My First Three Novels
The first one took about two years full-time. I started when I was twenty-four and gave up when I was twenty-six. The price of that one was my bank account, my sanity, my marriage.
The next one, six years later, took about eighteen months full-time. That one I actually finished. Couldn’t find a publisher for it either.
The third one, three years after that, took about two and a half years and brought me to the point where I was seriously considering hanging myself. The only reason I didn’t was I couldn’t find a hook strong enough to hold me. That manuscript didn’t find a publisher either.
Was I discouraged? F*#k, yeah.
At that point I packed up and moved from New York to L.A., where I spent the next five years writing nine screenplays on spec (about six months each, working real jobs at the same time). None of these found a buyer either.
Yes, in many ways those years were as hard as they sound.
But at the same time I was getting better. I was learning my craft. I had learned how to write a sentence, and I had figured out how to write the sentence after that. I was not making money (at least not in the field I wanted to) but I had become a thoroughgoing pro in the sense that I could start a long-form project and I could finish it. That had not been the case in the beginning. I had learned how to sit down. I had learned how to stay sitting down. I had learned how to deliver, even if I was delivering to nobody but myself.
Had I found my voice? No. Did I have a name for Resistance? No. Was I a good writer? No. Did I have any realistic confidence that I would one day succeed? No.
But I had reached the point where I no longer gave a shit. The fact that I had no money was not going to make me quit. I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have a home, I didn’t have a future I could count on. None of those was going to make me quit either.
By that point I didn’t even have a dream. That was a good thing. I had given up on the fantasy that there was a brass ring, or a movie deal, or a rave review that was somehow going to change my life. I had found what I did, which was to sit at a keyboard beating my brains out, day after day, no matter what.
Have you written one book and can’t find a publisher? Are you discouraged? Have you started three businesses, four, seven, ten—and they’ve all failed? Are you discouraged?
Nobody said this racket was easy. But that’s true of everything, isn’t it? Raising a child. Keeping a marriage together. Reinventing yourself when everything you went to school for falls apart.
My hat’s off to everyone who starts out with a dream and launches herself, in the face of adversity, into bringing that dream into reality.
I can’t prove it but I’ll bet that 99.99% of the men and women who read this blog fit into that category—and the other 00.01% do too but they just haven’t figured it out yet.
It’s mid-February now, the time when diets crash and gym memberships fade away. It gets easy, amid the snow and cold, to lose focus and start asking those questions that Resistance loves to hear rattling around in our heads.
Hang in there. I will if you will.
You might not realize it, but you’re getting better. Trust me. I know.
It’s like fighting in the trenches of a first world war battle…
Thanks for the inspiration and vote of confidence.
I can’t explain how inspiring it is to read this.
Especially when this is exactly what’s happening around Mid-February.
In my own experience, I’ve found that the part where you give up on the fantasy without giving up on the dream is the hardest part. It’s the realization that, (as you said, Steve) there is no brass ring, no single sale, no review, no lightning bolt from heaven that’s going to change anything overnight. There is just doing the work. I’m neck deep in that battle at the moment–but I’ll hang in there if you will.
Thanks for another great post, Steve!
How is it that you keep doing this again and again – sending the exact message I need to hear when I most need to hear it? Thank you Steve – this post is being printed to hang above my writing table. I will hang in there no matter what!
Your work is beautiful. Thank you very much.
At this stage, the rewards are so intangible, and so real.
Can’t tell you how much this was the right message at the right time.
Thank you for this post. Thank you for being the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. You inspire us all.
Fantasy vs dream. I like that distinction.
I can totally agree. It’s like he knows everything that I’m thinking or going through at this very moment!
100,000,000 % INSPIRATIONAL!!
Steve, you are reading my mind.
Thank you. I needed to hear this today.
The PERFECT read for a gloomy morning when the words just aren’t coming. Thanks as always, Steve.
