Up From the Trenches

About eighteen months ago I wrote a series for this blog titled “Report From the Trenches.” The posts were about a particularly ugly run of months when I was struggling with a book-in-progress that had crashed at the finish line.

The struggle was about starting over.

It was about not caving in to the massive Resistance that arises when you, the writer, have to go back to Square One and rethink everything.

That book was published yesterday.

“Too dark, too depressing, too dystopian.”

Like just about everybody who reads this blog, I have a really hard time flogging my own stuff. So all I’ll say is the book is titled “36 Righteous Men,” it’s an apocalyptic thriller that Publishers Weekly called “un-put-downable” and “Pressfield’s most ambitious work to date.”

“36 Righteous Men” is published by W.W. Norton, and it’s on sale everywhere, in bookstores and online.

Oh, one other anecdote:


Even when the rewrite had been completed and the manuscript was what Shawn and I rated a huge success, we still couldn’t find a publisher.

“Too dark,” people said. “Too dystopian.” “Too depressing.”

We tried everywhere.

Nobody wanted it.

We basically gave up.

Three years of backbreaking work down the drain.

Then I had a crazy flash.

My original agent, from Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire days, is Sterling Lord.

Sterling represented Jack Kerouac in 1953. He made the original sale for On the Road.

Sterling is now ninety-eight years old.

I wasn’t sure he was even still speaking to me.

I called him up. “Sterling, I’ve got a new book that nobody wants.”

He said, “Send it over.”

Three weeks later we had a deal.

And not just with any editor but with a legend of the publishing business, Star Lawrence.


In other words, NEVER GIVE UP!


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


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.



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.



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?"



  1. Joe Jansen on November 6, 2019 at 3:41 am

    Congrats on publication day. Thanks for the stories and for the examples you set. Ordered a copy and it’s en route.

    • Steven Pressfield on November 6, 2019 at 10:52 am

      Thanks, Joe … and thanks everybody who placed an order. Hope you like the book! P.S. It might be interesting to compare the book to the notes from those “Reports from the Trenches” posts.

      P.P.S. for our JABs members, those posts are in the last book of the first season, “Starting Over, Part One,” and the first JAB of the second season, “Starting Over, Part Two.” (Plus a good part of Shawn’s editing notes to me, if you like “inside baseball.”)

      Love to all the chaps!

  2. Mary Doyle on November 6, 2019 at 4:59 am

    Congrats Steven! And Sterling Lord, bless your 98-year-old heart!

  3. Trevor Exter on November 6, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Devouring it!!!

  4. John C Arends on November 6, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Ordered yesterday, on its way today, arriving tomorrow. Can’t wait for the weekend read. Congrats Steven, Shawn, Sterling and Star, on kicking some major Resistance ass. And thank you, sir, for sharing with us how you did it.

    Now start the next one. 😉

  5. David Smith on November 6, 2019 at 8:25 am

    I’ll be ordering that later today. A great, inspiring story. It’s such an important message – writing is difficult even for hugely talented and successful authors, and the most important thing for a writer is perseverance.

    • Linda Baxley on November 12, 2019 at 9:46 am

      Congratulations to you! I look forward to my next read! Never give up – as the saying goes!

  6. jean on November 6, 2019 at 8:32 am


  7. Andrew on November 6, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Congrats on beating resistance (yet again!) Ordered my copy yesterday

  8. Dede on November 6, 2019 at 8:34 am

    You are a holy inspiration. Thank you thank you thank you , Steven for sharing all of your wisdom and candor about resistance!
    You are a gift ????
    With love and appreciation,

  9. Lynne Favreau on November 6, 2019 at 8:41 am

    This morning I wrote a bit in my personal journal about how resistance is just going to have to take a back seat to my accomplishing my goal. Despite my words, I’ve avoided opening the work I need to be concentrating on, and ended up reading email…and here I am. Thank you for the reinforcement, and reminder to get back at it.

  10. BING on November 6, 2019 at 9:01 am


  11. Elaine Dodge on November 6, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Congratulations!!!! There’s hope for my problem child book then!

  12. Brian Nelson on November 6, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Ordered yesterday after the nudge from Jacquie’s email.

    Just a thought…maybe you could revisit some of those ‘trenches’ blogs, they were terrific.

  13. Brenda Ammon on November 6, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Thanks Steven and congratulations on getting another fascinating read out in print.
    I am honored to have learned from what you write. The resistance is but a muffled voice thanks to you.
    Brenda Ammon

  14. Larry Pass on November 6, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Congratulations, Steve!
    I look forward to reading it.

  15. Stephanie Clayton on November 6, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Congratulations, Steve. Thanks for sharing your journey. A great story in itself!

  16. Jay Cadmus on November 6, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Congratulations Mr. Pressfield. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  17. Antoinette Webster on November 6, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Congratulations on the new book and Thank you for your willingness to stay the course. You are an inspiration and a great role model. All the best to you.

  18. Heron on November 6, 2019 at 11:07 am

    “Most ambitions work to date…” That’s pretty heavy considering… can’t wait to read it. Thank you for what you do SP. (And tip of the cap to Sterling!)

  19. Sandra on November 6, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you for never giving up! You remain my inspiration.

  20. Renita on November 6, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey. It’s important to see that past successes do not make new pathways easier.

  21. Sam Luna on November 6, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    Congrats, Coach!

  22. Renita on November 6, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    “I’ve got a new book that nobody wants.”
    What a sales job! ????

