Working for the Man

Question: what will you and I do differently when we exit the ranks of the officially employed and set out on our own as artists or entrepreneurs?

Answer: We’ll do exactly what we did before, only instead of Mister Charley telling us what to do, we’ll tell ourselves. 

Instead of the Man setting the agenda, we’ll set it.

Strother Martin as “the Captain” in COOL HAND LUKE

We decide what our goal is—and how we intend to reach it.

We decide how much we’re willing to sacrifice to reach that goal.

We decide how many hours we will work each day (our total, bank on it, will be much higher than it was when we worked at a mainstream job) and how many weeks and months we will labor per year.

We decide where we will work. We decide when. And with whom.

We decide what time we get up and what time we go to bed. We assign our own vacations and our own days off. (We also assign all-nighters and working weekends.)

We alone will be the arbiters of our success. We’ll set the terms ourselves. (They may be quite different from conventional measures of success.)

We’ll give ourselves a raise if we deserve it. And we’ll kick ourselves in the butt when we screw up.

We will be our own boss, our own mentor, our own cheerleader, and our own psychiatrist.

Can we make this mental shift? Can we flip that switch in our head? Can we go from working for the Man to being the Man?

If our goal is to be a writer or an artist or an entrepreneur, we can’t do it any other way.

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

A Man At Arms is
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44 Comments

  1. Jackie on June 22, 2022 at 3:16 am

    Steve, you have the ability to get into our heads! I just wrote a future post for the blog with a similar message. Did I mention, I’m on vacation? You are spot on. I decide what matters and when and what to do with my time. And in a throw back to last weeks post, what I consider payday. My friend texted, ” I read your post on neighbors and, laughed so hard I almost peed my pants.” She’d benn having a tough week. Best payday ever.

    • Kate Stanton on June 22, 2022 at 6:29 am

      Jackie, I totally agree. I was going to type the same thing. Steve’s muse must have gifted him with tidbits of wisdom and encouraging words to share with other creators right when we need them–we each have our unique gifts–we must give them away! How else can we describe this feeling of being understood? He tapped into the big picture.

      “The song we’re composing already exists in potential. Our work is to find it.” Is my Steven Pressfield quote of the day!!!! Now, how do I find it? Put my ASS where my heart is–on the piano bench! Thanks for kicking my ASS into gear Writing Wednesdays community.

      Much love to all today. If you’re reading this–have a productive and creative day. You are exactly where you need to be in the big picture.

      • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 10:20 am

        Jackie/Kate,
        I agree 100%. I don’t know who gave Steve the skeleton key to my inner world–but he has it for sure. He’s free to stomp around up there dropping truth bombs all the damn time–the only way I can resist it is to stop showing up Wednesdays.

        I believe–and Dea below makes a comment about kneeling–that his ability to manufacture said key is forged in humility. I’m pretty sure that it his courage to open his Kimono to the world that resonates so deeply with us.

        I echo your love and wishes.
        bsn

        • Kate Stanton on June 22, 2022 at 10:55 am

          Wouldn’t Resistance just feed off of this?! “the only way I can resist it is to stop showing up Wednesdays”–Steve is slaying with the finest Katana blade by helping us fight our battles.

          BTW Brian– a song called “Skeleton Key” would be bad ass! Lyrics about someone having the key to your inner thoughts with a catchy refrain dropping a truth bomb. Inspired!!

          • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 11:41 am

            Kate!!! Do it! I’d have it in a playlist loop for my daily run!
            bsn



          • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 22, 2022 at 10:32 pm

            I can feel the inspiration, the will to go to that chair once more and once more and once more. It’s the chair of our dreams! Who would have thought that a chair is the means to the Promised Land?

            Thank you all <3 just go and get it.



