When I had reached the depths of my own hero’s journey, living in an abandoned cinder-block house with no doors or windows, no electricity, no bathroom and no running water, I found that my requirements in reading material had altered dramatically.

I couldn’t read even good books, from outstanding authors, books I had read and loved in the past.

They didn’t work for me any more.

They felt shallow.

They didn’t give me what I needed.

The only works I could read were Homer, Shakespeare and the King James Bible.

I loved these. I would crack the Old or New Testament at random, not seeking anything “religious,” just for the poetry. Within three verses I’d be weeping.

And Ruth said to Naomi, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to refrain from following after thee. For whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there shall I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.

That was when I became a believer in Art. I was deep in my own myth. I needed help. Only real myth could sustain me. But once I found it, I recognized it—and it did sustain me when nothing else could.

It was clear to me, then, that my heart and my journey were no different from those of every soul throughout history, male and female, who had made this passage before me. Some few of these, artists, inspired by who knows what, had managed to leave a sign for us who followed, a blaze on a tree, three stones piled up beside the trail. God bless them. They saved my life.

No one can ever tell me that art is trivial, or mere diversion or entertainment. The real stuff is mother’s milk. We can’t live without it. It guides us and sustains us.

It’s my religion.

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27 Comments

  1. ADVAIT on January 8, 2020 at 5:30 am

    Word!

    • Dee on January 16, 2020 at 6:49 pm

      Beautiful. I felt that truth in my bones. Thank you for sharing this perspective.

  2. Mary Doyle on January 8, 2020 at 5:32 am

    Thank you for this beautiful sentiment to mark the start of a new year!

  3. Anita Garner on January 8, 2020 at 5:46 am

    This is exactly what’s needed around here this week. Thank you.

  4. Jeffrey Sexton on January 8, 2020 at 8:11 am

    Hey, Steven,

    Based on this and your recent FB video, was wondering if you’re familiar with Jonathan Shay’s work, specifically this book:

    https://www.amazon.com/Achilles-Vietnam-Combat-Undoing-Character/dp/0684813211/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2JO8AXQSN5V2Q&keywords=achilles+in+vietnam&qid=1578499696&sprefix=achiles+in+vi%2Caps%2C166&sr=8-1

    – Jeff

    • Steven Pressfield on January 15, 2020 at 10:21 am

      I am, Jeff. I haven’t met Jonathan Shay but I’ve traded e-mails and recommendations. He is definitely a guy who is making a difference.

    • bill on January 17, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Thanks, I work with Veterans, will check it our.

  5. Rizalyn on January 15, 2020 at 8:05 am

    Thanks for the perspective, Steven!

  6. Eric Cole on January 15, 2020 at 8:18 am

    For myself, it was mostly Rumi. These days all of reality often feels subjective and mythical.

  7. Anonymous on January 15, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Procrastination is real.

    Often when I receive the Wednesday emails, a voice in my head says:

    Read it some other day… when you are free.

    Read it. NOW.

  8. Peter Brockwell on January 15, 2020 at 9:10 am

    Wow. I feel both moved and inspired by this post. This on the back of still reeling from having recently read Steve’s incredible ‘Killing Rommel’.

  9. Yvonne on January 15, 2020 at 9:11 am

    So true. Someone spraypainted graffiti in my hometown, proclaiming “Art saves”. It certainly does. Thanks for this, Steve.

  10. Rochelle Krause on January 15, 2020 at 10:34 am

    Thank you again for the inspiration!

  11. Madeleine D'Este on January 15, 2020 at 2:51 pm

    Wow Steve.
    Yet again you have succinctly articulated the mess of thoughts inside my head.
    Thank you.

  12. Stephen Hunter on January 15, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Have you ever been to Australia? Apologies if you have and I missed it. We need something nice to think about at the moment. The fires are ravaging and the government is hellbent in destroying the arts. Help! ????????

  13. Sandra on January 15, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Thank you for being that “someone”, and for reminding me that art is a saving grace, even when the journey presents its challenges. God bless.

  14. Patrícia Caldas on January 16, 2020 at 5:03 am

    I’m so happy and thankful that you exist.

