Winning the First Battle in the Lifelong War of Art

Click here to get your Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Sand Sea.

A true story from the writing trenches:

About ten years ago I was at a party at my new friend Mike McClellan’s parents’ house. Sometime during the evening Mike tugged me aside and told me he had an idea for a book that he wanted me to write. He had read Gates of Fire and he thought I had the gift for an epic, larger-than-life, historical saga.

Mike proceeded to tell me the story of The River War by Winston Churchill, a monumental tale of the Brits in the Sudan in the late 1800s, when Churchill was a young lieutenant at the battle of Omdurman. Mike was on fire with this story. As he described the arena and the characters and the politics, I had to stop him.

“Mike,” I said, “It’s not me who should write this book. It’s you.”

Short version: Mike did write it, and it came out freakin’ GREAT. Seven hundred and sixty-two pages of high adventure and romance. But here’s the really interesting thing that all of us as writers can relate to. About a year into the writing, Mike found the book morphing into something he hadn’t planned or even imagined.

The story was transforming itself from a straight historical saga to something more like Game of Thrones. In place of real geographic settings, Mike found himself inventing whole oceans and continents. His true historical characters became fictional creations. (And here’s another aspect we’ll all be able to identify with … Mike wrote two hours each morning, never missing a day, while living his real life as a lawyer, husband, and father of two young daughters.) The result is The Sand Sea. It’s exactly the kind of book I love, where the author fashions an entire universe and then sweeps you away into it.

I will say no more, as I don’t want to be guilty of hype. Except click on the link above for the full story on how to get a free eBook advance copy of The Sand Sea.

P.S. If you ever find yourself wanting another writer to write a book you feel burning in your guts, stop yourself and take a deep breath. Then write that book yourself.


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 May 6, 2020 at 5:34 am

    I appreciate how you take somebody’s suggestion of “Here’s a story you should write,” and turn it back around as “I think this is actually YOUR story to tell.” I’ve seen it happen before here. It’s a kind of literary jiu-jitsu.

    Downloaded. Will read and review.

    • Joe on May 6, 2020 at 5:38 am

      And a quick addendum… I already like this one of his Dedications:

      And for Catherine and Violet, who are long familiar
      with the phrase, “Daddy is doing his words.”

  2. Ann Foley on May 6, 2020 at 5:41 am

    I’m a retired nurse in NY attempting to write short stories who has always enjoyed and been encouraged by your
    .books on writing and your posts. Thank you.

  3. Ms. Moretti on May 6, 2020 at 7:23 am

    What we are drawn to and what burns in our guts and hearts. The inspiration from the connection we get to a story, authored by another. This is a human ability, a need – this storytelling. It is not brandished upon the “special” or the “chosen,” or those particularly gifted with whatever abilities we may envy, because we think we lack.
    Comes down to the doing, and the willingness to keep showing up for the call, even when it takes us to places we had never thought at the beginning.
    Thank you for recommending this book, but what is exciting to me is that it is yet another success story of a regular person, who continued to answer the call, and saw it through to its fruition. Now there is something tangible for all of us to share, and to make of it what we will. Thank you, Steven, and congratulations to Mr. McClellan – you are an inspiration to me this morning, and that is enough sparkly fuel for me to pick up and keep going.

    • Charlie Kunken on May 6, 2020 at 11:19 am

      Totally agree with Ms. Moretti, I’m as excited by the description of the book as I am reading about how it was written! He did it! Yes!!

  4. Maurice Gavin on May 6, 2020 at 9:13 am

    Sir, I am a former protege of David Allen(author of Getting Things Done) who gave myself and his entire staff your War of Art back in 2008 as our Christmas present. You signed it. At first,resistance had me give it to my writer mother-in-law as I didn’t even open it to see that it was a personally signed copy. Upon seeing the signature, she gave it back to me and said “I think this belongs to you”.