  2. Emile Jarreau on June 22, 2022 at 6:54 am

    Yep 😎💪

  3. Tom Vandel on June 22, 2022 at 7:00 am

    In my real life I have a one-man global ad agency called Les Overhead. Les is my alter ego, my boss, and the bane of my life at times. He is the Man. But he is also me and though he forces me to work my day job I can stop anytime I want and go to a movie or a bar or somewhere (I prefer graveyards) to write. Whenever I want. It’s a bit schizo but works for me (us – Les and I).

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 22, 2022 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you Tom. Writing at a graveyard? You search for energies inside you that can be triggered. I think Steven King would do the same. I wonder how we can trigger those energies of life and death even from our desks.

  4. Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 7:07 am

    For me this has been no easy task at all. When I joined the Army back in 1988, I thought it was an escape from my “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” lifestyle that carried on to Modesto Junior College. Had been ‘asked’ to leave the home 2 years earlier, spent a summer couch surfing on friends couches, and ended up spending my senior year of high school in my besties garage. During my pathetic attempt at college the next year, four loose friends–acquaintances is more accurate–rented an apartment in a really shitty part of town.

    In fact, no shit, I came home from class one day, and I witnessed 8 plains-clothed cops doing a drug bust at the apartment below me (who happened to the the apartment complex’s assistant manager). It was a heroin bust! Seriously.
    I looked out the window, saw men with pistols out literally breaking into a the apartment. I was 10 feet above it all. . Then I could here bodies being thrown to the ground–I totally freaked out! On our kitchen table was a 24″ bong that smelled like Hades and I immediately thought they were sweeping the neighborhood…I’m cleaning out this bong frenetically when the phone rings.

    “Hello” I ask timidly. It was a buddy Scott.
    “Hey bro, TSUP?” Scott asked.
    “DUDE! They are busting the guys below for dealing heroin! Come over!” I bellowed because now it was better than a movie…

    I didn’t know at the time that below the surface, I was screaming for structure. I needed discipline. I needed order. My choice to join the Army seemed like the most insane decision in the world, until years later I was talking with a friend’s mom who knew how our family life was. She said, “Brian, I always knew you’d need to do something like that. Your family life was total chaos…”

    I left the Army after 9 years to become a ‘business man’, but fortunately stayed in the Guard. Some of my old behaviors returned–I wasn’t doing PT before work because a commute absorbed another 90-120 minutes from my day. I retuned to the military full-time after 9/11 thinking it was to fight–but the truth was I hadn’t internalized structure and boundaries yet.

    I retired in 2015-and it has still been a struggle–but I think I’m beginning to make some headway.

    For truly irascible characters like myself, I have found “Bright Lines” as the only way forward. I have a bunch of absolutes now that create my boundaries from which I can then be a productive, contributing, and much happier citizen. Here are a few that help keep me from driving off the rails.
    Get up at 0530. Run daily. No fast food-ever. No restaurant food unless it is planned. Fast 2x week. Eat within 6 hour window. No food after 1800. Lights out NLT 2300. Journal 500 words daily…..

    I have found that I have to focus my structure and boundaries around my body first–then work habits, expectations, rules, bright lines become much easier to maintain.

    Being your own boss is its own skillset that I imagine trips up legions of would be artists, entrepreneurs, creatives. Like Steve’s theme it is about “Turning Pro”, but that is NO JOKE in application. It is everything.
    bsn

    • Joe on June 22, 2022 at 7:30 am

      “Get up at 0530. Run daily. No fast food-ever. No restaurant food unless it is planned. Fast 2x week. Eat within 6 hour window. No food after 1800. Lights out NLT 2300. Journal 500 words daily…..”

      … is a good program, covers some of the basics. You got ten minutes to sit wedged in there, brocephus?

      (Hades smells like bongwater? Meh, could be worse.)

      • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 7:47 am

        Joe,
        I agree–but I need to reign in other parts of me before I can meditate, or even contemplate production. Meditation is also a Bright Line rule–but the feedback loop is less concrete for me. That one is more a habit of faith–knowing it helps without seeing it work.
        bsn

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 22, 2022 at 10:55 pm

      Thank you for sharing Brian. I can identify with a lot that you went through. I am a chaotic person too, and I have this hopefully interesting trait: I can be creative all the hours of the day, I actually feel empty not doing so, but my chaotic nature diffuses this energy to many different places, it’s like tasting different wines all the time and enjoying the renewal and the creativity that renewal brings, and not so much staying with one glass of wine until it’s empty. It’s a so beautiful and rejuvenating sensation!

      But Steve through the war of art helped me concentrate that power to the book, it is an epic, for these years. 4 years and still not finished -imagine what would happen if I allowed my self to taste all those other wines too every day.

      To identify more, since a couple of months I’m on a 8 hours eating window (what a revelation! It was as if I was struck by a thunder), I’m almost a vegan, I experiment 5 years now with natural supplements (although I can hear Steve saying, “these are commercial tricks!”), I try to exercise most days of the week etc. I think this is the search for the Inner Stability that will get the chaos’s dark side off us and let us walk that road of the heart -only The road. How we long for it, how we veer off from it..

      Still, every day Resistance is there and gets me. I loose battles but still not the war.

      • Kate Stanton on June 25, 2022 at 3:28 pm

        My dear friend Tolis–with every battle lost, there is an opportunity to grow and learn to become even stronger for the next inevitable battle. Another level, another devil. To paraphrase Steve–you’re on the right track if you’re feeling Resistance! Keep pushing…keep upgrading your weapons against it both mentally and spiritually…keep growing! We see your light!

        • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 28, 2022 at 2:55 am

          Thank you so much Kate! Your words are a beam of light in cloudy days.

  5. Joe Jansen on June 22, 2022 at 7:21 am

    I can see the theme at play in today’s topic: Freedom comes with individual responsibility. Some people may profess a desire for freedom, but will opt instead for the shackles of security that come with some corporate job or shadow career. I’m thinking about “The Matrix” and how people will sometimes willing choose the blue pill.

    • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 10:30 am

      Joe,
      You nailed it. So much to unpack in the relationship to individual responsibility and freedom–and how do we become responsible? For what? For whom? All of our ancient texts point us this way–but so hard to do in real life. Pick up your own cross. Arjuna slaying his ‘friends’. Islam is submission. All of it points to taking 100% responsibility for oneself–which I’m beginning to understand is the only way to inner and outer peace as well. All acts of violence are outward expressions of inner self-hatred–or–put another way–not taking 100% responsibility for oneself. Living up to those deep-seeded values that may be archetypal/collective unconscious or maybe even the underlying conscience we have because we’re made in God’s image. Choose your definition/understanding–either way, both are sacred and critical.

      Sadly the choice to be irresponsible and dependent are so much easier. That is where judgment and hate grenades we toss at each other are created. We fail to live up to ourselves–and blame the world instead of taking responsibility. Instead of not being fat, we demand the world take a vaccine. Instead of taking responsibility for our children’s education, we blame teachers unions and school boards. Instead of choosing to live within our means–we commute 90 minutes one way to satiate our greed/comfort/external pleasures for a larger paycheck–then either blame the government or oil companies when gas is too expensive.

      I’m the monster. Tame yourself, and the rest of the world looks beautiful.
      bsn

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 22, 2022 at 11:05 pm

      Thank you Joe and Brian. Ah! The Matrix… would put it right on top with Lawrence of Arabia and The Lord of the Rings… actually now that I think of it, all of them have inner conflicts as their main theme, and the external conflicts are just triggers even though they may seem to rule. I think.

      I think you just triggered my desire to watch Lawrence again after a long, long time. Maybe it identifies with the chaotic nature and the wonders and adventures behind its seemingly negative dynamics.

      It’s strange, it’s as if we take a piece of the red pill and a piece of the blue pill every day. Not a glorious moment, but as Steve would say, “day in, day out”. Hope we get to that Neverland one day.