Giving up the fantasy . . . you should write a whole book on that subject, Steve. As we grow older, slowly our delusions shatter and are replaced by a sort of compromise that says: “I will let you live (dream) as long as you keep helping me grow.”
I read your books on the days when I feel like finding a strong hook. They are a comfort. Thank you so much for keeping on even when riches and fame didn’t come.
Actually I hope you hang in there whether we do or not.
I will, whether everyone else quits or not.
Being able to say that and mean it shows me how far
I have come since sitting down to write a story for the
worst reason possible: revenge. Eight years have passed,
I will finish it this year and it took me those eight years to
grow up enough to write the story because it’s a story I’ve always
wanted to read.
Yes – reinvention! I’ve done that so many times, I’ve lost count. I had to abandon my dream of being a veterinarian mid-way through college because my numbers disability (and, frankly, my lack of study skills) flunked my science courses (I was fantastic on concepts and how things worked, but to actually calculate how many whats ended up where – not so much). I became a programmer and systems analyst instead, but quit that when I discovered I like helping people more than machines. I’ve had a number of businesses fail over the years. And, I keep going, reinventing myself along the way.
So, Steven, I think the term you could write about next is Perseverance: the anti-Resistance. It’s like Resistance, but in the other direction. It’s what keeps us banging our head against the walls and the keyboards; and it’s what picks us up when yet another whack knocks us down. Resistance says “Oh, you’ve failed again; your family needs you; you’ll never get ahead.” Perseverance says “Thank you for sharing. Okay, enough wallowing – get up! Let’s go!”
“But I had reached the point where I no longer gave a shit. The fact that I had no money was not going to make me quit. I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have a home, I didn’t have a future I could count on. None of those was going to make me quit either.”
You could, maybe you did, look at those things as an advantage. Fewer responsibilities.
Larry Smith talks about using ones family as an excuse not to ‘do it’ in a TED talk.
If you haven’t seen it, may I share: http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_smith_why_you_will_fail_to_have_a_great_career.html
It seems the fear of to try as hard as it is necessary to achieve and then fail at it something is a huge barrier to transcend. Transcend, what a great word.
What did Bukowski say? “Don’t try”. There’s a taoist term – Wu wei – or “effortless doing”.
Being somewhat adverse to stress, I like the idea.
Thank you for the link to the Larry Smith video John. Sometimes we all need some tough love. I know I do. Often.
Reinventing yourself when everything you went to school for falls apart.
I love reading your Wednesdays! I’m a painter,
Writer who in very inspired by your words today.
I’ve forwarded your blog to a friend.
He’s a very successful…. Award winner of giant
Feature films and their sequels.
Disappointment in the Hollywood machine he
Sits and waits for inspiration.
Steven, uou are reminding all if us, at every
Level of writing to carry on…. Never give up.
Resistance is part of the process- the truest gift!
For two months he’s been in ‘the dark.’
From his mammoth lakes loft to his Monteceito
Seascape desk he sits… Back at his beginning
Staring into an abyss of doubt, worry-wonder.
He’s reading these posts and will know “he is
Thank you Steve,
I love you, Steven! Thanks so much for writing and writing and writing and thinking of us all.
I’m the mother and full-time carer of a terminally ill disabled daughter. So yes, life at the moment is tough. For me, it’s not the writing that drives me insane. It’s life that’s driving me insane. It’s the writing that holds me together. Thank you for all your posts.
So, take that Resistance! Great stuff, Steve. Appreciate you!
So much gratitude for this. For me, my craft is entrepreneurship. Yet so much is the exact same. The Resistance must be some larger archetype out there, and the more you, Steven, shine a light on it, the more I can see reflections, and that is helpful in so many ways!
Two of the things that really jumped out for me on this one <> and <>
Once I personally moved through those two points, an acceptance also came with it. An acceptance that something has been trying to be borne through me for 25 years, even though I’m not quite sure what it is. And I have stick to it this time and bring a voice to it, because for me bringing a voice to it, I’m realizing, also feels like bringing a voice to my soul.
quotes above that didn’t come through were…
“But I had reached the point where I no longer gave a shit.”
