Gary Player in a Sand Trap

Do you know who Gary Player is? He was one of the “Big Three,” along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, in professional golf in the sixties and seventies. He won nine majors, including the Masters three times. 

Gary Player

My Aunt Peggy and Uncle Charlie were staying at a golf resort in Florida. As they were heading to the first tee one morning, they passed a sand trap in the practice area. Gary Player had planted himself in this bunker with a huge bag of balls.

He was practicing.

From the sweat stains on his shirt, it looked like he’d been in there for a couple of hours.    

Charlie and Peg teed off on their round. The course was crowded and play was slow; it took my aunt and uncle five hours to finish. When they walked off the eighteenth green, they passed the same sand trap where they had seen Gary Player in the morning. 

Player was still there practicing.

Art is work.

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?"

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"PUT YOUR ASS WHERE YOUR HEART WANTS TO BE"

Available for pre-order in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

39 Comments

  1. Jackie on August 31, 2022 at 3:33 am

    Art is work, the years of practice, for no paycheck, no guarantee of any reward, the sweat, tears, doubt, loneliness, and heartbreak. Many people give up. But those who stick with it just might hit that one long, sweet shot down the middle of the fairway. The work through the slice, the hook, the picking your head up and whiffing the ball, all become worth that one straight shot down the middle of the fairway. And it doesn’t even matter if the only witness was the crow cawing from the tree. You know that if that one shot was possible, there is the possiblity of doing it again as long as you keep your head down. Wish you all a long, straight shot in the fairway this week. Thanks Steve for bringing back memories of watching golf with my dad.

    • Lin Keeling on August 31, 2022 at 8:53 am

      Absolutely right, Steve and Jackie. I used to do that practicing piano years sgo. You might never get there, but you kerp trying, practicing. Even if it only happens when you’re practicing, you know you’ve done it. The nice thing about writing, painting, weaving, whatever, it exists in space, it has a physical presence. Sports and music are ephemeral, they exist in time. At least we can see our work when we’ve done it. … or maybe that isn’t a good thing? because we can see whwt we’ve accomplished on our good days, we’re maybe less inclined to work as hard the next? Nasty Resistance!

      • Kelly on September 2, 2022 at 4:38 pm

        I’m practice typing, and it’s hard!

    • Nom de Plume on August 31, 2022 at 12:57 pm

      “You know that if that one shot was possible, there is the possiblity of doing it again as long as you keep your head down.”
      Hear, hear! Kinda juvenile, but I love that part in Harry Potter where he expecto patronus‘es the whole flock of Dementors away from Sirius, then tells Hermione: “I knew I could do it, because I already did.” That’s why we practice and put the long hours in!

    • Bing on August 31, 2022 at 3:19 pm

      Thank you Jackie. I love the idea of the sweet shot down the fairway with no one noticing it.
      If he did it once there is the possibility of doing it again. I am an artist and have experienced that sweet shot down the fairway. With more practice I know it can happen again. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Yvonne on August 31, 2022 at 3:47 am

    Thank you for the reminder, Steve. Great post! I needed this.

  3. Joe Jansen on August 31, 2022 at 4:08 am

    Here in Indiana, Larry Bird is legend. As part of that legend, he was known to have started every morning since high school with 500 jump shots.

    Then he practiced his free throws — he had to hit 99 in a row or else start from scratch. He ended up having the highest free-throw percentage in the NBA four separate times.

    Run, practice with his teammates, more shooting drills, strength training, sit-up, and more running. He was quoted: “I don’t know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody somewhere was practicing more than me.”

  4. .John Henry McDonald on August 31, 2022 at 6:12 am

    The muse does not work for free
    Until he does

  5. Brad Graft on August 31, 2022 at 6:29 am

    Amen, Jackie. Whata line: “And it doesn’t even matter if the only witness was the crow cawing from the tree. You know that if that one shot was possible, there is the possibility of doing it again as long as you keep your head down. ”

    Only by “keeping our heads down” will the magic appear for us.

