The War of Art and Do the Work (Book Reviews with Quotes)

The War of Art and Do the Work (Book Reviews with Quotes)

The War of Art and Do the Work reviews

Last night our book club discussed the two books shown above. I loved The War of Art in the past (see blog here from 2010) and having heard it in audio, I had always wanted to return to mark up a paper copy. Plus, I wanted to read the sequel.

You can see my quoted bits below, but first let me say that the War of Art was not so impactful to me nine years later on the second go round. Last time I gave it a hearty five stars; this time I’d only give it a lukewarm four stars. And the sequel? Please skip it altogether. It is a bad ninety page rehash, that I’m embarrassed I had the group read. We had a good discussion nonetheless, only because they are wonderful people, and patient with me.

Resistance can certainly be a thwarting presence, which is overcome by seeing it for what it is, and proceeding anyway. It is not personal. Here are what I thought were the salient points:

Bits from The War of Art:

  • “To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.”
  • “Resistance only opposes in one direction. Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher.”
  • “The danger is greater when the finish line is in sight.”
  • “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 bringing home a boyfriend with a prison record?”
  •  “Doctors estimate that seventy to eighty percent of their business is non-health-related. People are’t sick they’re self dramatizing.”
  • “Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it, stop.”
  • “Fundamentalism and art are mutually exclusive.”
  • “If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of Resistance. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.”
  • “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
  • “Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
  • “The more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.”
  • “The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning ‘to love.’ The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it.” In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his ‘real’ vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time. That’s what I mean when I say turning pro. Resistance hates it when you turn pro.”
  • “Resistance loves pride and preciousness.”
  • “The amateur believes he must overcome fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows no such things as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.”
  • “The professional self-validates. She is tough minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively.”
  • “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”
  • Resistance feeds on fear… and the Mother of all Fears [bigger than the fear of death] is the Fear That We Will Succeed.”
  • We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us.”
  • “Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
  • “For the artist to define himself hierarchically is fatal.”
  • “Contempt for failure is our cardinal virtue.”
  • “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune, or attention, or applause.”
  • “The work comes from heaven anyway. Why not give it back?”
  • “Alone with the work, artists are chaste and humble. They know they are not the source of the creations they bring into being.”

Bits from Do the Work:

  • The deeper the source we work from, the better our stuff will be– and the more transformative it will be for us and for those we share it with.
  • Start before you are ready.
  • Never do research during prime working time.

My own summary is be authentic, do what you feel compelled to do to make the world better, and don’t worry too much about what anyone else thinks about it. Own your territory, handle hierarchy with a grain of salt, and if you get stuck, contrary to the author’s recommendation, put your project down for a while, and you’ll be able to pick it up again soon with fresh eyes. That said, perseverance also has its place! Refuse to be thwarted by resistance in yourself or others. Show up, and listen. Then proceed.


I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.

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