Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be, #2

My friend Frank Oz has a term for this. He calls it “going the distance.” 

It’s an inner test Frank applies at the start of any project, not just to himself but to anyone he will prospectively collaborate with—on a movie, a play, whatever. He asks himself, “Is this person someone who will give it their all, who will commit unconditionally to this work and this alliance? Is this someone who is capable of digging deep, of going to the core of the material, no matter how much it hurts?”

Can you and I pass Frank’s test?

This is, to me, the second-level meaning of “Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

We talked last week of the physical dimension. 

Sit your body down in front of the keyboard.

Transplant your physical person to the city where your dream is most likely to find its home soil.

But the second level of this axiom is about the inner body. It means “move to the Paris in your mind.” 

Depth of commitment.

That locus within your soul where your dream resides … can you move your will and your intention and your love to that metropolis? If we could take a Google Earth photo of your inner world, would we find your cat and your dog and your family parked there—at the epicenter of the dream?

When a movie director like Frank Oz takes on a project, he’s like you and me at the start of a novel. He’s projecting a two- or three-year commitment. He knows that at some point during that passage, the wheels of the project will come off. A crisis will present itself at which the faint of heart will pull the ripcord and bail. That’s when Frank’s term “go the distance” comes in.

He wants men and women on his movie-making team who will hang in, no matter what. Because that’s the only way great work gets done.

But Frank doesn’t only mean, “Stay when the going gets tough.” He means, “Burrow deep. Work at depth. Dig to the heart of the project and don’t fade when the material resists.”

“How much do you want it?”

“What price are you willing to pay to make this thing succeed?”

“Have you moved—lock, stock, and barrel—to your inner Paris?”


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. Rock Kendzior on July 28, 2021 at 6:59 am

    I’m all in. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Linda on July 28, 2021 at 7:03 am

    great post. great to think about.

  3. Gigi Blackshear on July 28, 2021 at 7:11 am

    This is reverberating through my soul. Paris is one of my favorite places in the world. I am grateful you keep shoving me back in my seat!

  4. Cindi Peterson on July 28, 2021 at 7:12 am

    O so timely. Great encouragement. Solid challenge. Thanks.

  5. Chris Wiseman on July 28, 2021 at 7:15 am

    Gratitude. This and the previous post are what I needed to read at this moment.

  6. Kate Stanton on July 28, 2021 at 7:16 am

    Oh my do I love this. “Is this someone who is capable of digging deep, of going to the core of the material, no matter how much it hurts?”
    I sure hope so! I am trying to be. I didn’t realize just how much it will hurt, though! My inner Paris is in a post-WW2 reconstruction era; I guess this means I have a stronger foundation? Thanks for the encouragement today, Steven!

  7. mike on July 28, 2021 at 7:25 am

    I must, I must, even through the resistance! I WILL!

    • Mia Sherwood Landau on July 28, 2021 at 8:17 am

      Oh, Steven, how long it can take, as you well know, to determine where we are going and why, let alone who is the traveler. The depth of determination is futile without clarity on who, where and why. Achieving clarity has consumed my life, in a good way. Just my 2 cents, as usual. Writing this I realized that what I am writing about myself I must also know for my characters. Wow.

      • michael lally on July 28, 2021 at 8:27 am

        Brilliantly stated …. who is the traveler is the essence of clarity.

  8. Chuck DeBettignies on July 28, 2021 at 7:30 am

    “Going to the core of the material, no matter how much it hurts.” So I not only have my own personal Resistance going on. I have the material/project presenting Resistance.

    Such an awesome insight!

  9. John J. Checki Jr. on July 28, 2021 at 7:43 am

    Yep. Dug in Deed and Stick to It.

  10. Paul D'Arcy on July 28, 2021 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for well-described push.
    I get it…..today.
    May have to come back tomorrow to “get it” again…and the day after, and the day after, and the day after that too. And that’s okay. -In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s my job.

    Thanks again, Steven.

  11. NS on July 28, 2021 at 8:15 am

    I am afraid I am one of those cowards who don’t go the distance. Probably never have. I am at the precipice of finishing the first draft of my first novel, but I don’t know who is resisting more – me or the material. I am ashamed to write that I have been sitting on the 60,000 word milestone for over 9 months, shoving, pushing, dragging the boulder a few hundred words every few months. I know I am resilient in other parts of my life. Have survived being transplanted across continents, leaving incompatible relationships, living all alone in the midst of a pandemic without speaking to a ‘real ‘ person for weeks, months. Yet, my creative muscles have atrophied. I pray to the Muse. I chant my prayers. I have changed the scene during the summer, but yet to hear the siren call of the goddess. Will continue praying and wandering down these dark alleys, hoping that sheer dumb luck will set me back on my path again.

