The Artist’s Work

The artist’s work, like the migrant laborer’s, requires intention. It requires will. The artist must want to achieve her end.

The artist’s work requires effort. It demands exertion. The artist, like the teamster or the arc-welder, must summon her resources, mental as well as physical, and apply them in the direction of the task she wishes to accomplish.

The artist’s work is for others, not for herself.

The artist’s labor, like the coal miner’s, is enacted in the teeth of active resistance. As the seam of anthracite fights against being broken apart and extracted, so the choreographer’s vision of movement resists her conceiving it, grasping it, enacting it.

The artist’s toil, like the stevedore’s, requires patience and perseverance. It demands effort over time. The artist must return day after day, week after week, to her task. 

The artist’s work involves risk. Failure. Exposure. A dream crushed.

The artist’s labor requires courage. It demands grit and guts. The artist digs like a miner. The artist erects like a stonemason. The artist hunts, the artist fishes, the artist plants and plows, the artist tends, the artist harvests.

Everything the artist does has its parallel in physical labor.

The only difference is the artist’s workplace is her imagination. Her toil is mental. Her field and factory reside in her head.

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.

noboybookcover

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

41 Comments

  1. Tolis Alexopoulos on March 23, 2022 at 3:27 am

    Thank you for reminding us the hardships, dear Steve

    One would spontaneously think that being an artist is joy, it is beauty and excitement. And indeed it can be for one, it certainly is when we are children and create works of art.

    But when we are older and the need for survival strikes in, we understand that we must change our “mode” from being free through art, to being disciplined. This sounds like a paradox, the very notion of freedom (art) being caged in the depths of discipline and hardship and obstacles.

    But this way, it seems whole too. The fight between freedom and hard work, between being who we are -even weak and silly, untamed, skin deep- and being who we should be in order to achieve. And the hope that one day the fight will become love between the opposing sides and thus a kind of wholeness.

    Only the workers will tell <3

    My best wishes to everyone!

  2. Yvonne on March 23, 2022 at 5:03 am

    Ilove the beautiful and poignant comparisons you made. They really illustrated the characteristics we need to develop. I really loved: “The artist’s work involves risk. Failure. Exposure. A dream crushed. The artist’s labor requires courage.” I needed to hear that. Thanks Steve!

  3. Jackie on March 23, 2022 at 5:14 am

    Hard work for little or no reward? Why stop now? Roll up the sleeves and get to it! Because just maybe, this time?

    • Diane Dreher on March 23, 2022 at 9:29 am

      Thank you for the powerful reminder, Steve. Much of our work is invisible because it happens in the mind and because it is invisible we can forget that it is vital work, requiring dedicated effort and perseverance.

  4. Sue on March 23, 2022 at 7:18 am

    Thank you, Steve. This is just what I needed to hear today. Reading about the anthracite seam made me realize why I like to watch the show Gold Rush; it’s not only the large (and rare nuggets) but the accumulation of all the small flakes that come together at the weekly weighing. Neither of which can be found or collected without a lot of physical effort.
    Back to the mental mine and sending gratitude your way.

  5. Thomas Barnhill on March 23, 2022 at 7:23 am

    Barry Lopez was one of my heroes as a young, aspiring writer. I had the fortune to go to several of his book readings during his life. I have a few unsent letters written to him which I lamented last night as I went to bed in the knowledge that he passed in the last few years. I recall one book reading, perhaps at Berkeley’s iconic Black Oak Books, where an audience member asked the inevitable question something along the lines of, “My daughter wants to be a writer, what would you tell her to do?” In his response to more accurately frame the craft he said to look at it as if one were doing “manual labor” and to think of the task of writing more like building a brick wall. Tough, repetitive, gritty, heavy, sloppy, dirty, painful work. That always stuck with me. Thanks for the refresher SP.

  6. Brad Graft on March 23, 2022 at 7:25 am

    This post is classic Steven Pressfield. Art is work. Simply Do The Work. Do so and it will bring momentum.

  7. Mia Sherwood Landau on March 23, 2022 at 7:40 am

    Poetry. Laser-precise, drop-dead truth. I am 100% certain you wrote this to me. Thank you.

  8. Susan Setteducato on March 23, 2022 at 8:36 am

    Just…yes.

  9. Mia on March 23, 2022 at 8:44 am

    Thank you for this, and for sharing your voice. I can hear you saying this in my mind.