  6. Jeffrey Sexton on June 22, 2022 at 7:30 am

    Reminds me of this old joke:

    “Hey, man, I heard you’re working for yourself now. Is that awesome or what?”

    “Well, the upside is that I’m my own boss. The downside is I’m working for an asshole.”

    • Joe on June 22, 2022 at 7:31 am

      Good one!

    • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 8:06 am

      Jeff,
      I’ve come to understand an asshole for your boss is infinitely better than the enabling, coddling boss my weaker self wants to have!
      bsn

      • Nom de Plume on June 22, 2022 at 11:41 am

        I had that same thought just yesterday: “The curse of a lax first boss, tolerating bad habits – a young person will not learn what is really expected. The same goes for permissive parents!

        And Brian, I just caught up on a couple weeks’ posts here. Two weeks ago you said: “I need the physical exercise to wring the crazy out of my head….” Last week I got to wondering whether crazy heat-wave exercise sweating (liters!) counts as a detox to flush nasty chemicals out of the body. Internet research yielded definitive-sounding answers for both yes and no. So I have no idea whether it actually flushes gunk out of your body… but regardless, I have no doubt that it flushes mental/emotional crap out of your mind!

        • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 7:00 pm

          Non,
          Yeah, on that one I’ll take my own phenomenological experience over the ‘SCIENCE’ any day of the week. Interesting read/listen called “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by Dr John Ratey. He’s an MD/psychiatrist who makes (broad, very broad generalization) that if everyone did 30 min cardio each day–all of Pharma mood medicines would disappear. Steve makes the same comment in “War of Art” (I think)–that Turning Pro is the best medicine for mental angst.

          Ratey does make a point that the skeleton key (used that twice today) to unlock all the feel-good hormones are accessed via exercise. Super interesting read BTW.
          bsn

          • Nom de Plume on June 23, 2022 at 10:51 am

            I will check that out! And purely anecdotally, I am quite sure he is right.



    • Kate Stanton on June 22, 2022 at 8:10 am

      Damn, am I convicted with this comment!! Self reflection is in order…

  7. Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 7:43 am

    Different topic, but likely interesting to this crowd.

    I found a fantastic historical podcast called “The Martyrmade Podcast” by a autodidact GENIUS Darryl Cooper. The first 6 episodes are 25 hours explaining the Arab/Israeli conflict beginning during the nascent Zionist movement of the last 1800s until 1948–25 full hours. Suffice it to say, no one is innocent in Palestine…

    If anyone likes Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History”, you’ll love this podcast.

    Serendipitously, the current episode is called “How to Serve Man”–and it is about cannibalism. Yeah, gross play on words for sure–but in it he talks about the inescapable violence of life and how we as humans had to develop rules to ‘protect ourselves from ourselves’ (my words).

    Without the rules, we’d devour ourselves–and this is WAY before art. I just found this as greater evidence that we need to create our own rules/boundaries as creatives–not only to produce art/business/goodness–but also to hem ourselves in from the most destructive natures hidden not to far below the surface.

    Here is his substack: https://martyrmade.substack.com
    Here is a podcast link on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6aA7GwsEBqFiBshQ0a9vZu

    Enjoy.
    bsn

    • Richard T. Ritenbaugh on June 22, 2022 at 8:32 am

      Brian,
      “To Serve Man” was a “Twilight Zone” episode in which aliens come to earth in peace and promise to bring utopia to humanity. They have a book titled “To Serve Man,” and people take it to mean that their whole purpose in coming to earth is benign and helpful. The aliens even offer free trips to their home planet! But there are a few who are suspicious, and (spoiler alert!) the final scene is a man trying to warn everyone getting on the spaceship. He yells, “It’s a cookbook! ‘To Serve Man’ is a cookbook!” That show could really get one thinking!

      • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 9:39 am

        Richard,
        That is fantastic! Numerous memories of the genius Rod Sterling crashed into my head. You just gave us our next tv binge selection.

