Resistance and Dreams #2

Picking up from last week, the dream described in that post has helped a little. But I’m still being hammered by self-doubt about this new book. 

The dream below came a few days later:

I was in an open-sided, roofed shelter, somewhere back East. My van had gotten a diagnosis from a mechanic: some serious issue like a transmission (the van was in storage, as if in NY). I knew that as soon as we put the van into the shop, far more serious issues would come to light and I would have to basically rebuild the whole vehicle. This meant (in the dream) that I would have to go back to work full-time to pay for it. This was the phrase I heard and used in the dream, “go back to work full time.” Somehow the dream then cut to a river canyon like a small Grand Canyon with steep rock walls and a river running below, strongly, out of eyeline. The purpose of this location in the dream (somehow I realized this) was to show me classic cuts from three iconic movies (not real movies, just movies in the dream) to inspire me somehow. I think I saw the first two, though not the third. Both had Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, in their later years, as actors in Westerns. The river itself was decidedly “Western.” In one cut, Stewart delivered some line to John Wayne to the effect of,  “Only one person can pull this off …and that’s you.” In the dream this read indeed like a classic movie line, like “Make my day.” I noted particularly, watching John Wayne, that he was soaking wet from the river and dirty, his clothes, his hair. I thought, Wow, they are really committed to making this movie seem real. The suffering is depicted with tremendous authenticity, like in “The Revenant.”

In analyzing a dream, I use Robert Johnson’s technique from his book, Inner Work. Dr. Johnson is a renowned Jungian therapist. One of the principles he employs is to write down all the associations you have with a particular character or image in the dream. Even if you have twenty of these, one will “click,” he says. This will give you an idea of what that image means for you (even if it might mean something completely different for someone else).

My ’65 Chevy van is a recurring image in my dreams. In real life, it was the vehicle I lived in during the period that I’d call my “hero’s journey”—when I was broke and on the road, running away from writing. In dreams, my van seems to represent the wellspring of creativity for me. It’s the “pure” time, the deep struggle. 

Water in my dreams almost always represents creative flow. A river, a gushing spring … those are always good. 

My interpretation: I have not, in real life, been working full-time on GOVT CHEESE. I’ve been stealing snatches of time, an hour here and there. The result is my van (the soul source of my creativity) is revealing mechanical issues and is going to reveal more. Something is wrong. I have to fix it. This could mean the way I’m doing the book, the POV, the tone of voice, the narrative device. That could be what needs to be addressed. I don’t think it’s the actual “vehicle” itself, i.e. the source of creativity. The river with the fast-flowing water shows there is creative impetus to hand. Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne represent archetypal “sages” that have meaning for me, even if they don’t for young people today. They are modeling for me, in cinematic form, what I need to aspire to in GOVT CHEESE. Classic, old school stuff, whatever that means. Bottom line: I am being called to move to the Sage Archetype and accept this without reservation. This will “rebuild” the vehicle.

I need to “go back to work full-time” on GOVT CHEESE.

This dream helps a lot. I’m still racked with irresolution, but my confidence is growing. I am getting closer to really committing to this book.

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.

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.

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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?"

Turning-Pro

The
Warrior
Archetype

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24 Comments

  1. Peter Brockwell on January 6, 2021 at 2:45 am

    Hey Steve,
    It could be that the van is really your creative home and always will be. Perhaps wading into the full flow of the river is the leap of faith your need to commit to? Wherever this canyon is, we’re on the bank, urging you into the water.

    ‘Govt Cheese’ – great working title!
    Regards,
    Peter

  2. Melanie Wehrwein on January 6, 2021 at 6:24 am

    This, as usual, feels like sage wisdom. Thank you for teaching through sharing, guiding yourself with sturdy tools unearthed in the challenges of actual lived experience, in turn guiding us to know and use those tools. I look forward to when you alchemize this book into being, into soaking wet, dirty, sage authenticity. No doubt you will!

  3. Brian Nelson on January 6, 2021 at 8:06 am

    Steve,
    It seems to me, one of the reasons we all show up here, is that we’ve recognized your archetypal move to Sage years ago. Maybe (but WTF do I really know), the dream to telling you to accept you are already the Sage. You’ve been acting it out for years: War of Art, Do the Work, Turning Pro, Artists Journey, this blog…

    Again, another WTF do I know stab in the dark, I’m guessing you still see yourself as the guy who struggles with Resistance, just another line Soldier–maybe an mid-grade NCO at this point, certainly not the Gunny or General. How you might see you, and how we see you are different. That must be baked into the human condition. I’m not sure our views of ourselves are always aligned with how others see us.

