Untitled Book, Installment #2

  1. THE HERO’S JOURNEY AND THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY {continuing from last week’s post}

 

 

I have a theory about the Hero’s Journey. We all have one. We have many, in fact. But our primary hero’s journey as artists is the passage we live out, in real life, before we find our calling.

Rocket Raccoon overcoming an All Is Lost Moment in “Guardians of the Galaxy”

The hero’s journey is the search for that calling.

It’s preparation.

It’s initiation (or more precisely, self-initiation).

On the hero’s journey, we see, we experience, we suffer. We learn.

On our hero’s journey, we acquire a history that is ours alone. It’s a secret history, a private history, a personal history. No one has it but us. No one knows it but us. This secret history is the most valuable possession we hold, or ever will hold. We will draw upon it for the rest of our lives.

The hero’s journey ends when, like Odysseus, we return home to Ithaca, to the place from which we started. We wash up on shore. We have survived. We have come home.

Now what?

The passage that comes next is the Artist’s Journey.

The artist’s journey comes after the hero’s journey.

Everything that has happened to us up to this point is rehearsal for us to act, now, as our true self and to find and speak in our true voice.

The artist’s journey is the process of self-discovery that follows.

It will last as long as we’re alive, and maybe longer.

 

 

  1. THE EPIPHANAL MOMENT

 

In Hollywood parlance, there’s an inflection point in every story called the All Is Lost Moment. This moment comes near the end of Act Two, about two-thirds of the way through the movie.

In the All Is Lost moment, the hero is as far from her goal as possible. It seems certain in that moment that she will never reach it.

The All Is Lost moment is immediately followed by what I call the Epiphanal Moment.

In the epiphanal moment, the hero experiences a breakthrough.

This breakthrough is almost always internal. The hero changes her attitude. She regroups. She sees her dilemma from a new perspective, a perspective that she had never considered before (or, if she had considered it, had rejected), a point of view that offers either hope or desperation amounting to hope.

The movie now enters Act Three. The hero, fortified by this fresh hope (or desperation), charges full-tilt into the climax.

Sarah Conner stops running and turns to confront the Terminator.

Luke Skywalker boards his X-wing and flies against the Death Star.

Bogey makes the decision to put Ingrid, with her husband, onto the plane to Lisbon, while he himself stays to confront the enemies of freedom.

You and I have All Is Lost moments in our real lives.

We have Epiphanal Moments.

Here is mine, from The War of Art:

 

I washed up in New York a couple of decades ago, making

twenty bucks a night driving a cab and running away fulltime

from doing my work. One night, alone in my $110-amonth

sublet, I hit bottom in terms of having diverted myself

into so many phony channels so many times that I couldn’t

rationalize it for one more evening. I dragged out my ancient

Smith-Corona, dreading the experience as pointless, fruitless,

meaningless, not to say the most painful exercise I could

think of. For two hours I made myself sit there, torturing out

some trash that I chucked immediately into the shitcan. That

was enough. I put the machine away. I went back to the

kitchen. In the sink sat ten days of dishes. For some reason I

had enough excess energy that I decided to wash them. The

warm water felt pretty good. The soap and sponge were

doing their thing. A pile of clean plates began rising in the

drying rack. To my amazement I realized I was whistling.

It hit me that I had turned a corner.

I was okay.

I would be okay from here on.

Do you understand? I hadn’t written anything good. It

might be years before I would, if I ever did at all. That

didn’t matter. What counted was that I had, after years

of running from it, actually sat down and done my work.

 

That was my epiphanal moment.

My hero’s journey was over.

My artist’s journey had begun.

 

 

THE WAR OF ART

Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.

The-War-of-Art

DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

do the work book banner 1

THE AUTHENTIC SWING

A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.

The-Authentic-Swing

NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.

noboybookcover

TURNING PRO

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"

Turning-Pro

36 Comments

  1. Maura on February 21, 2018 at 5:34 am

    Thank you for helping me to make sense of my life!

    Interesting thing about the all is lost moment: at the time, you know that something happened though you’re not sure exactly what. Mine happened thirty years ago. And you’re right, the artist’s journey which begins at that point is another long, long slog. “It will last as long as we’re alive.”

  2. Susan on February 21, 2018 at 6:19 am

    I’ve always thought there was something magical about taking action – any action – to shift the field. Awesome post. thank you!!

  3. Carl on February 21, 2018 at 6:22 am

    Thanks for sharing that beautiful story…we are all the beneficiaries of your on-going artist’s journey…thank you.

  4. Teddy on February 21, 2018 at 6:31 am

    Good one. Thank you.

  5. Debbie L Kasman on February 21, 2018 at 6:42 am

    I couldn’t agree with you more!