    Speaking of “Magic.” Hey Joe– up here in Spartie land, they still talk about the first epic matchup between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson– during their college days; the ’79 hoops championship. Bird knew he had to outwork the other guy.. Surely the same held true for Gary Player, in order to hang with his competition.

    Of course, even truer for us here.. Keep working it brothers and sisters…

  6. Kate Stanton on August 31, 2022 at 7:51 am

    Art is work. Keep practicing.

    Art is work.

    Art is work.

    Trying to beat it into my brain this morning…

    Thanks for the swift kick, Steven!

    • Lin Keeling on August 31, 2022 at 9:20 am

      Yes, art is work, Kate, but isn’t it also joy? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about how we connect with our spirits, with the Cosmic Radio Station Steve talked about last week. Can we work if we’re strainimg, pushing, demanding? Saying art is work alone? I’ve done it like that and I feel closed, pulling in, gritting my teeth. Yes, we work, but can’t the work be joy too, as Brian said? When I work with joy and openness, it feeks better, goes better. The product may mot be the best that day, but the process was good. And I’ve found that because I worked with openness and joy, the work continued in my head throughout the day and the next day when I sat down to work–or came back to it after an interruption–there is so much there already, waiting for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all roses, it’s still hard work, but I think approaching it as a joyful experience, one we’re looking forward to immersing ourselves in, helps.

      Yes, showing up matters but how we show up matters a lot. It’s a habit like anything else and making it positive helps reinforce the desire to do it. Sorry to go on. This is the kind of stuff I’m writing about right now so it’s on my mind. …

      • Kate Stanton on September 1, 2022 at 6:27 pm

        Lin, you have made an incredible point. Sometimes I get so caught up in overworking that I no longer find the joy that brought me there in the first place. I tip my hat to you!!

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on August 31, 2022 at 1:05 pm

      Me too, I try to persuade that elusive brain Kate. It won’t accept anything as reality, not even if we tell it 1000 times the same thing every day for a month. I guess we have to move on without expecting it arriving at our place ( the place of the dreams that our awareness, us, has <3 ). I salute you and all friends and people, good work!

  7. Beth on August 31, 2022 at 8:14 am

    Thank you for the reminder. I’m just starting to see this in my own work. I’ve been writing for over a year. I’m slowly gaining an audience. I’m slowly making progress. My writing is getting better. The Keep Showing Up part is the most important part.

  8. Derek on August 31, 2022 at 8:18 am

    Was he aiming for the bunker, planning on being stuck?

    • Steven Pressfield on August 31, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      Derek, I had a golfing friend named Arnold Langer (I used his name in “Bagger Vance”) who told me once about playing a round with some great old touring pro whose name, alas, I’m blanking on. But he was famous and great. When the pro hit an errant iron shot, he would say as the ball was in the air, “Get in the bunker! Get in the bunker!” Why? Because these guys are so freaking good out of sand traps that that was always better than some crazy lie in the grass around the green.

      • Derek on September 2, 2022 at 10:49 am

        Ah, only tried the game once, quit after the 9th, I was working in the club and staff got to play the course Mondays. I only got the job because I was tall and sound English, but the great Bob Hope was playing the course when I went for the interview, so I figure if it’s good enough for one of America’s great comedians I should do alright, lasted a few months. Thanks.

  9. Brian Nelson on August 31, 2022 at 8:46 am

    Agree with all above statements, and Jackie nailed it with the joy of one sweet straight shot down the middle of the fairway. In some weird way–it feels like that should always be solitary. That sense of ‘rightness’ is difficult to share with anyone.

    Being a Cali kid, I was more of a Magic fan, and only knew Larry Bird as the leader of the hated Celtics. There seems to be a difference between someone like Larry and Tiger Woods. Did Larry choose to shoot all those jumpers and free throws himself? Who told him to do that? I don’t think of, nor have read anything about the tyranny of Mr & Mrs Bird demanding their son shoot free throws during the cold winters of Indiana…what is that ingredient in Larry that drove him, unbidden by parents, coaches, etc?

