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The War of Art - What is it You Fight the Most?

by Moshe Mikanovsky on 9/8/2011 9:19:20 AM

This article is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of "working his dream".  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


When you say that you don’t have the muse to sit down and paint, what do you really mean?


When there are a thousand and one chores to do before you get to spend time at your easel, when you need to only drop the kids at school, pick up the shirts from the cleaner, have your daily grande latte with you best friend, run around the block few times to feel good about your health, load several laundry machines, then dry them up and fold ‘em all, pickup the kids from school and help them with the home work, drop each of them at a different after-school program, use the time they are busy for grocery shopping, fill up the tank, pick up the kids again, make dinner, get them to shower, prepare for bed… and where did the day go by?


Whether your day looks just like that or any other variation of a busy lifestyle that does not seem to let you do what you really want and love doing – make art – what is it that you fight really?


In his book, “The War of Art”, author Steven Pressfield describes all the above, and more, in one word – Resistance.  In short paragraphs/chapters, Pressfield defines what Resistance is, where it is coming from, how it manifests itself to each one of us, and how everything that hold us back – from procrastination to self-doubt, fear to rationalization, sex and love – creates Resistance and takes us from what we were born to be and do.


Pressfield himself is an author who struggled for years with different types of resistance and he brings examples from his own experience. The book is written to any type of artist, mainly authors and visual artists, but is also a great self-help guide for everyone out there who has dreams and resistance is taking hold of them on the way to fulfill them.


In the second part of the book, Pressfield suggests one solution in the war against Resistance – to become professional. He explains, in similar manner, how becoming a professional helps fighting, and eventually concurring, resistance. But resistance always stays there, as a law of nature. Becoming a professional help identifies the resistance and creates a structure to fight it.


In the final part of the book, Pressfield goes beyond resistance, into what he calls “the Higher Realm”, where the Angels and Muses are. This is probably the most controversial part of his book, depending upon what you believe in. Connecting our inspiration with higher beings, God or gods, angels or muses, might fit your belief system and/or religion, or not. Take it or leave it as is, art – in any of its forms – is a spiritual part of our life, which probably cannot be separated completely from other spiritual beliefs out there.


Pressfield’s little book is a great read and I highly recommend it to each and every artist, in all stages of development. It is now part of my book collection and will be a constant read, reminding me to fight my own resistance on a daily basis.


As the book’s sub-title declares, I wish you to “Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”.





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Topics: creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration | Moshe Mikanovsky 

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Geri deGruy
I KNOW!!!! Even when I have 1000 ideas, I still find myself caught up in so many other activities. Life IS busy, but there is an internal resistance that I deal with as well. Sometimes I just don't want to work. Sometimes I'm afraid the piece won't come out the way I want. Sometimes I want to do something with immediate gratification. And on and on.

I do find that looking through art books, or my supplies, or my list of ideas helps me get into the studio and start again.

I'll check out this book. Thanks.

Good post. Stephen Pressfield's book is a must have. As he points out, our muse, our calling as creatives, is a practice. You do have to work at it (insert the 10,000 hours clause here).

I'd also like to pose that perhaps resistance is a good thing. When I'm facing resistance I stop and look at it. If it's from external sources, I take this as a sign of doing something right. The more resistance I get from the outside, the more I know my ideas are to be realized.

When my resistance comes from me, I step back and examine why this is occurring. Sometimes it is because the concept hasn't quite gelled. Sometimes it's fear. IF it is fear, I quickly dash those thoughts aside. Or I take a walk...

In any case War of Art is a must have for any creative's library.

jack white
Great topic.
Steve is a good friend and is the one who encouraged me to do more books after he read the Mystery of Making IT. He took Mystery to New York and asked his publisher to take me on. They didn't think there were enough artists to justify the printing.

He told me he did 11 drafts on Bagger Vance. I did 5 on each of the art books and was too tired to do more, that's why we call him a professional and me a dabbler.


Carol McIntyre
Moshe, the real "war" I have is that I wish there were two of me - heaven forbid! - because there is so much I want to do on the easel, at the keyboard writing, as well as out in the art world. I bought his book a month ago and have yet to read it. Would that be a form of resistance? :)

Carol, it's a fast and easy read. Put it where you know you'll have 10 minutes to read. You'll be glad you did.

Moshe Mikanovsky
OK, so this morning I am live, as the comments come in, since I lost my day job 10 days ago (outsourcing to India), and my day job now is to find another day job...

But, I decided to dedicate several hours each day (working hours, not after hours) for painting, and already finished 4 paintings! Talking about fighting resistance...

Terri, Pressfield calls this in the book the compass to our real passion/calling. He basically says that its easy to find what is it we love doing by looking where there is most resistance. So that is a great point which I found very useful. Its actually should be taught in high schools and colleges, before young adults make a life changing decisions on what to learn for a career. It might make more people happy...

Jake, I would LOVE to meet you in person! You have so much to share, and networking with someone like Stephen Pressfield sounds amazing. Good for you.


Moshe, I'm happy to be able to reiterate one of Pressfield's points. All of my mentors invite me to go into the resistance. After all it's really more like crossing the threshold of a door. All it takes is one simple step.

Perhaps this is a time of opportunity for you. A year ago, I realized that I wasn't going to be able to find employment in the field of my "day job." Instead of beating my head against the wall, I took matters into my own hands and built a non-profit arts collective. A year later, we are well on our way to full non-profit status and next month we are hosting an international exhibition with "A" level artists. My point being, walk into the resistance. LOL : )

Moshe Mikanovsky
You see how I really write these posts to myself? And my wife... :-)

You are so right Terri about the resistance of doing what you really like, vs. the need to provide to your family...

