One of the reasons a community of writers and artists is important, even a virtual one like our Writing Wednesdays, is because each of us is, in our work, essentially ALONE.

Compare the writer/artist to an auto mechanic (or even a brain surgeon). If they get stuck on a problem, they can always call over a master mechanic or a senior surgeon and get advice and counsel.

Jung could always ring up Freud. Einstein could look to Niels Bohr. Even Steven Spielberg could always reach out to George Lucas.

But you and me? We’re orbiting in space with no other stations within a thousand miles.

Nobody’s gonna solve that second-act nightmare but you and me. Is Scene 22B working? How the hell do we get out of the corner we’ve painted ourselves into in the final thirty pages?

There’s a famous (no doubt apocryphal) story about James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Or maybe it was Joyce and Hemingway. Joyce had finished a near-final draft of Finnegan’s Wake. He gave this monster to Hemingway to read and offer advice. The stack of pages was so big that the only place Hemingway could find to hold it was on his staircase. He stacked part of the manuscript on one step and the next two on the next steps. 

He never got around to actually reading it.

Suddenly Joyce phoned. He needed the manuscript back. Hemingway was too embarrassed to admit he hadn’t read it. He grabbed the stacks off the steps but when he put them together into one, he mixed up the sequence.

A week later he ran into Joyce at the cafe. “Thanks so much, Hem! I love the new order you’ve set the chapters in.”

In other words, brothers and sisters, you and I are on our own.


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. Jill on May 22, 2024 at 1:51 am

    It’s true. We are so alone, and nobody but nobody will ever know what we struggle with ~ not even our fellow artists, because all our art practices are different from one another’s. It sounds weird but sometimes we’re all we have to pat ourselves on the back or tell us to just keep going. NOBODY is going to do that for us. I mean sure there’s wonderful blogs like this, and your mom sometimes or your sister, or your “classmate in art class” but ultimately really truly, in the studio, it’s just you, and God. And God isn’t going to paint (or write) that thing for you. Ultimately you are all alone. This post is just super, super 10000000% TRUE.

    • Joan on May 22, 2024 at 7:43 am

      Thank you Jill ! Brilliantly put !

  2. York on May 22, 2024 at 1:51 am


    I don’t follow Writing Wednesdays as religiously as I did back in the day. However it’s still as valuable as ever.

    You might not believe this, but your posts every Wednesday literally kept me alive during a rough period back in the late 2000’s. It was, among other things, a routine I looked forward to. Wednesday became a sort of ritual.

    It definitely helps to have a compass or landmark to look to when we’re alone. Your posts are one of those landmarks.

    I pray you keep doing the great work and continue to inspire.

    Stay blessed.

    • Susanne Dejanovich on May 22, 2024 at 9:04 pm

      I say Amen to your comment. I do wish I had someone near me to help me. I always say a sincere thank you to everyone who contributes here. Steve, you are a God send to so many of us. A sane mind to remind us, we are all on a path to somewhere and it’s life giving for others to give us a pat, reminder we are not always alone. Blessings to everyone here.

  3. cookie clicker 2 on May 22, 2024 at 1:54 am

    Yes, it is a fact. We often feel isolated, and no one will truly understand the challenges we face, not even our fellow artists, as each of our artistic methods is unique.

  4. Tolis on May 22, 2024 at 2:01 am

    Thank you so much dear Steve.

    Together with ours loneliness, I also feel the loneliness of our written words. “I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.” –Galandriel–

    I feel it in the book: all of those combinations of letters I have written on Word (only colored pixels) become digital orphans after a few days. I gave them birth but now they lay alone and forgotten, they are cold.

    And even when I awake or stirb some, they are just a few only for a fraction of a second.

    I am alone, and my creation is also so alone. I can’t even know if it will ever have life –that complex combination of words in a mathematically uncertain universe, where what is important is the effectiveness and the matter, not *untested digital ghosts*.

    Lucky are the great writers, whose words come back to life whenever humans read them –they’re being read for centuries, millenials.

    On the other hand, being parts of this world, brings forth the truth that we are not alone in this respect: that if we ever win (or won), even if we lose and take the 3rd place, we aren’t alone on that award podium. We hold the medal with all those who were on our side. For me e.g. is you, my parents in the most indirect way, my co-workers and relatives who helped me in all ways, my page’s ladies of knowledge who kept on The Mythologists running when I could not any more (it would never have started, for the book started from one post I created), my mentors, the man who found Insulin -blessed he is, for he has saved so many scientists and artists and workers and children, that no war of barbarians -in ancient greek terms- can kill, etc.