  15. Joe Jansen on January 16, 2020 at 8:08 am

    I’m keying on your line: “…every soul throughout history, male and female, had made this passage before me.”

    Made me think of Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”:

    “…we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us, the labyrinth is fully known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. …where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”

  16. Joan H. Simon on January 16, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    I thought I was alone in not being able to read almost anything anymore. It’s not enough.

  17. Marlene on January 16, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you, Steven, I work in a public school and come home to my pen and paper to find solace. It sustains me when it feels as if the children of the world are broken and lost. Many of us are diligent in showing them the light of creativity and how it will heal and sustain. The heroes before us continue in helping us through the darkness knowing the sun will shine even though.

    • Jan Bowler on January 19, 2020 at 11:33 pm

      It is easy to forget, as a layperson, that there are souls like you working to help our lost children find a path out of darkness. Thank you!

  18. Brenna Hopkins on January 16, 2020 at 10:18 pm

    Steve, after my dad died, I went through about 2 years when I couldn’t stand anything on the radio but music. And since I was commuting about 3 hours everyday, the radio wasn’t a trivial companion. Pop had been a type of old school bar musician that just doesn’t exist any more. At 14, he banged out a living on his Gretsch in Chicago saloons in the late 1930s, and never stopped gigging, into his 80s. I think music was the only way I could digest the hugeness of his absence. It wasn’t soothing – it was visceral – a dialogue – and it was as real a place as any I’ve ever lived. Looking back, I see that power grounded me in new territory. Art is so real. Art is The Real. Thanks, Steve, for taking me back there. Blessings in this new year.

  19. Cindy Lewis on January 21, 2020 at 5:22 am

    This is so beautiful! I am discovering the very same thing. I’ve found art and creating the place where I feel most at home.

  20. Jurgen Strack on January 24, 2020 at 2:40 am

    Hi folks…I’m a little late here, but also do not appear to have received a more recent ‘Writing Wednesdays’ post.

    Just wishing to share I was moved to join a writer’s group in the UK recently and wrote my first ever poem. Although not titled like this, it’s essentially ‘an ode to resistance’, inspired by the war of art. The group will soon publish a book of anthologies written by its members and my ‘amusing’ poem is to set the tone at the start for the anthologies to follow. Clearly I’m very humbled (..or chuffed as they say locally). If of interest, would be happy to share with you when published.
    Jurgen

  21. Robert walt on February 11, 2020 at 10:36 pm

    Shakespeare is one of the most famous poet, playwright, actor and the world greatest dramatics in the history of England. Everyone cannot easily to read his full poetry because he is define feeling and emotions in his poetry. Some people were crying and very emotional after reading just 3 to 4 lines of poetry. If you want more collection for this poetry, so essay writing service uk provides all the collection of his poetry.

  22. REBELLICCA on March 2, 2020 at 1:43 am

    Dear Steven,
    Thank you for a post so full of truth and beauty. I found myself re-reading these lines over and over again.

    “I was deep in my own myth. I needed help. Only real myth could sustain me. But once I found it, I recognized it—and it did sustain me when nothing else could.”

    It seems that if we’d have the courage to commit to our real myth, it’d commit back to us, showing us the way or even letting the path find us…..

  23. Gerry Lantz on March 5, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Steven, your piece has moved me greatly. I have been caught up in my consulting business for years now and yearn to get back to where I started with a degree in literature and a masters in film studies–and writing short stories. You have inspired me to pick up the pen and finish long dormant stories and start new ones that have been painfully and energetically bouncing around in my brain for years now.

    Your biblical citation reminds me of all good or great art and a famous philosopher (a humble, sweet genius) who sat on my thesis committee many years ago, Dr. Monroe Beardsley. He wrote a book “Aesthetics” in 1958 that was still being reviewed and debated in philosophical journals when I studied with him in the 1970s. Your citation is a perfect example of what I think Monroe would have judged to be art. To me the citation is an imprecation–brief but complete with an emotional arc–driven by love by one character for another, starting in the present moment and coursing through to death. Short as this “poem” is, it is unified, complex and full of intense human qualities–Monroe’s three principles for describing an “aesthetic experience.”

    It is what you often do so well, as in this post. I thank you.

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