“By that point I didn’t even have a dream.”
What an inspirational piece. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving.
My friend says being in business for yourself means going to bed every night scared. But I found a silver lining. I no longer fall asleep depressed, worrying I’m wasting my life on a boring story.
Thanks for keeping us inspired, Steve!
Thank you Mr. Pressfield! You are a blessing.
You have to live forever —
or at least promise me that you will live longer than I do, pretty please!
Thanks for giving me strength for continuing to find an agent for novel #4, while I start novel #5. Persevere, baby!
Thanks for the encouragement … it is what I needed to keep going forward and keep on writing and start that book of mine anew!
Its all worth it … every last sentence!
Thank you so much for being so open and honest about your journey. It’s refuels my persistence tank, and makes me feel that giving up inside is ok. I’m an actress and decided to stop pursing it for the next 6 weeks to focus on something I believe will be more financially fruitful. I hope to have a fresh perspective on my dreams in that time too.
I’m grateful for you Mr. Pressfield.
From your pen to my email to my heart, and I hope into God’s ear. I will most likely die doing this thing called writing and creating, but I can not live any other way. I thank my lucky stars that I have a loving partner who quietly and without much fanfare supports my creative life. And I am grateful for the courage and strength you have shown sharing your truth…it holds me like the gentle wind does underneath a falling leaf.
Thanks so much for the encouragement! I have been feeling more Resistance but still beating it and on track which is a marvel.
TTFN, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂
Cheers Mate 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement – you’re right about February! 🙂
Here’s to being your own gatekeeper! That’s being a pro. “Do the work” and don’t give a shit what the ubiquitous they say. Keep preachin’ it Brother Steve. Hallelujah. Yeah that’s right – Jesus didn’t give a shit what “they” thought either and look at the ruckus he’s caused in literature and books.
Thanks for your openness, Steve. Keep channeling truth. You’re good at it.
Had I found my voice? No. Did I have a name for Resistance? No.
Iirc War of Art hinted at how you identified and named Resistance, but afaik you’ve never shared the details. Here’s hoping you do so, unless you view them as a private matter.
Exactly what I needed to hear. Plus a little extra motivation and inspiration. Thank you
I heard (in a Rick Jarow talk) that the Lakota Indians have a philosophy of making peace before making war. It means ‘to make peace with yourself and your intentions’ – to make peace with the outcome.
Reading your story about making peace with yourself before making war helps me make peace with myself.
Kill the Dream. Do the Work.
You know what troubles me about your tale? I don’t weigh very much. I think just about any hook would hold me.
Fortunately, I can’t afford a hook; so back to work.
Yesterday and the day before at the easel were like beating my head bloody against a brick wall. Will I ever, ever, ever get it? Why can’t I just paint the way I see the images in my mind? I needed this encouragement. Thank you for taking the time to write for us.
Resistance: going to the office in the basement to write without a shower to let your wife have her space on her day off thinking it is what she wants then she nearly has a nervous breakdown because she felt abandoned. This led to three days of wonder instead of writing.
I must admit, I admire your perseverance. I’ve been writing a lot throughout my life, but nothing more than classroom essays and journaling. I’m really just beginning a “focused” writing journey. My biggest resistance is getting the job done. I can get a writing project started (mostly articles for my website) and on a good roll, then something happens, within 24 hours, and I lose the momentum. Your words are very encouraging. I don’t give up, I do get a little frustrated with myself (I know that’s fear based emotions.) But I do, every day come back to the computer and to my notebooks and I write. I love writing.
why don’t you publish your first three novels now in their present state as e-books, PDF … whatever, so that your readers can be the judge of whether they are good enough or not?! Charge a few dollars a piece with the caveat that they are samples of your first work. Give the money to charity. Use them as examples of what early work looks like. Show how far you have come. Beats them collecting dust, changes your story, shows that you have the courage to be vulnerable just as you are getting on a roll. What say you Sean and callie???