    • Joe Jansen on July 28, 2021 at 9:10 am

      Keep at it, NS. You’re not alone.

    • Robert W. Enzenauer, MD on July 28, 2021 at 10:30 am

      Agree. Don’t give up. WATCH Galaxy Quest…. again.. “Never give up….Never give in”. Pressfield is a marine Vietnam vet. He didn’t ever quit. Remember the Seal creed – the only easy day was yesterday. I have written, edited three textbooks. Working on #4 – the EVIL EYE. Will probably attempt a novel in the future. I know it isn’t easy, but as my WWII vet father used to say…. “You gotta fish, or cut bait.” He also used to say “You gotta shit or get off the pot.!” Robert W. Enzenauer, MD, BG Retired

      • NS on July 29, 2021 at 3:02 am

        Many thanks, Joe. I lurk around, often waiting to read your comments as much as Steven’s posts. 🙂

        Thank you for the boost, Dr Enzenauer. I will check out Galaxy Quest. I also smiled reading your father’s suggestions. So true and very relevant in this day and age of constant mental stimulations leading to half-hanging multi-tasking all the time. His advice is golden. So inspirational to know that you have been successful repeatedly in your quests. There is hope for me too.

  12. robyn weinbaum on July 28, 2021 at 9:06 am

    sometimes you have to know when to bail. there comes a point where sacrificing your life, your mental health, the life and/or well-being of those around you, cannot be justified.
    this is true in work, in creativity, in relationships.
    sometimes, you have to have the guts to say, ENOUGH! i am done.
    i know too many people who ‘give it their all’ because that’s what you do.
    only that opens the potential for abuse, for neglect, for sanctimonious narcissism.

    • Kati Reijonen on July 28, 2021 at 10:11 am

      What if you cannot decide which city to go to? What if there are too many cities inside you?

      I have now 5 drafts on my Scrivener and am getting crazy with them, not knowing which one to focus on.

      There are so many books and so very little time…

    • Kristin Slater on July 28, 2021 at 5:47 pm

      I’ve got to agree with you. Sometimes you have to put limits on ambitions or dreams because you realize other things, like your family, relationships…sanity, are just as important to you as your writing and those other things cannot always take a back seat. If you don’t make time for the people and relationships you care about then you could wake up one day to find everyone has moved on to other things and people that valued them as much as you should have. Being a successful author is no fun when there’s no one left to share your success with.

    • Mia Sherwood Landau on July 29, 2021 at 4:56 am

      Amen, Robyn. An important counterpoint. Life-saving for some of us.

  13. Joe Jansen on July 28, 2021 at 9:11 am

    #2 seems like the hard part. Moving to Paris is easy. Sitting in place is hard.

    • Jule Kucera on July 28, 2021 at 10:43 am

      Moving to Paris is easy. Sitting in place is hard.

      Amen, brother.

      • Joe on July 28, 2021 at 4:59 pm

        Yeah, sister.

  14. Sam Luna on July 28, 2021 at 9:29 am

    David Mamet wrote that working in the arts is like being a prospector panning for gold. And posed the philosophical question that if you went back in time to California during the Gold Rush, and handed one of those prospectors hip-deep in cold stream water a million dollars, would they be happy or sad? And so to be in the arts you have to (happily) labor, as they did, outdoors in the wilderness with your donkey and your pan, and enjoy life outdoors, whether you find the gold or not. So yeah … be it Paris or the cold stream, you can’t go home again. Great series, Coach, thanks!

  15. Jesse on July 28, 2021 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for this! Serendipitously timed!

    • Dubem Menakaya on July 28, 2021 at 1:58 pm

      One of my favourite songs is ‘Go The Distance’ from Hercules. I know I can, and have in other areas of my life. The book is a journey thus far I have not yet completed. I’ve evolved now though, played the game and am aware of the obstacles. Still it’s going to be some adventure. As I embark again on the marathon for my first solo book, I will Go The Distance. God’s got it. One day at a time…..

  16. Brad Graft on July 28, 2021 at 11:25 am

    Hey NS– Hang tough. Keep working it. If your “creative muscles have atrophied,” consider flipping your mental switch to the left brain for just a bit. Maybe rework your outline again, consider working through Steve’s “Foolscap Method.” With a slightly revised/improved plan, your creative side may then be rekindled. Sending you good vibes.

