My Battle with War of Art

war of artOof this was a painful one for me to read. If you liked it, then more power to you, but for me this was an uphill battle from the start. Look elsewhere for positive reviews, because I’m going to go all in on this one. I don’t want any fights to break out, I just found this book ridiculous. Something (well a lot of things) really rubbed me the wrong way here.

My issues started with the childish personification of “Resistance”. And, no, that’s not my capitalisation. The author does that to make it seem Oh So Very Important. To me, this idea that “People have Resistance” didn’t come across as especially profound. It just seemed like a rather juvenile way to say sometimes people procrastinate. Well, that’s how the idea starts out- it gets a lot more ludicrous.

Within a short amount of time, the author proceeds to call *EVERYTHING* “Resistance”. If you’re out walking your dog, that’s Resistance. If you’re having sex, that’s Resistance. And if you’ve got a mental health problem, well guess what? That’s Resistance. Thankfully he does acknowledge some mental health problems are real (and not marketing ploys like other issues)… buuut also calls them Resistance. Great expert analysis there.

Who am I kidding? This guy knows jack shit about anything. Look, I get it, self help books tend to be light on facts- however this takes it to a whole other level! He plucks statistics like “70% of doctors think there’s nothing wrong with their patients” out of his arse and I’m over here thinking WORKS CITED?! I mean, even if that wasn’t an opinion, I’d like to know where he got that figure from. I also don’t think opinions should be stated as facts by the way- for instance I get that he hates critics, yet sadly for him it’s not true that no one successful ever critiques anything. Still, my favourite of his hilariously wrong “facts” was this:

“You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”

I hate to burst his bubble about Hitler, but a quick google search could have corrected this assumption. Hitler painted plenty- although, as is typical of narcissists, they’re not up to much. Perhaps- and you can call this an overstatement if you like- if Hitler hadn’t been a raging psychopathic narcissist he wouldn’t have started WWII. Or maybe Hitler was resisting his Resistance and following his dreams- after all, according to this author, foisting your opinions onto the world could also be living up to your potential 😉 And if all that sounds silly, that’s because it is. I’m taking this book as seriously as that paragraph deserves.

What makes this even more ludicrous is how so often the ideas put forward are later contradicted. For instance, you know how I mentioned that he called sex Resistance? Well you can also be Resisting having sex (so I suppose that’s resisting resistance?) Early in the book, he says not to worry about what you’re writing, as long as you do it (BTW that’s how you end up with books like this in the world). He feeds into one of my pet peeves of favouring money over fulfilment; he talks about obsessing with craft over writing… BUT THEN decides to go full-on kooky in the final part. Look, I may not agree with being purely practical, yet you can hardly call people precious when you invoke the Muses. That’s about as flighty an idea as you can get. It’s just so unbelievably hypocritical.

Would I say there’s nothing of value in it? No, but frankly I don’t want to go digging through mud, looking for the occasional (cheap) gem. Even if I agreed with one or two of the ideas (like not giving into victimhood and continuing on after success) I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. Frankly, if I’d never heard those ideas before (which, obviously I have cos they’re not very original) I wouldn’t have taken them to heart coming from this terrible book.

I found this so lazy that I’d guess it was far more effort for me to read than it was to write. It was grandiose and pompous, while at the same time being utterly mundane. It may not be the worst book in the world, but I can’t give it more than:

A banana peel!

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Yeah that was a little harsh- I’m sorry! Some books just wind me up! Have you read this? Did you get more out of it than me? Do you (still) plan to read it after my review? Let me know in the comments!

Finding Inspiration in Big Magic

big magicAfter devouring Eat Pray Love earlier this year, I was craving more from Elizabeth Gilbert. Enter: Big Magic! I’d heard good things- but, wow, I was not prepared for how much I would love it. It’s just pure, sparkly *inspiration* in book form. It’s safe to say, Big Magic had cast its spell over

Bringing forth magic of creativity, there’s a hint of euphoria in this book. It sweeps you up in equal doses of optimism and tough love. Much like with Eat Pray Love, I adored Gilbert’s self-awareness and humour. I couldn’t help warming to her all over again and feeling like I was being taken on this journey by a good friend.

No doubt, like any guidebook for the (chaos that is the) creative mind, bits and pieces of this book will be relevant to different people (or at different times of the creative process). I personally felt called out for my perfectionism (described as fear in a mink coat) and welcomed the long-deserved kick up the backside. I’m positive that every creative will see parts of themselves reflected back at them here (and will benefit from the honest assessment).

I also liked the quirky analogies and unique ways of reassessing your mindset- such as asking yourself what you’d be doing in the apocalypse, so that you can know if you’re on the right path (which, you know, we can all kinda answer now that it’s rolled around 😉).

There were a whole bunch of great takeaways- which I’m going to paraphrase and you may want to skip over if you plan to read this:

  • I LOVED her point that yelling at creativity is like yelling at a cat- it has no idea what you’re talking about and you’ll just scare it away- VERY TRUE!!
  • I also agreed with her mantra: “Everything sucks some of the time”. There’s no such thing as a perfect job (and I think it’s not healthy to be in the mindset that there is).
  • She said no one is worrying about what you do with your life- which is great advice and reminded me of some advice my grandpa gave: no one is worrying about what you’re doing when they put their head on the pillow at night
  • And we have to keep pushing forward, no matter what!
  • Her point that people shouldn’t strive to be the suffering artist is so apt- writing is something to be enjoyed (and even in writing misery, it should be to untether your soul a little). I do not think it’s healthy to chase darkness around the world (it’ll catch up with you eventually anyway). I always think if you feel like you can’t write something dark, write something fun- the world needs more joy! I very much appreciated the quote: “Love over suffering always”
  • Plus, I liked her advice to lighten up!
  • And, by the way, “It ain’t your baby” (I’m certainly guilty of describing my work in those terms, but it’s not healthy!)

This book brought me joy and laughter- and most importantly it brought me hope. It taught me to have a fierce trust in myself, knowing I will fail and that’s okay. On a personal level, I’ve learnt something this year about how simply turning up can make a huge difference to your life (although the great irony is that then we all found ourselves locked up, so I guess occasionally the universe likes to have a laugh at my expense 😉). However, the point still stands! You can’t win anything if you never play the game (just make sure you wear a mask and bring hand sanitiser 😉). I feel like this was a kick in the right direction.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So, have you tried a little bit of BIG MAGIC for yourself? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!