My first book sold 5 copies in the first 6 months it was out, I didn’t even dream of trying to get a publisher. Instead I worked on finding my voice, building my platform, over the next three years both of my books sold over 80,000 copies. The publishers came to me and the rest is history. Steven is right, focus on your voice and build your platform!
THANK YOU…for your generosity, honesty, courage…and just plain straight-forward posts. I love your offerings.
Especially — “My hat’s off to everyone who starts out with a dream and launches herself, in the face of adversity, into bringing that dream into reality.”
You, Steven Pressfield, are a Sacred Warrior.
naturally such as your web-site and you should check the punctuation in a few of the articles you write. Most of them are filled with punctuational problems and i also to find the idea very difficult to tell the reality having said that Let me absolutely revisit once more.
Thank you Mr. Pressfield, this is exactly what I needed to hear, like synchronicity from the Muse! I’m gonna sit at this desk this week until this damn story is finished — I really enjoyed The War of Art, Gates of Fire, and I am in the middle of Bagger Vance; love it so far.
Been there, done that. Still there, still doing that.
The Eternal Struggle is who we are.
no doubt son.
Man this is horrible. you need my type of criticism to understand that everything i just read made me dumber.
I enjoyed reading your novel. It really sends a message that for me, hit close to home. I have struggled most of my life with so much criticism, that I understand now how one can be so critical of a child or even an adult that is always being ridiculed or feels that they cannot accomplish anything. I learned later in life why I struggled so much with school, even though I graduated and completed all my schooling. I grew up being very disruptive in a classroom. I was very bored, after finishing my work or assignments in class. I would get up and start visiting other classmates or asked to be excused to go to the restroom. I would get in so much trouble for talking during class and disrupting the teacher, while teaching.
I never thought ill of the teacher when I was being scolded in front of the entire class. I once was hit by a teacher and yelled at me, pulled my hair, and the class laughed. I was so humiliated and sat at my desk, with my head down, and tried covering my face with whatever I could find, meaning if I had a sweater that day, or my book or anything to hide my face in it.
I was sent to the office and told to sit in the chair and write five hundred times, “I will not disrupt the class, and not speak unless my teacher calls on me to speak. I thought it was great, since I love to write, and it was supposed to be a punishment, I guess that the teacher thought I would learn my lesson and be quiet during class. This was in the fourth grade.
My teacher would come and check on me and ask how I was doing and check to see if I was writing those five hundred sentences. I thought she would be pleased; however, she was so mad. She asked me if I thought I was trying to be funny. I didn’t understand why she was so upset. I was halfway through the assignment she gave me and I thought she would be pleased.
I enjoy writing and I didn’t know why she was so upset and told me to finish up and she would be back to check on me. I continued with my sentences, and while I was writing the last of the assignment, the principle walked in and asked me why I was there sitting in the chair and asked what happened. I simply told the principle that I had to write five hundred times for disrupting the class. Shortly after that, my teacher walked into the office and they exchanged words, I really couldn’t hear what they were saying, however, i did finish the assignment, and the principle walked into his big office and the teacher told me to follow her back to the classroom.
I asked her if she was still mad, and never answered me. Did i learn my lesson not to talk during t class? I became very afraid to open my mouth or afraid to raise my hand to answer the question, but the teacher ignored me and hardly ever called on me. i felt I was very stupid or being punished. I never told my parents anything what had happened, especially when the teacher hit me, and yanked my hair. That was humiliating. I didn’t like that at all, but I loved the writing assignment.
My teacher finally allowed me to participate or interact in the classroom, when we had projects to work on with chosen partners or when class was divided into two teams, and we had different projects with math. Oh, I loved math.