    Ok, last crazy ass hypothesis, maybe when you (or ‘one’ as my HS English teacher taught me) actually begins to see themselves accurately (like the world sees-both good and bad) then you’ve actually embraced the archetype.

    There is not a website that has remained in my favorites as long as Stevenpressfield.com (9 years now?)…that should say something. I don’t know any authors as prolific in both fiction and non-fiction. Because you can get your truth across in metaphor and clear, concise language–if that isn’t Sage type shit, I don’t know what is..

    How does one address a Sage? I think I’ve been way too informal…
    bsn

    • E.k Weston on January 12, 2021 at 7:08 am

      Brian, totally. 🙃

  4. Keena on January 6, 2021 at 8:46 am

    I would add one thing that I see… That is that Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne are the two aspects of Steven’s sage “self” – Jimmy as the soul or wise-self (who is “on high” at the rim of the canyon), and John as the material self who has climbed to the rim in search of answers from the sage on the rim. John is the guy who’s “gotta do the work”.

    Note that John is absolutely soaked in creativity and wrestling in the dirt of accomplishing the quest or task. As well, it could be digging up the “dirt”, the substance, that’s the content of this new book.

    Together the water of inspiration and the dirt have created mud. It’s a difficult and dirty job and the guy who’s gotta do the work is wondering if he can really deal with all the mud. Jimmy reminds John that ONLY HE can do it.

    As an artist, John/Steven needs to take the mud he’s created unintentionally and USE IT to sculpt something beautiful. He must remember to keep it wet with Creative Source to keep it from drying out and becoming just the digging and grappling “work” again.

    Thanks for being so vulnerable, Steven, I always get so much from your work. 🙂

    • Brian Nelson on January 6, 2021 at 9:09 am

      Keena,
      You might have missed a calling as a dream interpreter! That was brilliant!
      bsn

    • Kevin R Worthley on January 6, 2021 at 9:10 am

      I agree with Keena’s interpretation of the archtypes as well – struck me in the same manner. Additionally, the line delivered by Jimmy Stewart reminded me of Steve’s archtype “Sarge”, the Marine gunnery sergeant in a another life-changing dream he wrote about (War of Art?).

      • Steven Pressfield on January 6, 2021 at 2:35 pm

        You guys are going deep! This is great. Thanks for being receptive to this stuff.

  5. Michael Esser on January 6, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Great dream, great interpretation, thanks a lot.

    From what I have read from you in the past, I would think it might be also beneficial to radically change your interpretation. You always talk about your cross country journey as a ‘running away’ from writing and being creative. What if the journey was your attempt to travel towards creativity? The broken van and your refusal to work ‘full-time’ to get it repaired is you resisting to make the right decision. The canyon, the river and the movie stars show you where you would be able to be if you took the van and drove off, into your imagination.

    In my experience dreams have this uncanny ability to destroy the beliefs I hold dearest about myself and to show me what happens if I would let go of them.

    Just a thought.

  6. Andrew+Lubin on January 6, 2021 at 9:09 am

    Interesting story this week! I took it as the van represented your potential writing career; if you put the work into the van, the results will rock your world, but sporadic shade-tree mechanical half-assery wasn’t going to get it done . Haven’t you written about how writing needs to be a 0900-1700, 110% commitment? You made the commitment and look at the result.

    I was going to take advantage of a break in today’s PA weather and futz with some work my old car needs…now it seems I better stay inside and write!

  7. cheryl on January 6, 2021 at 9:57 am

    That was so fantastic how you got the meaning of the van, This morning as a did my morning walk I took a photo of a 1965 W van out front of my place, there’s something deep here for me, thank you for the light

  8. Sam Luna on January 6, 2021 at 10:33 am

    There are lots of us out here that need this book, Coach. Thanks for sharing your process thus far.

    • Amanda on January 13, 2021 at 1:42 pm

      Refurbishing the old seems to dominate this dream. Maybe this refurbishing could be using different metaphors other then war like imagery. A warrior of peace and harmony would being healing to this world.

