In 2002, writer Steven Pressfield released The War of Art, a book that completely redefined the way entrepreneurs and artists alike confronted the resistance holding them back from their Great Work.
Since then, Pressfield has published another seven works of non-fiction, most of them focused on art and writing, but none have quite proven to have the impact of his first.
That might be about to change.
Starting in February, Pressfield began posting fragments of his as yet untitled new book. Highlighting key points of each section, the previews hint at depth and wisdom that made The War of Art such a crucial read for creatives of all kind.
This new book is about what Pressfield calls “the artist’s journey”.
In just about every story of value, the protagonist undertakes a hero’s journey – a journey that takes them out of the ordinary world, poses a challenge, and forces them to accept their true selves in order to overcome it. The journey ends with the protagonist reaching their goal, and preparing to live their lives ‘happily ever after’.
But what if the stories are misplacing their emphasis? What if, instead of ‘happily ever after’ denoting the end of the journey, it marked the beginning of a more important one?
“Everything that has happened to us up to this point is rehearsal for us to act, now, as our true self and to find and speak in our true voice”, writes Pressfield.
“The artist’s journey is the process of self-discovery that follows. It will last as long as we’re alive, and maybe longer.”
In Pressfield’s view, the hero’s journey is the process through which ‘creatives’ come into their own. In the beginning, they establish their goal – to create – and then set out on a quest to make that a reality. They might want to write screenplays, or start a business; whatever the case, the unique challenges each face all draw to a singular conclusion: success.
But what is success? The completion of a screenplay? The founding of a business?
They’re important steps, certainly, but success will not come to those who stop there. It cannot.
And so we undertake the artist’s journey. A journey of self-discovery and refinement. It is internal, solitary and, unlike what has come before, it’s about the art, not the artist.
“Whom exactly is the artist discovering?
Is Dostoyevsky discovering Dostoyevsky?
Is Dostoyevsky discovering ‘Dostoyevsky?’
Or is ‘Dostoyevsky’ discovering Dostoyevsky?
My answer is #4.
The artificial ego-entity that the world (and Dostoyevsky himself perhaps) believes to be Dostoevsky is discovering a deeper, wider, smarter, braver personage that has traveled across leagues and eons to reach this present moment and will continue its passage long after ‘Dostoyevsky’ is gone.
The artist himself is disposable.
What endures is the Self he is seeking, which is not ‘himself’ but himself.”
In his exploration of the concept, Pressfield is confronting a concern rarely addressed by creatives until the 11th hour – what comes next? After fighting to break through, how does the creative continue to not only survive, but evolve?
It’s a fascinating question, and Pressfield’s previews are carving a clear path to an enlightening answer.