAYS IT AS IT LAYS

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.

Yeah. All good and bad things are luck anyway. That's like getting angry at God for shitty weather. Dress up properly and head out with enthusiasm.

A PROFESSIONAL SELF-VALIDATES

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

Yeah. Fuck, what other people think ;-)

A PROFESSIONAL RECOGNIZES HER LIMITATIONS

She brings in other pros and treats them with respect.

Oh yeah. I fall into that trap. I call it Amateurism. I rather do stuff on my own than hiring other pros.

THE ARTIST AND THE HIERARCHY

For the artist to define himself hierarchically is fatal. The artist must operate territorially. He must do his work for its own sake. To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.

There it is again.

THE ARTIST AND THE TERRITORY

Remember, as artists we don't know diddly. We're winging it every day.

I like the humbleness in that.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TERRITORY AND HIERARCHY

Here's another test. Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?

That is a nice rule. Keeps you focused both on important and non-ego tasks.

Buy the book here