Let me explain. there was a game i remember so well during our math lesson, called Around the World. The teacher would ask a student to stand by another student and when she held the math flashcards, the student would have to answer correctly. Once that was done, the student who answered correctly, went on to the next student, and so on. I loved it! I traveled around the world several times, and the teacher told me to shut up and sit down and give other classmates a chance. Well, I didn’t get sent to the office or sent to stand outside by the door, I think I knew something was wrong with me and today its known as ADD or ADHD.
I persevered. I didn’t allow anyone to bully me or laugh at me and i did accept the criticism, and it never kept me back from learning. Yes, it was a struggle, and I learned as much as I could. I loved your novel Mr. Pressfield, and look forward to your other novels.
I graduated with the rest of my class in high school. I attended college the first two years, however, did not complete college, and instead, later I married, and I knew I had made a mistake, not finishing my education. My ex-husband decided marriage and having a family was not on his agenda. He chose a lifestyle; that destroyed his career that paid him very well and was recognized as a top sales representative in his district. Such a waste of great talent. He is a nice caring man, at least I thought he was.
Sometimes life doesn’t go how you want or how it’s supposed to be. You just have to accept reality and take care of yourself and do the best you can, especially as a single parent. I had so many job opportunities that I couldn’t believe I was hired, when a four (4) year college degree was required. I did very well in the field I was in and felt proud of myself. I developed the skills at training for the job, and always completed my paperwork in a timely manner, and never once wavered from my job duties.
Unfortunately, there were times when companies had to let several employees go, to accommodate their budget or the company was bought out or merged, and needed to close several departments, and maintain their budget, or regroup. It didn’t bother me, and I always left with a good attitude and had a good repo ire with my district managers and or with corporate, that with my experience and sales ability, I always found another job, and continued to be happy that I was working and not be upset. I once was told by a very intelligent man, that never burn a bridge you have to cross, because you may have to cross that bridge again one day.
You mentioned about your entrepreneurship, and how many times you failed; however, you obviously had a good attitude and persevered. I can relate. I had two stores that I opened with no help from the SBA, and as a single mother I worked very hard to support my family and just couldn’t keep afloat with two employees, rent, insurance and all that comes with running a retail shop. So, you move on and never look back. I love people and enjoy hearing the elderly speak of their childhood when nobody else would listen to them. I have a lot of patience.
I took an FMLA, as per my supervisor at the time back in 2008. to care for my father who had to be on dialysis. My mother couldn’t drive anymore, and I moved in with them to care for both, and my middle son, James’s took care of my home and my furry friends. It was an experience taking care of both parents. I made the best of the situation, and never complained. My three siblings were not able to help out, and it’s okay. I was very blessed to have taken care of my father until he passed away from complications with dialysis, and related heart issues. I had lost my home four days before to foreclosure, and my mother locked up the big house and moved to Rockport, Texas where one of my siblings lived, and still does. One year later, my mother decided to sell the house. I was outvoted and the house was sold.
I was very depressed for a long time, but I knew my father would not want me to be on my pity pot and be strong and do what I started and finish getting my education. I took a tour at CHCP in 2018 and I changed careers and went into the healthcare industry. I received my certification in Medical Coding and Billing. I was chosen to work in a wonderful medical building, with several therapists and psychiatrist, after I completed my shadowing. I was very happy and after receiving my national license, my sibling wanted me to take care of our mother. They didn’t ask, they told me I had to, since they could not. Sounds familiar.
I took care of our mother when Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport in 2017, and moved my mother back to the valley, where she belonged, and never should have left. My mother is ninety (90) and she’s wonderful! I take care of her 24/7 in my leased home, and I’m back with CHCP online, studying for HMAS, to complete in the early fall. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your writing that is a remarkable read and look forward to other novels.
I needed to hear this and it was at the right time. It inspired me in the way i was thinking I have hope and I am not alone