  9. Linda Reed Gardner on January 6, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Thank you for your post about hitting the wall and beating yourself up over it. If someone who wrote such brilliant books has the courage to reveal that he is floundering, then who am I to waste any more time shaming and hating myself over being at the bottom of the old well?
    The letter from the Finnish writer was an absolute knife in the heart. When the tiny number for authors who receive huge advances are trumpeted all over the literary worked it is impossible not to feel as if one has wasted a lot of time.. What is a “failed” writer? It seems to be someone who is not now rich. due to their writing. The general public seems to think that if you are a “writer” you must either be unimaginably wealthy OR an utter failure. No middle ground to be human.
    If you are the “failure,” and unfortunately also female, you are instantly the person that no one “wants to be like.” As in, “I don’t even want to wind up like YOU, broke and single.”I’ll marry men I don’t love, stay in a bad marriage, whatever it takes.” And they do. Every woman knows in her bones that her only realistic chance is to make the traditional deal and stick to it.
    So, as you said, I’m bering the only person I could haver been, and why on earth assume the other deal would have been anything but a slow death?
    The one optimistic thing, the most important thing I have to say here, is that every time I have been stuck in my writings it was because something was not right. it can take months to see this, but there always needed to be a change, or an addition, another direction, and the work has always been much better because I was forced to stop. As Wendell Berry said, “It is when we do not know what to do next that our real work has begun.”
    Agonizing as hitting the wall always is, it always turned out to have been for a critical purpose.
    To be continued, and to our Finnish friend, every woman knows the unbearable pain of looking back and realizing you may have made the wrong choice. But do not assume that you missed fifty years of a happy marriage. Look at too many of your female friends, who are so much less than they could have been. Is it worth it? I am still not sure.

  10. Jose Casado on January 6, 2021 at 11:21 am

    Sir, “Only one person can pull this [book] off… and that’s you.” It sounds like you are the soaked, dirty westerner, knowing you must jump back in that river again, and again, and again.

    Thank you for sharing. It’s more encouraging than you may know.

  11. Joe Jansen on January 6, 2021 at 12:03 pm

    Great examples of bringing the dream world into the waking world, tapping the unconscious for the insights that hide there. From the level of dream detail that Steve can recall, you can tell that it’s a regular practice for him (the only way to get this level of detail is to write them down regularly).

    I liked what novelist James Lee Burke had to say about the unconscious and dreams, and how it fits into a writing practice. Short clip… from 3:37 to 4:20 here:

    https://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2013/10/11/september-27-2013-james-lee-burke/20340/

  12. Yvonne on January 6, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    So much of this to love. I cannot express how much I look forward to every single Wednesday to read what you’ve posted, what you had to say to us. And indeed, if only one person can pull this story off, it’s you! Thank you for sharing your struggle with us…it makes me feel less alone in my own struggle.

  13. Danielle on January 6, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    Maybe the working title could do with an upgrade?

  14. Maxima Kahn on January 6, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Before I read your interpretation of the dream, I thought, what a great dream! The van is his book, broken down, in need of serious repair. He needs to go back to work full-time on it, with full commitment. You’re going to have to rebuild the book, “basically rebuild the whole vehicle.” But you’re the only one who can do it, as Jimmy Stewart reminds you. So auspicious! Plus, you’re in an open-sided, roofed shelter at the start. You have shelter but it’s not confining, there are different options for where you can go with this. Anyway, that was my take, for what it’s worth.

  15. Marcelo López on January 6, 2021 at 6:00 pm

    If I only committed to writing FULL TIME… Is it also a dream of mine?

  16. Leah G. on January 7, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    Any chance the reoccurring east-west connotations could relate to eastern and western ideas, perhaps philosophical? Maybe an orienting hint (forgive the pun) pertaining to your quest for the right structure or form? That was just the theme that jumped out to me based on the words you were led use in recounting the dreams themselves. It doesn’t precisely relate to the imagery, but it also wouldn’t be the first dream caught resorting to cheeky wordplay in its presentation.

    The unlabeled Hemingway maps are also interesting because you can’t read text in dreams anyway. So even if they’d been labeled with places and features, you would still just have to “know” what they described. The fact that they were blank seems to make explicit that you weren’t meant to immediately understand them.

  17. Jurgen+Strack on January 8, 2021 at 9:49 am

    Keep the faith!
    Keep believing!

  18. Katie m. Berggren on January 12, 2021 at 9:00 am

    this actually gave me chills – amazing! I’m going to pay more attention to my dreams. Thank you for sharing, Sincerely, Kate

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