Yesterday I finished a book I’ve been working on for two and a half years—a sequel to A Man at Arms (2021). I sent the manuscript off to my agent and to some friends who have a movie option on the previous book.

At the same time, I’m watching the Masters golf championship on TV (it’s Sunday about noon as I’m writing this.)

Magnolia Lane at the Masters

When the Masters finishes a few hours from now, there’ll be a hard number on the leaderboard. Someone will have shot the lowest score. That player will have “won.” There’ll be applause and emotion and a big, big check. The victory will change the player’s life.

That’s not how it works for you and me as writers and artists. Our work doesn’t produce a number. It can’t be judged objectively.

Our leaderboard is inside our own head. We and we alone determine how we played the game.

Was the project worthy of us? Was it ours alone, in the sense that we were writing from our own gift … and in the face of our own fears? Did we live up to the goddess’s expectations of us? Did we live up to our own? Did we give it all we had?

There are no spotlights in the writer’s life. There’s no moment of acclamation as we tap in a putt on the 72nd green. Our moment is private. When I wrap a book, a lot of times I won’t even tell anybody.

This is self-evaluation. Self-reinforcement. Self-validation. 

Some of the players at Augusta didn’t make the cut. Others performed below their expectations of themselves. They will do, tonight and tomorrow, exactly what you and I do. In the private precincts of their own hearts, they’ll ask themselves the same questions we ask ourselves. 

Did I give it my all? Did I play my own game? Was I true to my love of the sport?

They will self-evaluate. They will self-reinforce. They will self-validate. 

Then they’ll get ready for next week. They’ll re-set their intentions, knowing that this is the life they have chosen and they would not have it any other way. They’ll reinforce their own gratitude that they get the chance to play the game. “Start the next one today,” my old friend and mentor Paul Rink once told me.

I have. I’m about sixty pages into the next book. I won’t judge this latest one any longer. I release it.

“Start the next one today.”

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.

do the work book banner 1

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

48 Comments

  1. Tom Petch on April 17, 2024 at 1:40 am

    Great post! Think this goes back to your idea about thinking territorially rather than hierarchically. Which is really hard to do! Always hard not to compare yourself to the ‘competition’ – who guess what, are not only not competition – but don’t even know you are out there!

  2. Jim Gant on April 17, 2024 at 1:51 am

    Steve – I am blessed and fortunate to call you friend. I have held onto many words since our visit. They are incoming. I am elated that Telamon is on his way…ONWARD.

    Your friend and ally – in this life and the next,

    Jim
    1COR13:13

    Hugs to D.

  3. Mohammad Khan on April 17, 2024 at 2:14 am

    The game we have chosen to play! Wah!
    What a great round of golf you played here.
    The private scoreboard.
    The silent appraisal.
    The game we chose to play.
    Thank you for this Mr Presserfield. 👍

  4. Claudine Chi on April 17, 2024 at 2:22 am

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! Congrats on finishing your sequel and 2.5 year book project. What a big, beautiful experience and achievement that must be! Congratulations also on the FREEDOM that comes with being internally referral, beyond the need for external recognition or validation. Sounds like you’re playing the only game that really matters. Being You. You’re definitely winning.
    Much love and respect,
    Claudine

  5. Malaika on April 17, 2024 at 2:26 am

    Wow, I am speechless! Looove this!!! This blog is so spot on and in perfect divine timing! I needed to read this today! Thank you Steven, you made my day! I am wowed! 🙂
    THANK YOU SO MUCH, STEVEN! I LOVE YOUR BLOGS AND WRITING!

  6. Rick on April 17, 2024 at 2:37 am

    60 pages since Sunday? Now I feel deeply unproductive

  7. Anonymous on April 17, 2024 at 2:38 am

    Love this, and somehow needed to hear it today 🙂

  8. Karin on April 17, 2024 at 2:40 am

    Great post. Writing, making art, is ultimately a lonely activity. If it’s in you and you need to do it, you carry on, on to the next project. ❤️

  9. Bonnie Lacy on April 17, 2024 at 2:51 am

    So timely. So needed. Last night as well, I let the next book go into the world. No more revisions. Let it go.

    And onto the next.

    Blessed-

  10. Tolis on April 17, 2024 at 2:59 am

    Thank you very much dear Steve.

    This night I couldn’t sleep -which brings me stress because I must be a homo economicus (read this term from Daniel Kahneman’s book), which means a totally rational human being. But that isn’t the case, and actually Daniel’s life work was to investigate and publish the fallacies and the misjudgings that automatically happen to our minds and actions, even to the minds of professional statisticians, who should above all be able to determine the rational action, when taking their every decision, big or small.