  10. Maureen Anderson on March 23, 2022 at 9:00 am

    This reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s impression of his comedy work, that it’s like being a carpenter: “I do nice, detailed work.”

  11. J J Hicks on March 23, 2022 at 9:27 am

    Needed this post today. “Enacted in the teeth of active resistance.” It is the same effort day and unrelenting day. And you chose this. I remember that I like this. That I want to do this. Return to the tactics that you know and have developed to write the next paragraph, the next section, the next sentence.

  12. Bing on March 23, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Right this minute I have over a 100 pieces of art lying on my living room floor that I have made over the last 26 years. In two days they are going to be made into an art book. This post is perfect for me this morning. Yes, it has been like laying brick, scrubbing a burned pot for for two hours or like those little birds that fly non stop to Hawaii. I love the language that is spoken here. We take turns being the lead goose in the ‘V’ formation. Sure love you all.

    • Sam Luna on March 23, 2022 at 10:01 am

      That’s awesome Bing. A lifetime of work….what a thing it will be to have that book in your hands!

    • Kate Stanton on March 23, 2022 at 10:24 am

      Goose honk right back at ya from the back, Bing! 🙂

    • Joe on March 24, 2022 at 3:37 am

      Good on ya, Bing!

  13. Kate Stanton on March 23, 2022 at 10:18 am

    Audience or not, you know what was more soul crushing to me than having a dream unrealized? Doing nothing. Ignoring it. It festered in me to the point where I left a concert in tears because it pained me to watch someone do what I so badly denied myself of. This poignant blog post today made me think of this: we are on a journey. The Artist’s Journey. A hero’s journey as Steve says. Journey. Not a destination. I should learn to enjoy the journey with all its pain and hard work. Thank you Writing Wednesdays community. Just what I needed to read today…
    Have a productive and creative week!

    • Maureen Anderson on March 23, 2022 at 12:00 pm
      • Kate Stanton on March 23, 2022 at 1:35 pm

        Oh. My. Goodness. I have tears in my eyes reading that. How many people need to hear those 2 words? You Matter. Your art matters. <3!! To you AND Katie!

      • Ellen on March 23, 2022 at 2:04 pm

        Thank you for sharing that IG post. I am a visual artist (painter). So I can appreciate the feelings the concert goer experienced. I have felt that pain and grief when going to openings.

        • Maureen Anderson on March 23, 2022 at 2:20 pm

          I almost sent you an eMail with that link, Kate, instead of sharing it here (not wanting to monopolize the comments section). Then I thought, “What if it struck a chord with someone else, too?”

          With that: I love your art, Ellen — especially what’s listed under “Contemporary” on your site — and your bio is fun to read!

        • Kate Stanton on March 24, 2022 at 8:49 am

          Your use of color, light and shadow on Pink Peony is incredible!! WOW.

  14. Jurgen Strack on March 23, 2022 at 10:23 am

    Superb analogy! Superb post!! Superb pursuit!!!

  15. Lindsay on March 24, 2022 at 2:54 pm

    Picky, picky I know, but I would liken it more to farming, or building a house. In those cases, until you’re done you’ve got nothing but hours of struggle. A coal miner produces coal, hourly; a stevedore has cargo loaded and unloaded. Every day is validation, reward, from outside. Not so for the artist who works anonymously, in private, creating and polishing and struggling, day in and day out.
    But that’s just the way I feel about it.

  16. Max on March 25, 2022 at 3:40 am

    A proverb says: “When you’re ready, the master will appear”. Thank you for this post, dear Steve. Yours are the words of a Master,

  17. Gwen on March 25, 2022 at 7:46 am

    It will be two weeks since I received the (expensive) critique of my much-loved novel. Talk about being knocked out cold. I feel a bit like “Rocky” struggling to get off the ropes. I’m no longer young with time to spare and yet — I hurt at the criticism — The critique sits aside and I work on other projects but it’s painful to know a professional seemingly sees little promise in my work. Oh well. I will confront my Apollo Creed on Monday. At my age I’m finding it hard to settle for even a pyrrhic victory. Ahh, the dormant demon of self doubt.

  18. Ricky on March 29, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing that IG post. I am a visual artist (painter). So I can appreciate the feelings the concert goer experienced. I have felt that pain and grief when going to openings.

    • Ricky on March 29, 2022 at 11:08 pm

      I like this blogspot and i hope u always make good article from : Ricky

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