There are certain skills that must be mastered by every writer, artist, entrepreneur, and athlete if she or he wishes to succeed. These skills are not taught in school. Many don’t even have a name.

These skills are not about craft. They’re about management of emotion. I’ve heard them called “soft skills,” though to me they’re anything but “soft.”

One of them is the ability to keep going when in the throes of desperate self-doubt.

John Keats, 1795-1821

Keats called this skill “negative capability.” From a letter to his brothers, George and Thomas, in 1817:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke (Charles Wentworth Dilke, a writer and editor whose home in London, Wentworth Place, is now called Keats House—a museum to the great Romantic poet), upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason … This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

My own poster boy for this skill is Christopher Columbus. Talk about uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts! “OMG, what if the world really is flat? Will my ships sail off the edge? No, that’s ridiculous. I know the world is round. But what if I miss the Indies? What if my course is too far north? Or south? Maybe the wise move is to sail back home … right NOW!!!”

The thing about soft skills like this—the ability to follow your vision when every cell in your body is revolting against this—is there’s no glamor to them. They’re boring. They’re quotidian. They’re the scenes we would cut out of a movie.

But they are the way we defeat our own Resistance. 

Sit down. Get to work. Don’t stop.

Nobody gives you points for this stuff. No one cheers. No one even knows. The reason soft skills are so hard is they’re totally internal, producing no reward except that which we give ourselves.

A thought experiment:

Which writer/filmmaker/athlete/entrepreneur would you and I bet on?

1. A one-in-a-million talent, but one who habitually faltered when confronted by self-doubt.

2. A far more modestly gifted performer, but one who could buckle up each day, no matter what emotional headwinds he or she was facing, and keep grinding.


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. Jim Sapara on August 2, 2023 at 1:50 am

    Keep Going! Anyways!

  2. Maggie Richardson on August 2, 2023 at 1:53 am

    Brilliant !

    • Harrison R. Greene on August 2, 2023 at 5:50 am

      Soft skills…too mushy for me. Resilience is more like it.

    • Kathy on August 2, 2023 at 8:47 am

      “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Gandhi 🍃

      • Tom Scarda on August 3, 2023 at 3:48 am

        Love this.
        I don’t know who said it: “Imagine working every day like how you work the day before you go on vacation.”

        • Kathy on August 3, 2023 at 8:55 am


        • Kelly Patchet on August 3, 2023 at 9:28 am

          That’s good! And so true. When we commit to other things in our days — like getting out on my bike so I can check my cardio commitment, it lights a fire under me to get sh*t done!

    • Kathy on August 2, 2023 at 8:51 am

      Cranston art… glorious imagination.

    • Kathy on August 2, 2023 at 9:07 am

      I had to look up Cranston. I recognize his work. It feels like whimsical valor. His unexpected passing at only 65 confirms Gandhi’s most famous quote. Thank you for sharing these two people. 🍃

  3. Greg Lyndon on August 2, 2023 at 2:12 am

    I get what you are saying but reject the idea that Christopher Columbus illustrates the point well. Christopher Columbus managed to find land but thought he discovered a new trade route to India (massive delusion) and brought disease and 500 years of colonialism, death and despair to the indigenous inhabitants (shameful legacy). Shakespeare is a better example Your own journey, as set out in Govt Cheese is a better illustration of the point: you kept going (far longer than Columbus) towards an uncertain destination.

    • Janice Day on August 2, 2023 at 3:36 am

      I did it just now, when I decided not to post a comment because I don’t think I have anything helpful or interesting to say. I was only going to say that this post is really good. It has helped me and I’m going to share it with my writing group. Then I hurled the usual self-doubt and negativity at the idea and turned away. But when I caught myself doing exactly what you’re writing about, I said to myself, “Hang on, to say that the post is helpful and good is exactly the sort of comment I’d like to receive so why wouldn’t Steven?”

      So here it is. I think we need to stand up to neggy-head and answer back. That’s what works for me anyway.

      And I’ve recently adopted the practise of saying to myself, “I’m on your side. No matter what. ” That stops me disappearing down the wormhole.

      • Julie M. on August 2, 2023 at 3:59 am

        Janice-yes! 👏🏽👏🏽

  4. Malaika on August 2, 2023 at 2:19 am

    “Sit down. Get to work. Don’t stop.”

    I needed to read this right now! Thank you so much, Steven Pressfield! I love your blog articles! Keep going always! (I know that I don’t have to tell you this, lol)

  5. Tolis on August 2, 2023 at 2:51 am

    Thank you so much dear Steve,

    I wondered at once if we must choose between the talent and the hard work against all ods and even against our own body. My bewilderment is, “Which is the best move we have when even our body’s cells go against our will?” The hard answer is that we must keep pushing forward. Another idea that I have is that we must bring patience too on the table: patience so that when all our cells fight our movement forward, it is the most appropriate time to do something entirely else: to see what our Self is telling us, through those Rebel Cells (Rebel Cells is a good title for a book!). So I only wonder if at that period we must also investigate the Self, and thus find it’s new currents that *only seem* to oppose our will and then call forth what new we found out and take advantage of it to make even our cells turn to our side.