    One thing that seems to finally beginning to seep into my thick skull is that the work is the joy. When it becomes who you are. It is an expression of your being. As a kinesthetic learner, I got my first inklings of this doing something physical. Running. CrossFit (turning working out into sport–I was all over that 15 years ago…). The feel of an olympic bar in my hands.

    When I was really young I would fall apart if we lost any game. I was that kid who would cry. A bit embarrassing now–but back then I thought winning was a reflection of my own self worth. Mixed up values for sure, but that is what I must have believed deep deep down inside. I didn’t really understand the purpose of athletics back then.

    Now that my sideburns are gray, I enjoy Pickleball, especially singles. One of the guys I play with is an ambidextrous phenom. He’s insanely fit, and an awesome player. Usually about 2-3 times in any series of games we play, we find ourselves in this insane rally. 10-15 returns from each of us, both sending kill shot after kill shot–and both racing around as fast and as hard as we can to return the shot. It is pretty intense, and frequently people at the Y stop what they are doing to watch.

    It finally occurred to me that I never care who wins that particular point. I mean, I am trying as hard as I can to win–but I think what I’m really trying to do is keep that rally alive. We are both playing at the top of our games–matching each other shot to shot–and it is–well–transcendent. It is not work. It is not hard. It is heaven on Earth.

    Maybe what Gary Player, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson all knew at a very young age was that to reach those rare moments of transcendence, you had to spend hours and hours and hours in the sand pit, on the driveway hitting jumpers.

    We have to become as great as we possibly can, so when we have those moments of facing life that requires our very best, we can keep the rally alive.
    bsn

    • Lin Keeling on August 31, 2022 at 9:06 am

      “really trying to keep that rally alive”. I love seeing that watching tennis. The rhythm of it, the intensity. It’s what I feel when the work is going well. I talk to my students about that, that it’s the process that matters, thr rhythm of the wotk, the flow. That’s when amazing things happen. I haven’t had that much with my writing, but it happened last week. I was amazed, stunned…scared out of my wits. I almost didn’t want to write anything else. But realized that just like my weaving practice and what I tell my students, I have to focus on the process not the product. You’re right, Brian, that is where the joy really is.

    • Tolis Alexopoulos on August 31, 2022 at 1:11 pm

      Thank you so much for the comment Brian,

      I struggle with the opposite notion now: that maybe we should never love our work, because that would make us content, and the big players are never content. But I must think a lot about it, and the flow of your thoughts is a beautiful argument of the other side.

      And mostly a beautiful story.

      Let’s work whatever the prism!!!

    • Phil Dwyer on September 1, 2022 at 7:43 am

      Brian, I was in kindergarten growing up in East Lansing across the street from MSU when Magic defeated Bird to win the 1979 NCAA tournament. Indeed Magic, like Player and Bird, was known to be out there by himself on the asphalt court he shoveled the snow off of, practicing, working before the gym opened.

  10. Bing on August 31, 2022 at 9:39 am

    “It is better to do the one thing (in my case art) even though it may not go anywhere than not to do it. You will have integrity at the end which is important rather than regret.” – John O’Donahue

    I just watched a documentary on basket ball player Wilt Chamberland who often put 100 points on the board by himself. All the greats say no one, not even close compared to him.

  11. Sam Luna on August 31, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Ditto on love for Jackie’s cawing crow. We’re hardwired to seek validation, witnesses to our accomplishments, to “be seen” …. but the good stuff happens when no one is watching. I doubt Gary Player was seeking attention that day. He was just in the woodshed, hacking it out.

    “Post book depression” is a real phenomenon. It happens when you release your work into the world and no one throws you a ticker-tape parade. What had been your happy secret is now out there ready to be ignored. I think Jackie’s crow is as good as it gets.

  12. Maureen Anderson on August 31, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    I love all these comments! If they were set to music, my suggestion would be…

    https://oneshiningmoment.com/one-shining-moment-lyrics/

    P.S. I’m with you, Sam. I never understood the “I don’t like writing; I like the ‘having written'” thing. I’m in it for the during. It broke my heart to turn in my first book manuscript because I wouldn’t have it to work on anymore.