I do take this time as an opportunity to create new art as much as I can, to build my connections and networking, to learn new stuff, and to seed those seeds. I do believe strongly in the ability of each of us to live off our art and our passions, and that is the goal.

Thanks for the gentle reminder :)


PS I forgot to mention earlier that the 4 new paintings are on my blog now, and I actually solicited my readers to vote for their favourites at

Moshe, I love it! Keep going. You'll be able to feed the family. Thank you for the link. Now I have something to look at. : )

Just took a peek at your blog. WOW!

Moshe Mikanovsky
Thank you so much Terri, for the encouragements, tips, and voting :-)


Carol McIntyre
Terri, I will pull the book out from under my book pile. Thanks for the nudge.

Smiles all day to you both!

Sharon Weaver
This year has been a very productive one for me but I have not painted at all this week. I justify it by thinking that I need a break but I realize that I will need to push myself to start painting again. These lapses of resistance come even when you are a full time artist. Thanks for the new read.

Kathy Chin
Good Points Moshe,

There sure are lots of areas of "Resistance," from not creating to not blogging or marketing. Each of us knows our own weak spots, winning the ongoing battle is as you say, an constant, ongoing fight.

Interesting observation about Art and our Spiritual sides. Good topic for another blog!!!

Donna Robillard
This sounds like a must-have book. I get aggravated at myself when I've wasted away the day and not done the art I wanted to do when I really love doing it. I know if I were in a day job I would HAVE to work. I must be more disciplined about doing it, and it seems like reading this book would help tremendously.

Carol Schmauder
The book sounds very interesting, Moshe. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I was doing fine for two years. I quit my job and focused on my creative endeavors. Things were going well and then my husband retired. Talk about resistance. He thinks I work much too hard now and wants me to be available to travel and have fun with him. I am now trying to find a balance.

Pressfield's book had a HUGE impact on me. I'm convinced my own muse led me to it at my local library some years back. Prior to reading it, I hadn't willingly picked up a paintbrush since art school. Once I realized that Resistance was a problem within me, not all the external career/family/housework time contraints, I was fine. And painting. And happy.

Virginia Giordano
Sometimes I select my canvas, set up my palate and wander around drinking tea, looking out the window, reorganizing or researching. That 'ritual' is my commitment and can last for an hour or more. But when I actually pick up the brush I will paint for hours and the days it takes to complete a painting. I also know when I am just plain resisting and not going to paint even though I'm thinking about it. I'm going to check out this book.

If we believe the myth about artists as doing nothing but their work - being irresponsible citizens, parents, husbands or wives, lovers, sacrificing anything and everything for art - then there would be no need for self-help books. The real artists would be busily creating while ignoring everything else. Any look at art history, though, while it may show some depraved characters, it also shows many artists as committed citizens achieving in the arts and in other areas: Leonardo, Titian, Rubens, Holbein, Goya, Ingres - the list could be quite extensive. To say that these artists of the past weren't faced with the challenges of modern life would do them a disservice. They also didn't have the abundant conveniences of today. Whether called resistance, challenges, distractions, interference doesn't matter - when I set my priorities, the painting gets done.

Barb Stachow
As artists we all have to be extremely disiplined to forget the world and just paint! Sometimes our "other life" has greater callings. Great article

Jo Allebach
I must read this book even though I do not normally resist painting. I often find myself "forgetting" things I should be doing. Thank goodness for my blackberry reminders. The problem where resisting occurs for me is actually getting AWAY from the easel and selling.
Thanks. It sounds great.
And Jack, you are no "dabbler."

Jim Bilgere
True artists dont worry about such problems!

Moshe Mikanovsky
Interesting term "True artist". How do you define one?
I have heard once that the only "true artists" are little kids. And thinking about it, I can actually see it with my own kids. My 6 years old for example, when she is in the mood to create - draw, paint, craft, whatever it is - she want to do it right away, and no matter what happens around, she will do it. My 12 years old though, who is a gifted writer, I can already see how she critique herself, let self doubt creep in, censor some of her work, give in to writer's block, and waste her time on video games when she could sit and write...

So yes, True Artists don't worry about Resistance. All the rest of us.... its good to know it is there, and face it!


jack white

True artist is a myth invented by art students hovering in cafes taking about stuff they have no clue about. There is no such thing as a true artist. We are all artist. Some are better than others. I have a dislike for any man imposed titles. Student, beginning and emerging. Hogwash. Those words should be banished. Being an artist is a state of mind. Mikki, my mate, has more natural skills than me but we are both artist.

Steve is a much better writer than me but we are both authors. His is highly skilled and I'm a dabbler.

Looked at your website. I like what you do. You have a nice voice.


Maura McGurk
Great post, and great book. I pull it out and re-read it occasionally because Pressman is so wise. You'll feel like he's talking directly to you. I've been meaning to post on my own blog about this book but you beat me to it Moshe! And good luck with this new phase of your career. I left a day job one year will be challenging but keeping this book close by is a step in the right direction.

Jana Botkin
This book was just referenced this week on another blog that I read daily, a non-art based blog! I reserved it through the county library yesterday. Next, I think I'll ask "Mr. Google" who this Stephen Pressfield is. Thank you, Moshe!

And, you most definitely should read Jack White's books, particularly "The Mystery of Making It". It changed my life - the man knows what he is writing about! Following his wisdom will help you develop your full-time art career.

larry thompson
well,,,,, i thought i was the only artist to have dis problem. Just hearing this from others is a great motivational comfort for me.I've yet to read Stephen Pressfield's book. Thanks


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