The All Is Lost Moment in Nonfiction

Can there be an All Is Lost Moment in nonfiction?

Here’s an example from The War of Art, which is definitely not fiction.

The hero of The War of Art is the reader. I’m imagining this individual—male or female—to be an aspiring writer/artist/entrepreneur/human being.

The All Is Lost Moment happened before the reader/hero picked up the book. That moment (perhaps many, many moments) was constituted of the realization by the hero/reader that he or she possessed (perhaps in secret) a dream of creative fulfillment or self-realization that he/she had never fully committed to … and that his/her life had been disfigured emotionally and psychologically by this failure to take action in pursuit of that dream.

That’s the All Is Lost Moment.

What’s the Epiphanal Moment? Hopefully it occurs during the reading of The War of Art (or at some point thereafter), when the reader says to him or herself, “I’ve had enough! I can’t go on like this! One way or another, from this moment forward, I’m going to pursue my dream and my calling!!”

Elizabeth Gilbert from her TED talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius”

Here’s a second example. This one comes from Elizabeth Gilbert’s 21-million-view TED talk, ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius.” In the talk, Ms. Gilbert tells her own story of a moment of personal crisis (in other words, nonfiction) that she experienced after the runaway success of Eat Pray Love.

The All Is Lost Moment was the coming together of her fears (reinforced by the concerns of others) that she could never top that hit, that she would spend the rest of her life banging out books and other creative projects and never, never produce one that rose to the artistic/commercial level of Eat Pray Love.

That’s the All Is Lost Moment.

What’s the Epiphanal Moment (again, in real life, in nonfiction)?

“And what I have to keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that is don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed through your efforts, then ‘Olé!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. And ‘Olé!’ to you, nonetheless… for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up. “

Ms. Gilbert’s epiphany was not some stroke of brilliance that guaranteed that she would top Eat Pray Love. Quite the opposite. Ms. Gilbert accepted that likely reality. But she added, “I don’t care.”

I’m a writer, Ms. Gilbert said to herself, and I’m going to keep doing my best at that craft and that calling. Come what may, I can do no more. And that, brothers and sisters, is enough.

So indeed, there can be (and, in my opinion, should be) an All Is Lost Moment and an Epiphanal Moment in our self-help book, our Substack post, our biography of our sainted aunt Hilda, and, yes, in our TED talk.


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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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. Veleka on March 22, 2023 at 1:56 am

    My epiphany came when I heard you read your book and you explained the word Resistance. It explained so much! I have carried that concept with me ever since, and not just for writing. For anything I want to do.

    • Skyman Magic on April 18, 2023 at 2:29 am

      Great thanks for the information contained in this case

  2. Jackie on March 22, 2023 at 3:44 am


  3. Terry Weaver on March 22, 2023 at 5:13 am

    The War of Art is my most recommended book. It has truly encouraged millions of people, including the writing of my five books. Well done!

  4. Lucy Weir on March 22, 2023 at 5:14 am

    The Writing Wednesdays tips are an excellent example of just showing up, consistently. I don’t know if you write them, Steven, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is that there’s a fantastic power in the commitment to showing up. This has been my hugest issue, organisation. I’ve found dealing with my internal and sometimes external, relational, chaos, requires that I sit quietly with how things are. So instead of going straight to the desk, I might go for a run, do some yoga, do a bit of gardening, bake a loaf of bread, and, crucially for me, create a physical space that is at least roughly organised. I know that lots of people will see this as procrastination but this is essential to me. I feel too much the cacophony of internal voices, memories, desires, sense perceptions, emotional turmoil and physical tension to be able to settle straight to the desk. But I get there, and I write reams when I do, stream of consciousness, Artist’s Way – style pages. Thank you so much for the inspiration to keep going, to keep treating ourselves as creative professionals, in spite of any of the evidence of failure that assails us at so many, and perhaps even all, junctures along the way.

    • Steven Pressfield on March 22, 2023 at 9:00 am

      I do write ’em, Lucy. And thanks for the kind words!

    • Maureen Anderson on March 22, 2023 at 10:15 am

      I used to shame myself for doing the dishes before my so-called real work. But the dishes won’t do themselves, and even dishwashers need to be loaded. If I’m distracted by the sight, it isn’t a personality flaw. It’s how I work.

      Wrestling with and weeding out and rearranging isn’t always procrastination. Sometimes it’s preparation. At my most optimistic I think, “If my ship was about to come in, would there be room for it to dock?”