        I’m only about 1/2 way through the podcast–they range from 1.5-5.5 hours–they are essentially wonderfully done audiobooks. So good that I decided to subscribe to his sub stack because I felt guilty to have all of this gratis.

        Thanks for the insight. I imagine Darryl might have had that in mind as he named the podcast. The next series (ordinally, my settings are oldest to newest) is a 7-series set about Jim Jones. This dude is brilliant. Savant-ish it seems to me. He and Jocko Wilink do a separate podcast together called “The Unravelling” which is also terrific.
        Thanks again.
        bsn

      • Curtiss Ann Matlock on June 22, 2022 at 9:55 am

        Thanks for bringing a smile to my face. I remember well that episode of the ‘Twilight Zone’. What a fabulous story.

  8. Sam Luna on June 22, 2022 at 8:31 am

    Let me pop my head up and pay homage to the day job — which can be a necessary evil. And, not so evil. In my workaday life toiling for the Man (in my case, TV production) I can count several instances walking through a film set being painted by a well-known musician (“is that what’s-his/her-name?” “yeah.”). This is an expensive world we live in, more so by the day, and in the USA it also helps to have health insurance, lest one blown gasket puts you in 6 figure debt overnight (my blown gasket bill last year @ $150,000 paid for by union health insurance.)

    An alarm waking me up, morning traffic, office chit-chat — all these things keep my feet rooted to planet Earth and my cheese on its cracker. And, makes the limited time I do have to write urgent and special.

    • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 9:45 am

      Sam,
      I cannot possibly agree with more enthusiasm. I also think the ‘guardrails’ of the day job create enough structure to allow for a creative space to exist. When I came back from overseas–and maybe for the first time began to get the inklings that I needed to do something after being a Soldier–I realized that the only time that was unequivocally mine, is the time between when I get up and the time I cross the threshold of work.

      That understanding begat numerous other decisions. If I want to be up at 0500–then I need to reign in my bedtime.

      Another way to say it for me–beyond medical benefits and cheese on my cracker–is I would likely have spun out into a narcissistic oblivion of wasted energy/hopes/unrealized and undiscovered dreams.
      bsn

  9. Dea on June 22, 2022 at 9:40 am

    After taking early retirement late last autumn and moving states, I’m settling nicely now in the Land of Enchantment. I recently decided to turn on part of my retirement income to take the pressure off my savings (and my fears!) and that handled (by myself!) am enjoying some needed time for healing, daydreaming, practicing, gardening, homing in ways I missed while working so hard…in my successful albeit shadow career. The career and many other tendrils cannot be found externally, though some remnants still live inside me. However, when I can recognize them in a non-judging way, they are able also to become friendly reminders, even allies to creating a new life.

    Findings?
    Inside a new found spaciousness: I am here learning to kneel (including metaphorically) many times through the day. My Muse recently suggested I write an essay on what it means to kneel – and having a knee who sometimes requires extra regard, it’s pertinent; but this is only a superficial display, I feel. The listening and writing are helping open a door to being my-own-Boss pathway – working for the Woman in this case! But it’s not solo as without her, the Muse, I cannot hear or live fully. She’s the Improv guide who knows how to open doors. Well, this is my experience!
    Friendly cheer to all….Dea

    • Brian Nelson on June 22, 2022 at 10:10 am

      Dea,
      When you write your treatise about kneeling, please add a link to this space. Of late I’ve been thinking about Pride vs Humility (especially in June…) and the other remaining Deadly Sins–and I’d love to read your thoughts about kneeling. I do believe that is the pathway. More cerebral people might be able to simple learn this humility by ‘putting your a$$ where your heart wants to be’, but for more stubborn people like myself–I have to understand it first in the physical world, in my body. After 100s or 1000s of repetitions, my slower cognitive processes begin to understand my patterns of behavior so I can articulate them to myself–and possibly others.