    My experience on this is these past 20 days after the end of the school year, and thus my profession. I actually sat down and found out that I had no interest at all to write the book! BUT I investigated that. And guess what, I found a deep motivator inside me (which is and quite adventurous) that may be a Core for me to bring even my own cells on my side. The procedure was a bit complex but the finding can be named literally in two words! And through that there can rise the book again, but “changed”: the book as a manifestation of something else, not the book as a goal itself.

    I can’t tell, I’m on the Road. I’ll know one day whether I fail or win. Gosh, I hope I’m a bit right.

  6. Paul Charles Kopp on August 2, 2023 at 2:52 am

    Awesome. As a Fine Artist I struggle with this concept consistently.
    Just need to face it head on
    Grab the paint,brushes, and Canvas and paint.
    The Flow will return!

  7. Jackie on August 2, 2023 at 3:00 am

    Above my desk, I posted this quote by Gimli from the Lord of the Rings movie: Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?
    My we slay the orc within that keeps us from our work. Great week to all.

    • Tolis on August 2, 2023 at 7:49 am

      Ah! Go for it Jackie. Beware of the time that is needed to tackle with the negatives, be both clever, desicive and smart against them, go forward like Aragorn and the King before Gandalf and the Horsemasters arrived, with the all-seeing Sun above you lighting the path and giving honor to your struggles but also enhancing all difficulties -it is so much better, heroic to go against the sun’s wrath in some way. Go create at the river, at the mountain, at the last dirty corner of a town on earth, if that is all you ‘ve got.

      • Jackie on August 2, 2023 at 2:40 pm

        Beautifully said Tolis.

  8. Joe Badalamente on August 2, 2023 at 3:18 am

    Excellent post, Mr. P! We who live in this time and place are shielded by technology to what was so obvious to those who came before us; there is never certainty! Or to quote Apollo Creed in Rocky III, “There is no tomorrow!”

  9. gegi on August 2, 2023 at 3:34 am

    Thank you! Some of the ways that can help you improve this is to change the color of the screen used.
    The white screen will be suitable when you watch movies or play games.

  10. Julie M. on August 2, 2023 at 4:04 am

    “No one cheers. No one even knows.” I do. I will keep going.

    Thanks Steven and everyone else’s comments. Check out Pete Holmes (You Made It Weird) latest podcast with Steven. You’ll enjoy it!

  11. Robbie Maltby on August 2, 2023 at 4:46 am

    Appreciate you Steve. Keep ‘em coming 🤯🔫

  12. Victoria Labalme on August 2, 2023 at 4:48 am

    Yes Yes Yes. This is exactly what I call RISKING FORWARD, hence my book.
    Thx for being you, Steve – and for all the strength you show so many.

  13. Marvin Ginsberg on August 2, 2023 at 4:50 am

    What would you say about writing every day, but faltering on the steps to get it out?

  14. J J Hicks on August 2, 2023 at 5:47 am

    Honestly, it was Steve’s words on this topic that helped me when I encountered the rollercoaster of emotions upon writing a book. Knowing that they were coming helped me not get swept up or down in them or with them.
    Good day? Sit down and write the next. Bad day? Sit down and write the next. Blah day? Sit down and write the next. My book will suck? Sit down and write the next day. My book will be great? Sit down and write the next day. People love it? Sit down and write the next day. People dont like it? Sit down and write the next. You get the picture.

  15. Don L on August 2, 2023 at 6:05 am

    Great post Steven
    To me those doubts are like the Dementors in the Harry Potters movies. They show up and make you nervous and scared. I have no choice other than acknowledge that they are there and to just keep going trying .it’s something I love to do and though I face rejection I keep on learning and keep on going. Plod on McDuff.
    My shield will always be there to assist me.

    Thanks again for you comradic inspiration

  16. Kate Stanton on August 2, 2023 at 6:06 am

    Keep grinding! A quick search on YouTube shows me child prodigies at the piano and singers I couldn’t even dream of becoming. However, I have this nagging gut instinct that continues to want to write songs. My songs. Thanks for the reminder, Steve!!!

  17. Bing on August 2, 2023 at 7:09 am

    I remember Warner Erhard once saying that on his tomb stone he wanted it to say, “Burned Out”. I totally get it. Turn up the burners, full speed ahead. “ Management of emotion”, Amen. Thanks Steve for the reminder.

  18. Tessa Souter on August 2, 2023 at 7:35 am

    I actually DID this this very morning at 7am my time with my accountability group. We did three 15 minute stints on Zoom quietly and individually on things we had been dreading. On THE thing we had been dreading doing the most. Afterwards we shared our takeaways and I actually told everyone they needed to get your books the War of Art and Turning Pro because you go into detail about how we resist the most the things that are unconsciously the most important to us and lo … I get to my day job and here is your post on the exact same thing. Of course I forwarded the email!

  19. Yvonne on August 2, 2023 at 8:14 am

    Thank you thank you thank you! You are the “kick in the pants” inspiration I need—just when I need it! Coffee and Steven Pressfield to keep me going for the win!