    I now read it one segment per day as part of my daily routine as it re-grooves in the truths therein that not only obviously apply to art, but also to every aspect of business. My latest effort

    A thousand thanks, though resistance sometimes wins, I stop it within the same day versus a month or two later.

  5. Bojan Simendic on May 6, 2020 at 10:00 am

    This is inspiring! Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Gwen Abitz on May 6, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Personalizing the P.S: If I find myself wanting another writer to write “the book” burning in my gut – STOP – take a deep breath, then write that book yourself. OH WELL!! What your friend had done was quite a reminder what I had done 7 years ago after watching Oprah’s Interview with you about your book, THE WAR OF ART.

  7. Jule Kucera on May 6, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Thank you, Steve. I’ve downloaded a copy and will write a review.

    PS: Lovely freesias behind you. My favorite flower—not just elegantly beautiful but their scent, ahhhh…..

  8. Renita on May 6, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Thanks, Steve!
    This is so like you.

  9. Gene Czap on May 6, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    “When you are ready the teacher will come.” What an inspiring story! Laying it all out and making it to the other side of the ocean. Monumental. Steve, you are truly a source of the wondrous. About two years ago I made a discovery in golf and at one point, as a former teacher, I asked myself “Who will write it if you don’t?” So I cast off my own vessel into the sea and finished CUPMASTER, my first book. It’s on Amazon and got my first check as a writer, great reviews. What I am most proud is that I FINISHED and got it out there. Now I’m in the process of completing my first novel and it’s a struggle at times but I know I will get there. Again, thank you for doing what you do.

  10. Richard Brady Williams on May 7, 2020 at 10:04 am

    Thanks Steve. I too have been caught up in one of those “story morphing phenomena” that you discussed.

    Two years ago, my oldest grandson became interested in my published history books. He asked if we could co-write a short “family & friends” epic fantasy-adventure book for middle school kids. What did I know about writing kids’ books? What did I know about fantasy since the only books that I had ever read were LoTR and GoT?

    I began to study the genre and elicit my grandson’s “vision” for a Medieval-era book that combines dragons and dinosaurs with magic and warfare. On the way, I fell in love with mid-grade fantasy/adventure books by CS Lewis, Rick Riordan, John Flanagan, Susan Collins (pre-Hunger Games), Christopher Paolini et al…while re-reading Tolkien and Martin.

    I got hooked and semi-retired a year ago to focus on my writing, which I hoped to do but never had the guts to pull the trigger. Your books were instrumental in my taking the final leap to become an entrepreneur-author, which, ironically, fits in with my having been a biotech business entrepreneur for 35 years. Thanks!

    My grandson and I decided to roll the dice and create a trilogy. He’s now ten. We’re almost done with Book One (350 pp) and have developed a construct for the next two books. We got six beta-reader kids involved and hired a Disney author to edit/guide. They loved the book and have helped us to improve it. Making the most of Pandemic Sheltering. Pushing ahead to explore commercial publishing.

    Look forward to reading/reviewing The Sand Sea.

  11. Apostolis Alexopoulos on May 8, 2020 at 4:28 am

    Thank you mr. Steven,

    I can relate to mr. McClennan. When I was working on a 8-hours-total job, I found myself being able to write for 2 hours 40 mins every wotking day, and a bit longer in the weekends. Now a new job is ahead of me and Im trying to keep my full 5-hours writing until it “grasps” me, possibly in a few weeks.

    I believe that the Muse may help people who have to work and write at the same time: Although it gets almost impossible to keep your pace, I feel that the Muse gives you extra gifts when trying to do that.

    Good luck for your friend’s new book, I’m not sure that I can read it all – i am a quite slow reader and I always run out of time in everything else since I started my book – but I’ll try my best in the coming six weeks.

  12. Marina Goritskaia on May 8, 2020 at 7:05 am

    I have an idea of a book that I’d propose to some better version of myself, but the perspective of writing it is depressing.

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    It’s refreshing to see an author doing a video promoting a book that’s not their own! this sounds great – thank you!

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