  23. Fernando Verano on November 6, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    GRANDE Steve!!! What a story and a book.

  24. Jule Kucera on November 6, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I pre-ordered and check my mailbox every day–not here yet but it will be!
    It is so fun to see how this tale turned out… Steve’s journey paralleled the Hero’s journey and we all had front row seats from the Central Ordeal onward. Hmm… if the end is the Return with the Elixir, I wonder what Steve’s elixir is?

    • Jule Kucera on November 6, 2019 at 2:06 pm

      It’s coming tomorrow!

  25. Wai'ale'alea on November 6, 2019 at 5:33 pm

    Right on! Congratulations! Yes, Never give Up!!! Mahalo!

  26. Mary L. Forster on November 6, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Congratulations…very happy for you! Love the story about your 98 yr. old former agent…what a great example of never giving up!
    Mary Forster

  27. Yvonne on November 6, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    A story behind the story…I love it, and I love that it has a happy ending where you conquer and put out the book! I love how real you are here and let us into what was a difficult time for you. It’s encouraging to know we’re not alone in our struggles. Thanks, again Steve, and congratulations to you!

  28. Rachel Walsh on November 6, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Congratulations, Steve! I splurged and bought on Kindle because I was so impatient to read this book (it’s my birthday today, so I’m going to count it as a present to myself). I’m just about to sit down and start reading – can’t wait!

  29. Julie on November 6, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Awesome! Congrats! Steven, you are one of my heroes!

  30. Lisa McKenna on November 6, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    I so appreciate you…and your emails…thank you!

  31. Mariana Fay on November 6, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you for this blog of encouragement, Stephen, and congratulations on your fight to the finish!

    My sister promises she’s sending her signed copy to me when she’s done (you’re pals with my brother John). I might have to buy it for myself though, as I’m not sure I can wait!

    Thanks for your great work,
    Mariana Fay

  32. Melanie Schöngassner on November 7, 2019 at 12:37 am

    Yesterday, I read your blog post right before going to bed and it followed me into my sleep (I know, one should have a bit of offline time before going to bed….).

    I thought: “See, even he is still struggling from time to time, I better stop immediately.” And then: “And nobody wanted to publish his book and he already has a reputation, I will never going to be successful.”

    But of course, your last paragraph also stuck with me , so I decided on focusing on NEVER GIVE UP!!! (And I’m already thinking of any 90+ relatives I have in my surrounding…:-)).

    Congratulations to the book! You are a real inspiration.

  33. John Boyd on November 7, 2019 at 3:53 am

    Why didn’t you consider self-publishing?

    • connie on November 7, 2019 at 10:56 am

      John, I wonder what Press will say. I haven’t published yet, but I’m getting close. This is my second try with a “self-publisher”. They’re editing is too narrow for me. I’m angry about the “self” I’m going to lose. I’m doing it this time, but not the next.

  34. Gwen Abitz on November 7, 2019 at 8:02 am

    OH I REMEMBER the series Up From The Trenches very well and in conjunction receiving the latest JABS – Starting Over has brought me to the turning point of what I feel is written on Page 24 in THE ALCHEMIST: “It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. (Personal Legend =’s what you have always wanted to accomplish) It prepares your spirit and your will because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on Earth.” For me, My mission on Earth is not writing a book which I have always indicated being “the odd one out” writing a comment on Writing Wednesday’s and WHAT IT TAKES. I’ve used your books and blogs in a different vein. THANK YOU for bringing out this KNOWLEDGE [within me] when your genre has been THE WAR OF ART. I will not GIVE UP on my GET REAL foundation with its’ six pillars of FEEL DEAL HEAL LIVE GIVE GROW encompassing FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE, FUNCTIONAL NUTRITION, FUNCTIONAL PSYCHOLOGY and FUNCTIONAL SPIRITUALITY for OPTIMAL HEALTH. It is a drive I have [CONSCIOUSLY] taken for 35 years. Whether “the destination” will be the Fearrington Community in Pittsboro, NC (8 miles from Chapel Hill) is unknown to me at this time. My draw for this Community is their affiliation with Duke University for their Wellness Center.

    THE BEST the launching of 36 RIGHTEOUS MEN.

  35. Joe on November 9, 2019 at 5:16 am

    Digging it so far. I was in a conversation with a couple friends, one of whom said that they should make an app that you could hold up your phone, and it would tell you the person’s name and everything you needed to know about them. I’m thinking, “Hey! I just read that.”

    Rosanne Cash’s dust jacket praise is excellent (“cinematic intensity”). I’m intrigued by the convention of putting major dialogue in a screenplay format. As a reader, I’m assessing whether it’s meant to enhance the cinematic tone, or whether the absence of the conventional attributions of “he said/she said“ are foreshadowing some near-future alteration/enhancement of human communication (sensory, extrasensory, biomechanical). Got me hooked.

  36. Brian Nelson on November 12, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    OK, this may not be the forum, but I have some questions. Just finished 36 Righteous Men.
    The ending shook me, and I’m curious if I’m the only one.

  37. Joe on November 12, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Felt Chinatown-like in the bleakness and inevitability.

    • Brian Nelson on November 12, 2019 at 8:28 pm

      Well said. I agree. Climate change is not one of my highest concerns, but reading it in a story made it much more real and frightening…and no preaching about how an SUV caused it all. In that respect, this was a perfect example of how art goes farther (at least with me) than science. I’m not suspicious of facts when engrossed in a story–and I”m more open to different views/opinions.

      I must say the ending left me out of breath!

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