    But I started reading those hours another scientific book, “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience” by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csikszentmihalyi

    “Flow”, as he writes in the prologue, is actually based on doing what makes us happy (and only that end) although choosing those goals with wisdom. These two elements then produce the state of “optimal experience” which can bring the oh-so desired Flow, which is, as far as his lifetime’s work reveals, possibly the greatest state of happiness for a human being.

    Ah, but when I sit on the chair to work on the book, I don’t feel that “I am in my place, here is what I should do and nothing else”. It’s the Resistance part perhaps, that tries to disturb the Flow (“it disturbs the Force”, Yoda would say – Resistance is a compass, you’d say though)

    So here is a paradox: how can I be doing something that I’m determined to end no matter what, while at the same time I don’t feel the flow’s happiness that should derive from it?

    Mr. Mihaly has some insights in the book, as I read in the prologue, which help the reader enter more into the Flow.

    And then the next question is: can we be in the Flow state while writing, or is the “everything inside me is bored and finds no interest in correcting and continuing this sh*t I’m trying to write” the right state? Mr. Michaly actually declares that happiness is a follow-up, not the very action steps. It follows. I wonder what can we derive from such a research, and what Flow is all about. Sounds a bit like Muse to me.

    I don’t even know if I’m a writer or anything else.

    The only thing that holds me there is, like you said, that we won’t stop until we make it or die. No Flows, no Force. Sorry George Lucas. I can’t tell for sure, but I feel he really was in a state of Flow while creating the first Star Wars Trilogy. But I’m no,t here in the ending.

    “Make it or die” I say, and then if I wake up in the night I can’t even hold myself from eating that white goat cheese in the fridge, and then other stuff, which disrupt my almost vegan philosophy and also make me more tired in the morning. I can’t also sleep at 23:00 at night and I let it go for until 1:00 or so the last days. So how can we be those glorious fighters, Achilles or even better Hector (higher ethical standard) if we can’t even let that cheese in the (bad word) fridge?

    This is perhaps perverse self-evaluation. Perverse self-reinforcement. Perverse self-validation to be miserable and still not stop. Or foolishness of a glorious kind.

    Ah! Just expressing feelings. Back to work! Back to work! I only have 1 hour and a half a day these difficult days, let me crawl like I do.

    Thank you for creating another whole book, it is so important.

    And for beginning another one.

    Now your “child” is free and goes out to the world.

  11. Mitchell Fox on April 17, 2024 at 3:10 am

    Will do…

  12. Jackie on April 17, 2024 at 3:22 am

    Cheers to you Steve! This world doesn’t own you. You truly own your life. Thanks for the example you set for us. Best wishes on that out of the ordinary project. Can’t wait to read more.

  13. Anonymous on April 17, 2024 at 4:26 am

    A hearty congrats, Steve.
    And amen, Jackie.
    From Day 65 of the “Daily Pressfield,”: “I love to consider the work of an artist I admire as a totality… No one else who has ever lived…could have produced this body of work.” What a great run for SP.

    • Brad Graft on April 17, 2024 at 4:27 am

      Woops, too quick on the trigger. SF, Brad

  14. carol on April 17, 2024 at 4:39 am

    While our lives are not on TV as the Masters was – Our work does produce numbers and can be judged, by how many read our writings, will it become a bestseller, turn into a movie, how many stars.

    We are all our own Masters; while not televised, it is all relatable on same level. My work is critique by superiors who judge and check boxes; it can be educational and also frustrating, but I take the feedback to do better, to rise. As you said, we move on to the next one.

    Thank You for Sharing what we are all thinking, but don’t always connect the dots – we are all human, with baggage, trying to do what we are meant to do, no matter what our pocketbook looks like.

  15. Deb on April 17, 2024 at 4:43 am

    Perfect timing! Starting my second book!

  16. C.M. O'Slatara on April 17, 2024 at 5:09 am

    Congratulations on finishing your book! A movie option? Fantastic news!
    What resonated most to me about your post was when you said “I release it.” You can work on things for years, but there comes a time when you must release them, to say “This stands now as my creation in the world.” I hope it does get easier with time, because now it is an excruciating task to decide to be done with it. 🙂

  17. Gregory on April 17, 2024 at 5:44 am

    Thanks for the validation, reinforcement, evaluation “sandwich”, Steve. Coincidentally, topics I’m endearing to write about. At least the “bread” part. Currently reading Cal Newport’s Slow Productivity. For anyone who’s struggling with a long, complicated project, and the extreme resistance that comes with it, I highly recommend it. The book aims to have the side-effect of addressing knowledge worker burnout. According to the book, that burnout comes repetitive, mundane tasks we perform while our boss and colleagues are watching, which are mostly to create the illusion of productivity. What Kahneman might relate to the illusion of validity. We creatives as knowledge workers must continually self-validate, work at our own pace, and make the time and the place for focus on our practice.