      I was just thinking about this during my run, and this is the first thing I read post-run. Please write it. Please.
      bsn

      • Dea on June 23, 2022 at 7:24 am

        Brian, thank you for the encouragement and participation. And it sounds like you’ve got a great inner informant there, guiding your way. I find kneeling helps me put my a** where my heart wants to be. I need some act of surrender amidst the other things. Some way to go beneath the mind-made fortress with all its seemingly skillful means…..hah but the one thing it can’t do is kneel, surrender, and trust. But the artist in me can and is! All best to you and enjoy the day…..Dea

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 22, 2022 at 11:11 pm

      Thank you very much for the comment Dea, I wish the best to you too.

      • Dea on June 23, 2022 at 7:25 am

        Cheers Tolis and same!

  10. Joe on June 22, 2022 at 7:15 pm

    This is kind of a sidebar on “mental shifts”: Jill and I have made it a daily practice to sit first thing in the morning. She goes in silence, and I listen to Sam’s guided meditation on the Waking Up app. Each daily meditation has cool cover art. Since the art is ephemeral (after today, it’s gone), I started taking a screenshot each morning before starting.

    We might have missed a day here and there, but this is about a full years worth, squeezed into 2.5 minutes. With music that I’ve had on playlist repeat:

    https://youtu.be/PL-E5vEKR-8

    • Joe on June 22, 2022 at 7:22 pm

      I mean to say, the practice of watching one’s mind does help with mental shifts. Not that you meditate to “get something out of it” (say, “entitled to your efforts but not the fruits”?), but it the practice *has* helped each of us in different ways to see more clearly.

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on June 22, 2022 at 11:29 pm

      Thank you so much dear Joe,

      this is a beautiful moment that you describe. Seems more to me like a painting and not real life to sit together in silence and energies.

      Hmm a couple days ago I found something that may intrigue you. It is about red light. Actually, Blue Light -you may be familiar with that- is disturbing for our energy because it keeps us awake at night. But there is a counter-light, the Red Light. It is the equal to the sun’s rising and sunset emission, that beautiful color of the sky. And, wow, there are red lights that actually replace the sun’s light, affecting our body deeply if we set those lamps in front of us in the morning or in the evening. I read that Joovv Red Light is perhaps a good company, although there must be many others to apparently. I ordered a very cheap one to give it a try, but those Joovv and other ones must be better. It came to my mind now, because I read about a doc who sits with his wife in the morning, and they also have the Red Light boost their mitochondria, which are the workers of the body.

      P.s. I can hear Steve saying, “I don’t assume you’ll sit staring at that light every morning Tolis, leaving the book for some red sun therapy again?”

      • Joe on June 27, 2022 at 6:02 pm

        Hey Tolis… yeah, sitting in silence is underrated. 😉

        I’ll look into this red light thing. Thanks!

  11. Row covers on June 24, 2022 at 2:47 am

    The Tarp Co. is one of the best Online tarp sellers in the USA.

  12. Peter INot on June 26, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    New word for resistance – Demon of will decay.

  13. Sangay Singkh on June 27, 2022 at 8:01 am

    I guess being officially employed is not bad for anyone, but it will also depend on your country, whether you will or will not be happy with your job. I failed to find the job in India, so jobs in Dubai were my second, and the best choice as far as time showed. I have an official status, so no need to spare every single rupee anymore.

  14. Jurgen Strack on June 28, 2022 at 1:16 pm

    “Das ist gut, Steve!”

    It’s definitely ‘the practice’ and putting an action behind your faith, putting your ass where your heart is.

    I was working for the man, who was a very bad man. I took him and my employer to court (employment tribunal). It took two years to fight, I won! I then spent another two years writing a book about my experience, which is with an agent now. And I’ve started writing a second book. But it’s not all good news. It’s bloody hard. Resistance beat me down and for several months I could not write. Somehow I found my way back to it, whilst continuing to read Writing Wednesdays. It’s a beautifual thing.

    Much love and best of luck to all of you creatives.

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