      • Lin Keeling on March 23, 2023 at 12:02 pm

        “If my ship was about to come in, would there be room for it to dock?”

        I love that, Maureen! And, no, there’s no room here for it and that’s probably part of my problem. Thanks for that nudge!!

  5. Kelly Patchet on March 22, 2023 at 6:21 am

    Ooh boy, this is super helpful. It’s helping me to meet my ideal reader where they live when they come to our new YouTube channel… or perhaps the book I’ll write.

    Woah.. I just said the scary part out loud!

  6. Jackie on March 22, 2023 at 6:52 am

    Find the time to listen to Ms. Gilbert’s TED talk. Ole’! to Elizabeth and to Steve for sharing this today.

  7. Kate Stanton on March 22, 2023 at 7:52 am

    “The All Is Lost Moment happened before the reader/hero picked up the book. That moment (perhaps many, many moments) was constituted of the realization by the hero/reader that he or she possessed (perhaps in secret) a dream of creative fulfillment or self-realization that he/she had never fully committed to …”

    My sister noticed this in me and gifted me her heavily highlighted, dog-eared, bent up copy of “The War of Art”. I finished it in one sitting. I bought my own copy to refer to anytime I needed a swift kick in the rear. Resistance almost always shows up as self-pity victimhood Kate and I begin to spiral quickly.

    I bought a copy for a singer-songwriter friend of mine to pay it forward. That was 4 years ago. I’m contemplating who needs it next…

  8. Sizwe on March 22, 2023 at 7:56 am

    One reader while we were going through “the Ego and Self in the All is Lost Moment” article asked if the all is lost moment can exist at the beginning of the hero story. Even though you touched a bit on it in your response to his/her comment, I am glad that you expanded on it so beautifully in this article.

    I myself have been recently struggling with my own all-is-lost moment (one that I’ve been in many, many times now) and hope that this time I stick with the epiphany moment until it takes me to the other side rather than let the thought that whisper, “who are you kidding? you will never change.” swallow me and wash me back to the treacherous shores of despair and helplessness.

    • Nom de Plume on March 22, 2023 at 9:05 am

      and hope that this time I stick with the epiphany moment until it takes me to the other side rather than let the thought that whisper, “who are you kidding? you will never change.” swallow me and wash me back to the treacherous shores of despair and helplessness.

      Beautifully (although painfully) said, Sizwe!

      Random question for the hive: What’s the adjective form of initiative? “Bob shows a lot of initiative… he’s very, um, initiative-y.”

  9. Kathy on March 22, 2023 at 7:57 am

    Elizabeth Gilbert’s, “Big Magic”, illustrates all this well too.,

  10. Carole’Diane Pace on March 22, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Oh Boy does this resonate with me, so very much. I am a writer, have been all my life, but have suffered the All is Lost Moment and The Epiphinal Moment so many times and still am. I struggle with my fears, doubts and procrastination and commitment due to a lot of prejudice, criticism, ridicule, threats and victimisation (mainly from family) not to even write, let alone, try to publish my book. It is my true life story, since childhood, and has been my dream my whole life. My dreams, my life, emotionally and psychologically have become “disfigured” so many times, whereby I have lost myself all over again, just as I did as a child, for not taking action in pursuing my dreams. I did not believe in myself so have become totally scarred and wounded by others not to write my story which has eaten away at my psyche all my life. It is my goal, my purpose, my every breath and has been since a very young age (although I didn’t realise it at the time) because I was prevented from putting my words onto paper out into the world for all to see. I know it is my purpose to help others to heal, survive and find peace, and in doing so, heal them and myself and find the peace that has evaded me all my life. Eat, Pray, Love is my dream too, I yearn to be able to do that, to run, find and be myself, find love, be accepted, supported (best film ever) which inspires me to the core of my being yet makes me feel more disfigured by fears for not taking action. I cannot and do not have room to create my own writing space, yet when I do start writing,(on my lap) I cannot stop, I’ll type, write incessantly, my fingers cannott keep up with the thoughts, emotions, struggles, inner voices and memories that spill out onto the paper from the heart, my inner being. My psyche aches with the All Is Lost Moments for not pursuing or taking the action to find a publisher, or self publish, because, I do not know how to publish my book. My Epihinal Moments come from the inspiration of Writing Wednesdays and from you, Steven, and all the other wonderful folk who are also part of this journey who I can relate to, which inspires me to fight on and follow my dreams and not stop until its out there. I too want to run and hide in a shack to just write, undisturbed, uninterrupted, and achieve my goals, my purpose. I just wish I knew how to. I am gong to get your book The War of Art and your Memoirs,(thank you for the recommendation Terry) I happened across you through Marie Forleo, and have followed ever since and I will become the fulfilled and enlightened woman as in Eat, Pray, Love and find that Peace, unconditional Love and support, be accepted for who I am but I need to find out how to become published. I know how to write, thats the easy part, the Ephiphany and satisfaction of telling my story is so cathartic and healing but not succeeding in my attempts to find out how or who to help me to get my book into print is the All is Lost Moment, that I suffer daily. Thank you Steven, Terry, Lucy, Kelly and so many others for giving me the encouragement and realisation that I am not alone in my struggle’s. Would love to hear from anyone who can advise and help me further to achieve my purpose, my goals, my dreams in life to become the person I was born to be and not the person “other’s” moulded me to be. Well done, love and blessings to you all on your journeys to enlightenment and prayers you all find you Epiphinal Moments. Now for my Olé Ephinal Moment! To see my book on that shelf, knowing I am helping others to become Survivors, Hero’s and Autonomous. All will not be Lost. Thank you.