  20. Kathy on August 2, 2023 at 8:21 am

    How precious you all are, admitting to your fears and insecurities. And you, Steven, thank you. You bring tears down my face because of your endless encouragement. What a grand opportunity for all of us, and ME included, to have our longings mentored within such crisp advice.

    This morning I meditated, as I do. Sometimes in that realm I’m still clueless to my own potential. This morning though, I was able to slip into the psyche of that little girl, that once was me. She could do anything. She could feel the colors and danced all over perceptions that her inhibitions could stop her. She kissed my tears and licked them right up. I owe her.

    • Kathy on August 2, 2023 at 8:34 am

      I try to confirm my sankalpa every night before I go to sleep. I meditate to sleep because night times, after losing my husband, Denny, are the most difficult. So, I imagine what my sankalpa is… my dreams, committed. Most often I get confused and try to include everything imaginable to make my life whole again, living and creating art, without Denny. This morning I realized I’m working way too hard at that. The definition I mean. It came to me how simple it is.

      I’m an artist.

      That’s it. So just BE that. Every waking minute… .


  21. peter on August 2, 2023 at 8:56 am

    too bad you had to reference Columbus. he was addicted to opium and a notorious drunk. I dont think his “discovery” was so much an iron will as a homeless mentally ill moron pushing desperately towards a delusional mirage. furthermore, his “accomplishment” is no accomplishment at all, since the “new world” was discovered thousands of years prior. You referencing Columbus is like if someone wrote a book a thousand years ago, then Columbus copied it verbatim and took credit for it. Is that worthy of recognition? Sorry, it’s worthy of eye rolls and a hope that white people can do better someday.

    • Kathy on August 2, 2023 at 11:46 am

      Ohh, Steven, sorry, but I need to side with a few people here as well as the State of Hawaii, on Columbus. Hawaii does not honor Columbus or Captain Cook. They are called, “hāʻole” – meaning “no breath”. Columbus is a sore spot on many levels.

      But I loved the rest!

      • Greg Lyndon on August 4, 2023 at 6:26 am

        Agreed. 100 per cent.

        I did not know Columbus and Cook were called « no breath ». In many sacred texts and spiritual traditions the breath is equated with the soul or life itself, so to call a person « no breath » is extremely damning.

        I see you are in Hawaii! I know little about the annexation of Hawaii but it always struck me as a kind of sophisticated, modern era « Columbus style » event.

    • Greg Lyndon on August 4, 2023 at 5:51 am

      All I can say is “Agreed. 100 per cent.”

    • Midnight Badger on August 9, 2023 at 2:22 am

      Yes the only thing Columbus was a poster boy for was Colonialism and all other words related to the mass take over and literal white washing of all the incredible colours of humankind. He should have not got out of bed the day he was due to sail – he’s an example of what it should look like when we don’t follow through on something….a doubt there was a noble intention to better the world, only greed – maybe he longed for recognition too but so do serial killers….so I guess we need to choose our heroes with care.

  22. Jeff Korhan on August 2, 2023 at 9:01 am

    Keep grinding. Get those winesaps!

  23. Steve on August 2, 2023 at 9:37 am

    “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.
    JOHN 16:33
    strain builds strength

  24. Susie Lomax on August 2, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you Steven.
    This blog silenced the room full of doubters in my head this morning, I hadn’t realised the chatter was so loud, almost deafening, The door closed I can breathe again. Hoorah

  25. Tim Wigham on August 2, 2023 at 2:32 pm

    The grind is the gift.

  26. Beverly Lyle Patt on August 2, 2023 at 3:29 pm

    Absolutely Agee with this message but my brain went to, “Wait! Keats was only 26 when he died??”

  27. chuck beisch on August 2, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    I keep 2 desk signs as incentives

    One for my work over my desk as I write or draw….”Just Start”

    The other as a n incentive as I battle old age to keep the parts moving……..
    “Stand” every other hour

    Best to you Steve………… Chuck

  28. Ann on August 2, 2023 at 9:36 pm

    I like this post. Stay in uncertainty strongly, moving forward no matter what ends up truly discovering inner strength and helps us to believe ourselves deeper.

  29. Anaheeta on August 5, 2023 at 9:50 pm

    Whatever one calls these skills — it is true. There is no glory, no trophy, no nothing when I write alone. Even my family doesn’t know half the emotions I go through. That’s ok. Reading that there is a name for the everyday is good enough for me. Thanks again.

  30. Mike on August 6, 2023 at 10:39 am

    I never feel any (or very little) self doubt while I’m creating. But, when I have to go into edits, and then more so the closer it comes time to publish, the worse it gets. I start becoming plagued with self-defeating thoughts like ‘what if folks don’t like this?’, etc.

    Does that count as the sort of doubt you’re describing. Because the initial creation is doubt-free and my favourite part of the journey.


  31. Laura on August 9, 2023 at 7:49 am

    I love “Sit down. Get to work.Don’t Stop”
    It’s so simple yet so hard.

  32. Doug on August 16, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you. Very timely. It is the consistent, unsexy work that gets the job done.

  33. Harry on September 8, 2023 at 10:19 am

    and sadly, some days, resistance wins….

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