7 Quotes from "The War of Art" that Will Inspire Your Inner Writer Warrior


Irene Latham here. 

And since March is named for Mars, the God of War, I've got the creative battle on my mind. 

I pretty much always have this on my mind. 

Which is why every few years I read again The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

Here are 7 quotes I return to for inspiration:

1. "The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day."

In other words: resistance to our writing, blockage...is NORMAL. No matter how successful you are, resistance doesn't go away. It's simply part of the artist-writer-package. Don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself. Battle through it every day.

2. "If you find yourself criticizing other people, you're probably doing it out of Resistance."

Oh, man, what a reality check this one is! It's not ever really about anyone else. If you're tending you own creative garden, living you authentic life, writing the things that matter to YOU, then you've got no time or interest in criticizing others. Your only job is to encourage. So, if criticism is slipping into your thoughts...it's time to look in the mirror.

3. "What better way of avoiding work than going to a workshop?"

I know, I know. Some of you are really annoyed by this one. I mean, we're told up and down "find your community" and "you need support." 

Yes, relationships and community are wonderful. But investing energy in those spaces is really meeting a separate need. And meetups, conferences, etc. can actually be a terrible distraction, eating up precious writing time. When what you need to do more than anything else is write the book. 

4. "I'm keenly aware of the Principle of Priority, which states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what's important first."

This one has changed me from a "respond to email first" person to a "write the most important thing first" kind of person. I know my best writing happens first thing in the morning. So as much as I'd like to clear the email inbox, it can wait. I write the hard thing, the thing I'm most passionate about first.

5. "The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back."

We never outgrow our need for learning and mastering craft. Just like a musician needs to have mastered certain skills on the instrument before reaching a point of being able to really make music, the writer must have a toolbox of technique at the ready. Focus on craft, and inspiration will follow.

6. "The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short she'll improve it. Where it triumphed, she'll make it better still."

We've all had the review that hurt, the criticism that stung. But we can't take it personally. We are not our work. And no one else's opinion really matters. Our worth exists outside of that. As hard as it is, better not to pick up the bad or the good. Just keep writing.

7. "When the hack sits down to work, he doesn't ask himself what's in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for."

Don't be a hack. Write what's in your heart. If it's not what the market wants, so what? Write the next thing in your heart. You'll have a lot better shot in the marketplace when you trust yourself, when you write the thing you simply MUST write.

...and a bonus question-quote that can be a guiding light:

"Of any activity you do, ask yourself: If I were the last person on earth, would I still do it?"

I don't know about you, but when it comes to writing, my answer is YES. Whatever the outcome, whether it sells or not, whether people want to read it or not, I can't not write.

So now you know how to be a writer-warrior. Go forth and write!


  1. I live this. Thanks for a dose if inspiration and encouragement.

    1. You are welcome! It's a comfort to me to know these are things that you learn again, every day. Because I am most definitely still learning!

  2. Replies
    1. Yes. Hard work triumphs every time. And I have tried to be a hack. It doesn't make me happy. And it doesn't work in the long run. xo

  3. Good points to keep in mind, thanks Irene!

  4. What an excellent discussion. All excellent points!! I'll share these with my students. Thank you!


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