    • Jackie on March 22, 2023 at 8:56 am

      I’m not sure of your circumstances, but I may be able to help with a suggestion for a writing space of your own. Check out your local libray. Most libraries offer tables, desks or spaces for quiet work. Library employees are angels with suggestions and directions to reference materials. Best wishes to you and your work.

  11. dea tennacour on March 22, 2023 at 9:50 am

    Your body of work was a huge catalyst for me in the all-is-lost era; a supportive container for sticking with it; for facing despair without fear or drowning. Many doors began opening and I think they, at least for me, are also well summed up in Michael Singer’s brilliant contribution The Untethered Soul – The Journey Beyond Yourself, and the direct uncommercialized path of surrender so well articulated there. And as Liz Gilbert so wonderfully says….writing anyway – or whatever It is that is one’s expression! Mine is still being formed as a concrete “thing” but this no longer bothers me. In fact, I am really enjoying the unveiling of its expression. With gratitude….Dea

    • Maureen Anderson on March 22, 2023 at 10:20 am

      The Untethered Soul is a great book!! Like The War of Art, a prayer book.

  12. Jurgen Strack on March 22, 2023 at 12:53 pm

    Hey, I’m glad to be back! Stopped writing and reading this forum (which sustained me during the pandemic) ‘cos someone (a loved one in the book business) told me my manuscript wasn’t good enough and I’m sure it wasn’t, and they said it was probably just something I needed to write ✍️ to get it out of my system. It was nonfiction, about a bully at work, the employers’ actions, trying to understand what happened and my fight of taking them all to employment tribunal. It took two years and I won.
    I also sent off two chapters to a NY Times bestselling author in that field who was very complimentary, gave me some pointers how to improve the book but I have all but given up on that book, but not on writing. So, I’m glad to be back. Also, I haven’t read War of Art but despite that have found the courage and conviction to pursue my creative endeavours, which are my calling, including bringing my debut stand-up comedy show to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. The forum, Steve and you guys continue to give me inspiration, motivation and love. Keep writing! X

  13. Nina on March 22, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    Beautifully zoomed, thank you for this pearl of inspiration

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  15. Felipe on March 23, 2023 at 6:36 am

    Beautiful writing as always Steven, thank you for this! Also what an amazing TED talk from Elizabeth Gilbert, so powerful!

  16. Renita on March 23, 2023 at 7:10 am

    Hi Steve,
    These days we say hi instead of “Dear” as though that is too sentimental I guess.
    But you are actually Dear Steve to me.
    An example of an amazing young person who overcomes resistance is Taylor Swift. She has taken on fame and made fun of being criticized in the media. She writes another song about it. She has publicly stated that the job is to keep being creative in the face of constant negative forces. Someone takes away her mic at an award. Her first six albums were sold away from her. She makes new versions.
    Her songs speak for others.
    When she began she had only a squeaky little voice.
    I’ve never seen anything like it.
    I believe that the more each of us does to create the more we will see the like of this.

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  23. Jacket Oria on April 10, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    In nonfiction, the “All Is Lost Moment” refers to a pivotal point in the story where the protagonist or main character faces a significant setback, obstacle, or crisis that appears to be insurmountable. This moment typically occurs after the rising action and just before the climax, and is often the point where the story reaches its darkest point.

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