    • NS on July 29, 2021 at 2:58 am

      Thank you so much, Brad. I will indeed try to do that. I have a great outline, chapter notes, synopsis, back cover blurb…the whole jingbang. I just need to embody Steven’s last post and park my ass down to write. I have recognized the mental barrier for what it is – ego. I am afraid that whatever I write will come out stupid. If I can truly learn to be a helpless babe in arms and wait for Mother Muse to take care of me, let her flow through me, that fear gives way to childlike wonder. “What if its stupid, its what I streamed.” 🙂 Thanks for the hope, camaraderie and very very good suggestions. I will try the Foolscap Method.

  17. Jurgen+Strack on July 28, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Hi – when I got so far with my debut novel manuscript, I got a bit of feedback on some chapters from members of a Writer’s Group I joined. I must say, I found it very useful and reworked some of my stuff feeling better about it.

    For sure, the harder you want something the more likely you are to get it, aren’t you? A good daily routine helps, too. Sitting down at the laptop I find the easy bit. I get frustrated a bit as I am on my final re-read, finding myself making more changes than i’d like to. But how many times can one rewrite anyway?

    I have upped the stakes, work harder now, identify with my work more – am going the distance.

    Thank you for your post Steve and everyone for their comments and contributions.

  18. Michael Esser on July 28, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    That’s the great and amazing thing about this country. People cheer each other up, they support each other, even if it is “only” with a “you got this.” I come from Germany and if someone there tells you about their difficulties, you have to be critical, deliver a quick thesis-antithesis synthesis, something like “So you want to stop writing your novel? Do you have another project, on which you can spend your time more profitably? – On the other hand, how much time have you invested in this project? All this would be lost if you gave up now. – If you have nothing better, try to stick with it. ” If you just perk someone up, you run the risk of not being taken seriously next time. In my simplicity I have come to the conclusion that the difference is between a country that is so small that you always meet twice (Germany) and a country that is so big that you will probably never see each other again (the USA). If you never see each other again, why not give the other person the best you can give: a sense of hope? Even at the risk that they think you are simple-minded.

    • NS on July 29, 2021 at 2:55 am

      @Michael Esser: This made me laugh. I now live in Sweden and am currently spending the summer in Denmark. This is us, too. I wonder if all Northern European cultures of ‘tough love’ have a common historical or even better, mythological reason? Cold, harsh winters? Weaklings being a drag on the society? Overtly masculine values? That does not explain their modern day socialist political systems of taking care of the weakest. Its a fascinating puzzle.

      • Michael Esser on August 4, 2021 at 9:51 am

        @NS: A historian once told me that the ‘tough love’ attitude, at least when it comes to Germany’s North, Denmark, the southern parts of Sweden, has to do with bad experiences that are ingrained deeply in the DNA. For Germans, for example, she said, the ur-trauma was the thirty-year war from 1618-1648. 90% of people lived in rural communities, they would never see a stranger in their lives, nor go further than two towns over. And then came the soldiers. From Sweden, from Poland, from Holland, from France, from Spain. They invaded their land, killed all animals, took the winter provisions and went on. And when the towns folk had recovered, a year later, the troops came again, and again, and again. For a whole generation.
        That is, the historian said, the reason why Germans started to build fences around their property, a thing previously unheard of. I always have to chuckle a bit when, here in the Los Angeles suburbs, I see the white picket fences, most obviously a remainder of those long gone days, which came here with the immigrants from those parts, and then slowly went westward.

  19. Tolis Alexopoulos on July 29, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Deep, deep go the roots of infinity!

    And just like all these PC’s and mobiles and laptops are actually only pixels combined in a trillion ways, so are the elements that we may find underneath our “soil”. I understood this a little bit better after watching some insects at the microscope this summer – you could almost see pixels, basis of life! And by digging unstoppably we may find one day the elements that are the pixels of our world -just like Neo from Matrix when he was enlightened, so he could see the code, not the persons, the legs, the hands anymore. And maybe, just maybe, these spiritual(?) pixels we find by digging deep may be parallel to the pixels of the other people and societies, so that we may open the door to communicate with them and find common place very deep under the earth…

  20. Jake on August 24, 2021 at 12:13 am

    Great information. THank you for posting.

  21. Morgan on September 1, 2021 at 7:15 am

    So brilliant!!
    Question I how to stop my obsession once started. It’s like all or nothing and I know it’s better to take breaks

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  28. ricky on April 8, 2022 at 6:39 pm

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