  6. Peter Rogan on February 21, 2018 at 7:01 am

    Really excellent, Steve. Thanks!

  7. Johanne Kieffer on February 21, 2018 at 7:07 am

    You’re writing about my experience…I luv this! I just completed my memoir and about to launch it out into the world..scary and exciting at the same time (like giving birth). I have lots of lessons to share about autism and its challenges that will hopefully help others. You’re right, we all have a heroes journey, we just have to find the courage to walk down that path. Thank you Steve…can’t wait until your book is released!

  8. Michael Henry Harris on February 21, 2018 at 7:08 am

    Love this. Thank you.

  9. Troy B. Kechely on February 21, 2018 at 7:13 am

    Powerful and inspirational as always. Thank you. It is not only important to recall your own journey but recognize that everyone else is on the same trek. With each encountering difficulties and hopefully, that EPIPHANAL moment.

    I do not pity those who have suffered and risen up to fulfill their purpose in life. Rather I pity those who have settled for mediocrity and never pushed out of the depths to find the light that is their calling.

  10. Mary on February 21, 2018 at 7:19 am

    Thank you so much for this excellent post! Love this!

  11. Michael Beverly on February 21, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Living in a Mexican barrio for a buck and a quarter a month, eating rice and beans.

    Only difference is I’ve enjoyed doing the dishes for some time now.

    The work is getting done: last summer, ghosting a 30K erom was like pulling teeth with pliers.

    Now I’m cranking that out in a week and still growing.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Monta Jane on February 21, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Thank you for these morsels of insight to savor and digest.

  13. Mia Sherwood Landau on February 21, 2018 at 7:44 am

    I love seeing the comments of other people who have a similar reaction to this post… you are reading our life experiences and helping us understand them. So awesome!

  14. Lyn on February 21, 2018 at 7:49 am

    As I reach the end of your post, I find myself speechless, with tears running down my face and a knot in my throat.

    Honestly, I never expected that. It came out of nowhere and is unusual for me. In fact, I’ve had friends describe me as a calm, peaceful person. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not in a pre-menopausal state where nothing and everything triggers an emotional response.

    Truth sometimes blindsides you, and emotions can flow strong, they can flow powerfully before you recognize what shifted, before the epiphany reaches the surface and morphs into words.

    You pulled me into that moment Stephen. What a gift. Thank you. What you’ve shared with us is so true, so very, very true. A viewpoint shift and a calling. Yes, this is the hero’s journey, then afterward comes the artist’s journey. Yes, that’s it! That’s it!

  15. Brian S Nelson on February 21, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Dear Steve,
    In the middle of my suffering I’ve had reoccurring thought patterns that are likely influenced by “Mad Men” advertising, and unhealthy/incorrect beliefs.
    1. Once this is over (school project, term, basic training, deployment, diet, any difficulty or struggle) then I’ll finally be on easy street.
    2. I am alone, no one quite understands, and this is uniquely mine.
    3. Life shouldn’t be so hard.

    These thoughts/beliefs have quieted some, yet still pop up when I’m feeling especially selfish and immature.

    I learn first through the body, so my antidote to the above madness is vigorous exercise, and intermittent fasting. I have to be reminded 2-3 times a week (when I fast) that the things I want to achieve require hard work, and that I am capable of doing hard. Hard work’s gift is self-efficacy, and sovereignty. But I must re-earn them daily.

    Maybe this is simply my own version of Resistance, but I have been amazed at the persistence of the belief that somehow life should be easy, and the madness that I would actually be happy there on a beach drinking Pina Coladas.
    Shit, I have a difficult time taking a relaxing 4-day weekend. This I know from experience, but the lie continues.

    The understanding that the Artist’s Journey continues until we die is a much healthier, pragmatic, and accurate way to see life.
    Thank you again.
    bsn

  16. Kristin Costello on February 21, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Thank you for your inspirational writing! Always enjoy reading it.

  17. Jeff Korhan on February 21, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I always get chills when I read that excerpt from The War of Art.

    Maybe because I’ve been there too. Who hasn’t?

  18. Burt Gershater on February 21, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Dear brother Steve-
    I am blessed to know you, learn from you, be inspired by you and be a friend since our early years. You are a brave and humble hero to so many.
    Thanks for your daily efforts to enter the battle against Resistance.
    You rock!
    Write on!
    ❤️

  19. Julia Murphy on February 21, 2018 at 11:40 am

    I have no words for the importance of this post to me on many levels nor my gratitude that you did the work to bring it to us.

    Thank you.

  20. RANDAL LYONS on February 21, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Steven,

    I love this clear distinction. I will apply this in my work with treating addiction, as well as in my personal recovery. It is the beginning of a great discussion, which is something I always look forward to.

