Being a Writer is Like Being an Athlete

 

I’ve never met LeBron James or Tom Brady but I think about them frequently (and other athletes of that same hyper-disciplined mindset) as I go about my day.

They’re human beings, with normal, real-life stuff they have to take care of. But they’re also on a mission. That makes them different from most people … and makes their challenges different too.

Serena Williams gunning for #24

If Serena Williams has a match this afternoon on Centre Court at Wimbledon, she still has to eat breakfast. Pick an outfit. Take care of her hair.

Serena has a baby daughter.

She has a husband.

She has people who need her attention.

Commitments.

Obligations.

Real-world stuff to take care of.

But a part of Serena’s mind is on that match this afternoon.

She has an alarm clock in her head that tells her (or maybe it’s her coach) it’s time to suit up, to stretch, to get warm, to volley a few balls. It’s time to switch mental gears. Time to tune out certain wavelengths and tune in to certain others.

I do that too.

My match is not against a living opponent.

It’s not being televised.

I don’t get a paycheck when it’s over.

But my mindset is the same as Serena’s or Tom Brady’s or Cody Bellinger’s.

When the bell sounds, I have to answer it.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?"

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12 Comments

  1. Anthony Crook on October 30, 2019 at 5:48 am

    Steve, as a budding entrepreneur I have been inspired by the content of most of your blog posts. This blog comparing the lives of celebrity athletes clicks with me particularly. Due to the many disappointments I have had on my entrepreneurial journey, I actually pay more attention to superstar athletes when they are handling well publicized defeats than their victories. Because watching how well disciplined people handle defeats actually gives me more mojo to continue to do what I am trying to do. Their defeats remind me that, like myself, these athltes need to reflect and get back in the ring. Thanks for your insight.

  2. Don Simkovich on October 30, 2019 at 8:43 am

    I’ve thought about this analogy numerous times … and want to write about it. But from the standpoint that writers or being in the arts requires the same discipline and focus as an athlete.

  3. Tim Birch on October 30, 2019 at 8:56 am

    “On Your Marks!…Get SET!…GO!” this is the mindset from ‘Do The Work’ and ‘Turning Pro’. good advice remains the same. If Time Ferris can write ‘two crappy pages’ a day who else can? The US Military reminded me to show up on time ready to go. Sometimes the stakes are higher than getting paid. Been drilling this into my Scouts. First Aid training is being there to stop the bleeding. And training before hand so when it hits the fan you know what to do.

  4. Eugene Salomon on October 30, 2019 at 9:36 am

    As a longtime taxi driver in NYC there have been three occasions in which I had the opportunity to witness firsthand what mindset is needed not only to compete, but to rise to the very top in the world of professional tennis. These encounters left me with an insight regarding what “focused” and “determined” actually look like in real life, which could be adaptable to a writer.

    For these stories, go to my blog “Cabs Are For Kissing”. At the top of the page you will find “What It Takes, Parts 1,2, and 3”.

    P.S. “The War of Art” is always within an arm’s reach on my desk. Thanks.

    • Elaine Dodge on October 31, 2019 at 2:00 am

      Eugene! Just read your ‘What it Takes’ blogs. Loved them. The Martina N one was very inspiring – on 2 levels, her attitude and yours in asking for the opportunity. Have to say, with all due respect to Steven, I’ve never read a blog that made me want to clear my desk of any trivialities and get down to writing more! I will remember your blog for a very long time! Mainly because I’m writing out lines from it and sticking them up on my wall! Thank you!

  5. Gene on October 30, 2019 at 10:04 am

    I just finished a book on golf and got it on Amazon and realized something: I needed a new warrior in my battalion to step up. Writing is one thing, marketing something else. Steve writes “Nobody wants to read your s…..” and that’s true especially if they don’t know it is available. It requires a new discipline as well as continuing to write new material for the myriad of stories I have broiling inside me. A writing warrior is not a one-trick pony.

  6. Jill on October 30, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Artists are like athletes too ^_^ Creative people are like athletes too ^_^

    And it’s not just the mindset ~ you also need stamina; it’s also physically demanding. A lot of people focus on the mindgame aspect of writing and painting and so on but maybe they don’t realise that you also need a lot of physical strength and energy. They say Delacroix had someone to take care of him (e.g. make sure he ate) and that made him “last longer”, which made him able to paint longer, and paint more stuff.

    Oh yes Sir. Writers are like athletes for sure. All creatives are. It takes training and discipline too. Sure you might be a natural, but there’s just no substitute for real training and even guidance from a coach. To say writers are like athletes is truer than most people know.

    And here people think we just sit at a lappy or a notebook and stare into space and daydream all day LOL

  7. Nick Sherman on October 30, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    “When the bell sounds, I have to answer it.”
    Mr. Pressfield,
    The way you put these things has real helped me.
    The idea that their is something pulling us along, compelling us! Acting on us!
    You’ve really helped me put down the ego and do the work.
    Great stuff here today.
    -Nick

  8. Brian Nelson on October 30, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    …’Athletes know they have to play hurt.” Not sure if that is from War of Art or Turning Pro, but I have remembered that line often when in severe victim-thinking. (I listen to both books 3-4 times a year, I think of it as Resistance booster shots.)

    In 2008, we made a commercial with the Seattle Seahawks. As the operations officer for an Army National Guard recruiting battalion, I frequently said, “The difference between an athlete and a Soldier is the uniform. The values are the same. The principles/techniques for victory are the same. Same breed of cat, simply a different uniform.”

    The commercial was a HUGE success for us, the Seahawks paid for everything. The staff was on campus for the filming, and we met a number of the players as we toured the training site.

    Creatives, athletes, entrepreneurs, and military personnel eventually all adopt similar mindsets/patterns of behavior to succeed.
    bsn

  9. Sandra on October 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    As always, brilliant! Thank you.

  10. Jennifer smith on November 6, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Athletes are artists, they create with their bodies.

  11. Ripley on November 11, 2019 at 6:46 am

    My mindset is the same as Serena’s or Tom Brady’s or Cody Bellinger’s.
    https://reviewsrabbit.com/a-list-of-best-cabinet-table-saws-the-craftsmans-dream-come-true/

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