Month: January 2014

What Do You Want?

By Shawn Coyne | 9 Comments

When thinking about the kind of story you’d like to tell, what do I want? is a great question to ask yourself. Obviously you want to write a successful work of art, which will bring you recognition and ultimately enough of a living wage for you to write another one. But why do you want that? You may not consciously know it, but the reason why you want to write a great story is because you have something to say. You have a message to share with as many people as possible in the most compelling way imaginable…in a story.…

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Nobody Knows Nothing

By Steven Pressfield | 62 Comments

If you follow this blog, you know that I’m not a big believer in feedback. By that I mean “notes,” “critiques,” “comments” about one’s work from writing groups or editors or friends or just about any other source. It’s been my experience that very, very few people can read something and tell you accurately what’s wrong with it. And practically nobody can tell you how to fix it. Feedback from anyone else will just screw you up. Here, unexpurgated, is an e-mail exchange between me and a hard-working young writer named Michael G. S. Hesse. Michael has given me his…

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How Long to Allow to Write a Book

By Steven Pressfield | 6 Comments

This week on Ask Me Anything we take a question from Joel Canfield. How do you decide how long to allow for writing a book? Do you set a time goal like one year, or do you let it take as long as it takes and trust the daily writing ritual to keep you on track? Recommended reading: Henry Miller’s Rules of Writing TRANSCRIPT: Steve: I think this is a great question when we’re thinking about organizing a year—and Shawn, jump in on this and Jeff, jump in on this whenever you want to. The key concept here I think,…

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What’s So Great About Perfect?

By Steven Pressfield | 23 Comments

I was watching a documentary about Lindsey Vonn, the champion ski racer, and she said something really interesting (I’m paraphrasing): The fastest runs are never the perfect ones. Perfect runs are always slow. My friend Christy is a downhill racer herself. I asked her about this. She said, That’s absolutely true. In the runs that are your fastest, you get past the point of control. You’re reacting to the hill in the moment. Maybe a bump throws you off and as you try to recover you find you’re taking a line that you never took before and somehow that line…

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Family Pressure

By Steven Pressfield | 5 Comments

Today’s Ask Me Anything question comes from John Thomas. How in the world do you keep focused to do the work consistently with outside pressures of family (spouse and four kids who I want to spend time with) and financial pressures? How do you carve out an habitual practice of doing your work? PDF Transcript: Coming Soon Shawn: I have a question here Steve from John Thomas that I think I’d like to take because it’s something that I think we’ve touched on before, but it’s worth going over again. How in the world do you keep focused to do…

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Creating New Stars

By Callie Oettinger | 17 Comments

“To an engineer, fan belts exist between the crankshaft and the water pump. To a physicist, fan belts exist, briefly, in the intervals between stars.” —George Dyson That’s beautiful, I thought, after reading the quote above. But . . . What’s it really mean? Some background: This quote appears at the end of the following story, in the acknowledgements section of George Dyson’s book Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe: In 1956, at the age of three, I was walking home with my father, physicist Freeman Dyson, from his office at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton,…

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Operating Close to the Edge

By Steven Pressfield | 17 Comments

Here’s something I learned from my friend Paul. He has a metric he applies to characters in a book or a movie. He asks, “How close are they to the edge?” What he means is, “How desperate is this character? How capable is he of going to extremes?” Paul’s theory is that, if we want to write a character who is riveting, we have to give that character a moment to perform some extravagant action—the sooner in the story the better. The character has to announce to the audience, “I am hanging on by my fingernails. Don’t take your eyes…

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Urgent vs. Important

By Steven Pressfield | 3 Comments

PDF Transcript: Coming Soon

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Luca Brasi Bought Me Lunch

By Shawn Coyne | 33 Comments

Here’s some more from THE STORY GRID. Many years ago I had to do the one thing an editor hates to do above all others. I had to cancel a book. For fiction, publishers often buy multiple books from a single author. They buy one that is just about ready for publication. And then they buy one or two additional titles that are not yet written in order to lock in a reasonable price for someone they think has a future. I did this with Steve Pressfield back when I worked at Doubleday. Steve had no idea what to write…

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Blowing Off Maslow

By Steven Pressfield | 33 Comments

I was having breakfast with a friend and we were talking about Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” You know, the pyramid with food and shelter at the base and self-actualization at the apex. My friend was making the case that before we can take a shot at fulfilling the needs at the top of the pile, we have to have taken care of our other more basic sleep-and-eat needs at the bottom. I respectfully disagreed. I understand what Maslow was saying. He’s absolutely right—and his insights are brilliant and original. But what about you and me as we enter this…

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