    Cheers,
    Randy

  21. Tim Murphy on February 21, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Good afternoon, Mr. Pressfield:

    When does the hero of a story cease being a hero? You’ve described an end-of-Act-2 event in your own journey, but in story that event doesn’t cause the protagonist to cease being the hero of the story and become something else, right? It’s usually where his or her heroism emerges.

    I’m intrigued about how you’ll divulge the difference as you proceed.

  22. Mike on February 21, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you for such useful information again.
    Keep up!
    and for me, about time to go write something 🙂
    Gotta fight resistance, less read – more write, or write at all 🙂
    Cheers mate(s)!

  23. Erik Dolson on February 21, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Some of us are blessed to have that epiphanal moment over and over again. “It’s an important rewrite! Just a chapter!” Resistance has again thrown a handful of sand into the gears and we don’t win this once, we don’t win at all. We work, we become something other than we were, we struggle. But we produce, and are writers.

  24. Elizabeth Rose on February 21, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Bravo and thank you:)

  25. Dorothy Seeger on February 21, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    I always knew I had a story. I just didn’t know what it was. In reading your post, I suddenly could see my “all is lost” and subsequent revival. Now all I have to do is get it down on paper. Thank you for your never-failing report from the trenches.

  26. Vincent Sargenti on February 21, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    Yeah but Steve, It’s like you’re making a hero out of a zero here.

    Just because someone is a total loser doesn’t make them heroic when they make a half-assed attempt to turn their life around.

    Triumphing over being a loser, by getting off the couch, isn’t heroic because losers haven’t won anything, or done anything meaningful yet.

    as Chris Rock would say, “People want you to give them extra credit for things they’re spost’a do. – Oh, I take care of my kids. You’re spost’a do dat! – Oh, I pay my bills. You’re spost’a do dat!”

    So here is a guy acting like a loser one minute and suddenly he makes a half-assed action and begins moving in a non-loser direction.

    How is that heroic? “You’re spost’a do dat!”

    There is nothing heroic about being a loser and making an attempt to get your shit together. It’s gotta lead to greatness or you’ll always be a loser. The all is lost moment only means something if, by dramatic contrast, it results in posting the big W, a big win.

    A loser is only a hero if, through his artist’s journey, he/she creates his/her masterpiece.

    No masterpiece = total loser.

    Ask me how I know?

    😉

  27. Tony on February 21, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    How is this book going to be unique compared to the The War of Art/Turning Pro/Do the Work?

    You wrote about a lot of this very well already in those books.

  28. Bane on February 22, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Over the last few weeks I’ve been crossing over the threshold from Act II to Act III. Very timely. #returnofthejedi

  29. Melanie Ormand on February 22, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    As I read your words of wisdom, I remembered my favorite quote:

    We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

    Nice to know it’s all connected, as we all here are, too.

  30. amy on February 23, 2018 at 5:37 am

    I am trying to wrap my mind around what your thesis is. I guess I am having a hard time with it, especially since it’s rooted in philosophy, which can get very nuanced. It seems you are trying to separate the Hero’s Journey from the Artist’s Journey, and to possibly even make it a linear sort of evolution, which I’m not sure is a real truth. It sounds like the Artist’s Journey isn’t really a journey for (as stated above) self-discovery — since it is the Hero’s Journey that brings us to our revelatory moments — but rather the journey to learn how to express authenticity, as it relates to each person’s authenticity of self. And with regards to the way the article ended, I don’t think that “acting” or the action of acting is necessarily the trigger that propels someone off their Hero’s Journey and onto their Artist’s Journey; this doesn’t seem true to me. Sorry . . . maybe I’m missing your idea altogether. Definitely, a “teaser” article doesn’t lend itself to full deciphering.

  31. Maxima Kahn on February 23, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    And yet there are some serious hero’s journey qualities to the artist’s journey, and it seems we go round and round. I’m having another All Is Lost moment now, deep into my artistic journey. And could really use a new “meeting with the mentor,” interesting how this stuff recurs. There’s some new “elixir” I need to find and bring back to the people.

  32. Renita on March 21, 2018 at 4:54 am

    Steve
    It’s always good to read this passage. Each time, I go deeper into its meaning. That alone amazes me.

  33. Kim on May 10, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Thanks so much Steven. Your words are like medicine. Last night, unable to sleep I opened your latest book. It helped me so much to read about your struggles. It was like the soapy sponge. I’m okay. Even though I feel like All Is Lost. Just for the record: I Want To Read Your S***.

  34. Steve Garcia on May 30, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Wow. I love this. Thank you.

  35. Tesia Blackburn on June 6, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Damn I love this.

  36. Anonymous on June 6, 2018 at 10:06 am

    And Thank You.

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