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Buy This Book: Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

If I could only own one book on or about writing, it would be Steven Pressfield's fabulous The War of Art, which personifies a negative anti-creative force he names "Resistance" and gives writers, artists, and others some singularly-helpful tools to overcome the roadblocks that stand between us and the completion of our work. Whenever I find myself paralyzed by self-doubt or mired in distractions, I pull this slim volume off the shelf and-- voila! -- I'm soon back to writing, hell for leather.

So it was that I leapt at the chance to pick up a review copy of Pressfield's latest can of creativity whoop-ass, the even slimmer Do the Work!, which was released on April 20, 2011, from Seth Godin's The Domino Project and Amazon, and is being underwritten by GE, allowing free downloads via Amazon's Kindle platform.

Or you can pay $9.89 for the hardcover volume, which I suspect you'll want to do after reading the digital copy anyhow. Why? Because this deceptively-slim set of instructions for avoiding procrastination, getting down to work, blasting through the wall to reach the finish line, letting the work go, and learning from disaster, is an absolute gift for any writer who's ever had trouble getting started or bogged down and lost faith (i.e., all of us).

I love that he talks about "staying stupid," avoiding the impulse to talk ourselves right out of acting (or submitting the fruits of our labor) with endless mental chatter:
"A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It's only you and I with our big brains and our tiny hearts who doubt and overthink and hesitate."

Pressfied, who is also the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and a number of other novels, doesn't come across as some perfect guru who's never entertained a doubt in his life. Instead, he lays out example after example of how Resistance has kicked his can over the years and how this powerful force is constantly evolving. In this volume, he also expands his theory to talk about the equally powerful force of Assistance, which he uses to describe all those serendipitous helpful people and tools your efforts can and will attract once you begin doing the work you're meant to do. (This rings so true!)

When I first received my review copy, I was a bit put off by it's thinness and the amount of type-size overemphasis, as if the reader could not be trusted to pick out the important passages. I was also a bit bothered by what I saw as a lot of rehashing of concepts first laid out in The War of Art, which remains my all-time favorite book for writers. But for anyone who can't get enough of Pressfield's wisdom (raising my hand here) or who wants a simple, deceptively-wise set of tools to get them moving toward their creative goals, Do the Work is definitely a must-buy, on its own or as a companion volume.


I eventually came around to The War of Art and now carry it with me for those days when resistance rears its ugly head. At first, I was a little annoyed by it, as it didn't seem that different from many other writing "self help" books, but it definitely grew on me. I'll have to check this one out, too!
Anonymous said…
Thanks, Colleen. You remind me to once again pull out War of Art, and now I'm off to check out Do the Work. So glad I procrastinated by coming over to read this blog!
Barbara Sissel said…
What a great endorsement, Colleen. I have worn out my copy of The War of Art and from your review, I know I have to have this one too. He just so nails that tough place, that brambled hedge we all struggle with. "Big brain ... tiny heart...." Wow!
I'm so glad you found the review helpful. I've already found the book helpful. I was only halfway through it when I dug out a proposal I'd lost faith in and never submitted. Within 48 hours, I'd revised and expanded it, then sent that sucker to my agent before Resistance could rear its ugly head.

How's *that* for a powerful tool? :)
Tessa McDermid said…
Thanks to your earlier notice about the book, my copy of Do the Work popped into my Kindle yesterday and I'm ready to read it. I especially like the concept of how much kids believe - when I was teaching kindergarten students I saw that every day. Now I have to channel my inner kid!
Jo Anne said…
I picked up The War of Art on your recommendation years ago, and liked it so much that I bought a copy for everyone in my critique group. I've got Do The Work on my Kindle now and can't wait to get into it. As always, thanks, friend!
Channeling your inner kid. I love that, Tessa.

Waving hi, Jo Anne. Hope you find the book as helpful as I have.
Hardcover price has been reduced to $7.79. Better yet.
Anonymous said…
Hi Colleen, Art of War is one of my favorite books. I'm on my way to buy Do the Work -- thanks for the review. I didn't know the book was out.

Anna Phegley

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