  18. York on April 17, 2024 at 6:29 am

    Steve,

    If you had ANY idea how “on time” your posts are…

    This post was made at EXACTLY the right moment. I’m working on a project and though all of Monday and Tuesday morning we’re home runs, late a Tuesday afternoon the doubt set it. Unlike times before though, I could pause the frame, step back and look at myself and know that my mood was low. I knew I could pull out of it. I just didn’t know when. The last time this happened it took me 2 weeks. Right now, (1 day later) I’m determined to jump back in the trenches no matter what.

    Talk about providence.

    Thank you!

    PS. A sequel to A Man at Arms sounds AMAZING, as does a movie option for the 1st book.

    York

    PS.

  19. Kenneth N Proudfoot on April 17, 2024 at 6:30 am

    Thanks, Steve!
    Your gentle kick landed in the right moment and
    in just the right spot — !
    Onward.

  20. David Moe on April 17, 2024 at 6:46 am

    Not for nothing, but somehow your posts always seem to hit the spot. I’m re-reading A Man At Arms in preparation for your next book, but even better, I’m getting back to my writing!
    Thanks again! I appreciate you!

  21. Jan on April 17, 2024 at 6:48 am

    First, congrats on releasing yet another product of sweat and imagination. Second, you somehow have this uncanny ability to say what I need to hear when I need to hear it. Thank you for this one. I am grateful for your wisdom and generosity.

  22. Susan Setteducato on April 17, 2024 at 6:50 am

    So timely. I’m finishing a revision that will go out to Beta readers and an editor soon. I can already feel the Resistance-creep. Your observations and guidance are enormously helpful. Thank you.

  23. Ed Legge on April 17, 2024 at 7:09 am

    Amen.

  24. Michaela on April 17, 2024 at 7:17 am

    I’m just so glad I subscribe to your writing Wednesdays, it’s one of the only emails I make sure to read, and it never ceases to uplift and inspire me. Thankyou .

  25. Jim Brandmeier on April 17, 2024 at 7:31 am

    Brought me to tears.

  26. Tom Vandel on April 17, 2024 at 7:36 am

    Kudos, Steve, on finishing your book! Major effort. I’m 80% through the first draft of my 2nd novel. It doesn’t get any easier as you well know. But you can’t stop me.

  27. David on April 17, 2024 at 7:47 am

    I loved reading a Man at Arms and I cannot wait to see this book become a movie!

  28. MIchael Brandmeier on April 17, 2024 at 7:48 am

    Great post, Steven! As I’ve said, I believe the “GEORGE BAILEY” effect you have on the creative souls of the world is beyond measure. With your wisdom, work, care, and selfless sharing, many Creative Clarences would be trying to fly with no wings. 😊 A profound thank you!

  29. Kristin Costello on April 17, 2024 at 7:50 am

    A cup of coffee and reading your writing a great way to start the day.
    Which brings me to what I think about now when I work.
    Does it bring me joy and might it bring some kind of joy to others?
    My husband was a long time radio guy and brought me into the business.
    I started out with ‘vague goals’ . “ I just want to help people.”
    I was so nervous during my radio interviews (and very humble) that pretty much everybody I ever talked to started their own podcast.
    Of course can’t take all of the credit for that but maybe some!
    After losing my husband last year I have learned that it truly is the joy of creating and the people you do that with that truly matter.

  30. Sam Luna on April 17, 2024 at 8:34 am

    Kudos, Coach! Keep on keeping on ….

  31. Brian Nelson on April 17, 2024 at 8:34 am

    A Man At Arms hit me in the face like Mike Tyson Haymaker. My Biblical knowledge, at the time of reading, was so flimsy I didn’t know the chapter/verse, much less which book. I have since committed 1 COR 13 to memory.

    I have been unpacking why ‘collective suffering’ is so magnetic & adhesive to the human condition–and it has brought me to 1 COR 13 as well. I prefer agape over charity, but essentially the same. I think of it as the only ‘scaleable’ love–certainly not romantic love–just ask one’s wife/girlfriend how she feels about scaling your love…

    We are in dire need of scaleable love.

    I know you get this nearly every week, but you, this blog, your books–they deeply matter and I am filled with gratitude when ‘visiting’ this place Wednesdays. Thank you again.
    bsn

  32. Rick Surkamer on April 17, 2024 at 8:40 am

    When Resistance is in retreat the magic that can flow from us is the reward.
    PS
    I have lost count on the “Thank You’s” SP, so here is another
    THANKS

  33. Peter Brockwell on April 17, 2024 at 9:04 am

    Yep, there’s nothing but simply placing the arse (British spelling :-)) into the seat and put some time in! There’s nobody else who can do that for me.