    • Brian Nelson on August 31, 2022 at 7:38 pm

      Maureen,
      So I am chagrined to admit I never really knew that song! As I read the webpage, it was the NCAA song since 1987…back when I was glued to sports, the sports pages, and followed everything. And I still could never name the song–I recognized the music–but actually thought it was an instrumental!

      As I read the lyrics, while listening to the song–I realized that in many ways I’ve been trying to say the same thing with my race for the past 12 years without understanding it myself. He sings, ‘…feel the beat of your heart, feel the wind in your face, it’s more than a contest, it’s more than a race…”

      The race has had this grip on me for 12+ years, and I could not understand it. It mystified me. I wanted to tell people, “It’s more than a race..its, its, its…” but came up blank. You just have to be there to experience would be my default position.

      We have 2-3 volunteer meetings each year to ensure everyone knows their job, identify problems, and reiterate what we are doing. Again and again and again I have said to them, (these ladies…95% of them are women..are from our animal rescue–and think running up and down stairs is INSANE–but they love our event) “What we are doing is setting the conditions for people to go all in. To leave nothing. Most people have no idea what it feels like to have left everything on the field–to be emptied through sheer effort. It scares them. What they don’t know is that is when and where they will find themselves. Their sovereignty. Their power. It is freeing. But for people to go all in, they must feel safe. They must feel secure. That is why we have to demonstrate total competence in our tasks, no mindless errors, and be 100% positive and encouraging to everyone in the bowl.”

      Again–David Barrett sings, “…you reached deep inside…in one shining moment, you knew you were alive…you reached for the sky..in one shining moment, you were willing to try..”

      Thank you for posting this. It hit me like one of those unsuspecting ‘3rd party affirmations’ I didn’t know I needed until I read it.

      I am preparing a brief for a business networking group tmrw. My plan is to outline the premise of my book–and get an idea how it lands to a pretty diverse group of people. After reading your post, I know I have to write this no matter how people respond to my brief tomorrow. I will add this song to my running playlist for sure.

      There is some weird Writing Wednesdays/Pressfield serendipity I find here. Maybe the Muse lurks around here every now and then.
      bsn

      • Maureen Anderson on September 1, 2022 at 8:00 am

        Happy to have hooked you on the song, Brian! Oh, how I love March Madness.

  13. Mikal Vega on August 31, 2022 at 12:22 pm

    Absolutely accurate and the resistance is never ameliorated until actually showing up and taking action.

  14. Tolis Alexopoulos on August 31, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you dear Steve.

    All people must find us in our working places during the day. And we must never seem content, not even after a good day.

    It’s a war. It’s not an art anymore. You were right.

  15. Bill Dellecker on September 3, 2022 at 6:04 am

    And “The War of Art” explains what it means to face up to the opportunity, stare down The Resistance and then do the work…….thanks, Steven!

  16. Peter on September 3, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    I think Gary Player was the player who practised the most of all golfers. Even 60 years ago he was following the main principle that Mr Pressfield uses to fight resistance – It understands nothing but power. Gary has similar quote: The more I practice, the luckier I get. He wrote excellent book about his golf and life philosophy – The golfers guide to the meaning of life. https://www.alibris.com/The-Golfers-Guide-to-the-Meaning-of-Life-Lessons-Ive-Learned-from-My-Life-on-the-Links-Gary-Player/book/30082963

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  18. StevenHassy on September 11, 2022 at 5:31 am

    Boys, I think the key is that on every single shot, he cocked his wrists pretty early. I unintentionally hit the ball “over” the green last year after reading one of his films about bunkers. I’ve been banging away at it for so long. Now I have to develop my “gift.” To get it out of the bunker, I simply need to employ a little dexterity. Gary, many thanks.
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    Gary doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. It’s amazing that a man would travel such a long distance to play golf. Everyone hears about his nine major titles, but his 110 triumphs worldwide actually tell the story of his journey. Excellent man, fantastic sportsman, and wonderful father. His course layouts are fantastic.
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