    As Steve has said on various occasions and in the Jabs, we must be self-reliant like the LRDG, and bring this sucker into the world like its mother.

    Right, I’m going to put an hour in now, while I can, before feeding my cat later. His Lordship isn’t greatly impressed, but momentum is everything.

    Telamon…I can’t wait.

    Peter

  34. Melvin on April 17, 2024 at 9:12 am

    I like the golf analogy because, even as writers, we never know when our best effort will produce a birdie or a double-bogey. We just have to keep swinging.

  35. Alex Blake on April 17, 2024 at 9:14 am

    Brilliant words Steven! Really encouraging, powerful and vital stuff!
    Having started the next project before the previous one finishes is such great advice…..
    It’s the best way to not loose t loose your mojo.
    xx

  36. Judith on April 17, 2024 at 10:23 am

    I’m nearing the end of my novel. I find my attention moving foward to my first read-through of the whole. I’m eager.

  37. Jean on April 17, 2024 at 11:42 am

    I think about this every day as I work on my memoir with my editor.

  38. Gene on April 17, 2024 at 12:06 pm

    Wow. Finished one book and sixty pages into the next…..Amazing, Steve! Comparing writing to the Masters golf tournament, I realized I had something of a direct comparison to offer: I finshed a book ON GOLF a couple years ago. It’s on Amazon. And that finishing felt good. I DID IT! I had another book, a novel, waiting in the wings. However, today, I am still struggling into the third draft and Resistance keeps popping its head up like wack-a-mole. My novel is semi-autobiographical and telling the whole story, I can feel it churning me off the road, like a car with faulty steering wheel, veering into the same ditch. Maybe the story is so close that that makes it so hard, but while I’m working, I’m waiting for that lightening strike to fire up my forest darkness again and bring me into the searing light of truth. And I have the next one all ready to go.

  39. Amy Martinsen on April 17, 2024 at 12:25 pm

    This is so powerful. I need this right now. Thank you!

  40. Valeria Carballo on April 17, 2024 at 9:05 pm

    After I finished The war of Art A few years ago, I radically changed a painting that I was working on (my way of resistance was to paint anything but figures which it was what I really wanted to do) and today, after finishing reading this post I am doing something similar. Push through! as my art teacher uses to say. Thank you for the reminder! 🙌

  41. Joe on April 17, 2024 at 11:45 pm

    Golf-clap on more Telamon in this world.

  42. Jürgen Strack on April 18, 2024 at 2:19 am

    Writing Wednesdays, viva forever! I’m back.
    I finished my first-ever manuscript in 2022. A true story about a bad experience I had with a bully employer and the legal battle I fought alone to take them to court (employment tribunal). I then sought feedback from both an American best-selling author and also a dear friend of mine who is a professional editor and book agent here in the UK. Both say it needs more work (to put it mildly). I loved the two years I spent writing, doing the work, the process. So much so I couldn’t wait to go to bed to wake up in the morning and write some more. Another two years have gone by and I’m getting the urge to revisit it. Plus I’m considering rewriting it from a serious non-fiction to a light-hearted fiction/non-fiction piece. Any thoughts or advice? Love, J

  43. Michael J. Lotus on April 18, 2024 at 9:26 am

    “Did we live up to the goddess’s expectations of us?”

    Striving to do it. I have a bust of Artemis here. Not exactly the Muse, but the Huntress is a good patroness for my work in progress.

    These Wednesday messages are helpful. Glad to have them.

  44. Bonnie L Damron on April 18, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    This week’ post touched me deeply,Steve. Especially, “Did we live up to the goddess’s expectation of us? Did we live up to our own?” For several years now, I have listed to and read your honest coaching, and have understood that daily meetings with the Muse are essential. However, somehow, in this week’s post, I feel a deep connection with you through our parallel experiences of the presence of the goddess in the creative process. Thank you. Your weekly post, and your books, help so much.

  45. Nick on April 23, 2024 at 4:27 pm

    This is the game that we have chosen to play. I needed to hear this today because it helps me not feel sorry for myself! I am right where my choices have led me.

    I also am so glad that the next novel is on the way! I have been waiting!

  46. Dragan on May 13, 2024 at 2:16 am

    Write a book about general Hannibal,please.

  47. Toby howell on May 20, 2024 at 2:49 am

    I can understand your feelings completely. It’s a strange feeling as if it happened to me. My university assignment wasn’t getting completed, and I had pending online classes too. Then, in this situation, I took help from an online class provider site, which benefited me by finally clearing my online classes. After that, I focused on my assignment, and it was completed as well, which gave me a lot of relaxation.

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