    A huge podium: but still we are alone. The opposites in conflict.

    “But though you’re still with me, I’ve been alone all along” (Evanessence, My Immortal)

  5. jon b on May 22, 2024 at 2:33 am

    very (very) feeling this. jon b. scary sometimes

    I hope everyone has a happy & safe Memorial Day. (with others if you so choose)

  6. Julio Baptista Barroco on May 22, 2024 at 3:11 am

    “In other words, brothers and sisters, you and I are on our own.”

    Indeed! Those sublime forces don’t punch the keyboard, nor those AI-assistants…

    My belief is that they can make things more fluid, but we still need to keep the creative marching nonetheless, the one only we can do.

  7. Shirley on May 22, 2024 at 4:47 am

    Dear Steven,

    “In other words, brothers and sisters, you and I are on our own.”
    You made me laugh!
    Ok ok “Alone”, are we? or is it our own resistance to controlling everything?
    (But )ok, yes, we’re alone, but at the same time, when we’re writing, we’re not. You know the feeling right ? and it means the world to us brothers and sisters! It’s this feeling that keeps us moving (I’m talking to myself when I say that)

    Thank you Steven

  8. Dan Dominguez on May 22, 2024 at 4:52 am

    What a great story. This really speaks to the importance of the impact we can have on others, sometimes without even meaning to.

    I’m grateful for a handful of good and faithful friends I can ring up when I just need a quick glance at something, but yes, they are busy and the best they might be able to give me sometimes is a reshuffled version of what I shared.

  9. Jim Woods on May 22, 2024 at 5:00 am

    Steve, I respectfully disagree. We can find community and get support. All you have to do is ask. It’s scary and sometimes it doesn’t pan out, but I can tell you firsthand that help is ABSOLUTELY out there. Being alone is actually a myth. I’ve helped hundreds of authors personally over the years. And I know you’ve said before how powerful it was working with Shawn Coyne. Shoot, I’ve reached out to Shawn myself.

    Maybe being alone is more of a mindset you have because it helps you rely more on the muse?

  10. C.M. O'Slatara on May 22, 2024 at 5:14 am

    Steve, I agree with almost everything you say, but on this, I must dissent.
    I wouldn’t say we need to be alone. Honestly, I would say we shouldn’t. I have writing friends that look over my stories and I look over theirs. Everyone’s eye is a bit different, and each person has their own unique way of looking at a story. All of it is useful in some way.
    I have found it incredibly helpful as a writer not just to have my work looked at critically but to look at another’s work critically. You see things in a story you aren’t close too, one that you haven’t written and rewritten 12 times. You find both flaws and strengths and then, with practice, you find them in your own writing.
    I would encourage any writer to find people to share their writing with. Multiple people. There are online critique groups and there are writing groups in many communities. If you don’t see one, go to the local library and start one. They would be thrilled to have you.
    Like any art form, writers can have mentors. We don’t have to live in a fortress of solitude. There is a romanticized myth of the writer as a solitary creature living in the woods and surviving on red wine and cigarettes, churning out novels and tortured poetry. It’s wrong. Nearly all of us have jobs to pay the bills. Even people doing book tours can’t quit their day job. We don’t do this for money.
    But if you really want to write, if you want to get better, then you need to go through the gauntlet and let someone else comment on your work. You need to be told that your excessive use of filtering is creating too much narrative distance and your story is difficult to connect with. You need to be told that the main character’s journey started as one thing and ended up being about something else, but you are missing the pivot where the character decides to go for the other prize. Without that, your ending is not as satisfying as it could be. You need to be told that a 45 word sentence is too long or that your reliance on adverbs to shore up weak verbs isn’t helping the narrative. And you need to be told what you are doing right. That your descriptions create a world that seems familiar, that the reader cried when they got to the part about the flowers, that the voice used for Molly is so well done, she feels achingly real.
    Not everyone is ready for this step. It can take a thick skin. Not everyone is nice and not every comment is taken as professionally as it was intended. But, when you are ready, I would highly encourage you to find your flock, so to speak, and learn from one another.

    • C.M. O'Slatara on May 22, 2024 at 8:49 am

      This is just to say I wasn’t speaking to Steve directly in the above post but to the community as a whole. When you (plural– writers in general) are ready. I in no way meant to say that Mr. Pressfield needs to seek guidance.
      Thank you for the great weekly blog, Steve.

  11. DeWayne Mason on May 22, 2024 at 5:37 am

    Ultimately, despite reaching out to a large community of fiends, relatives, and experienced authors to get feedback on my writing, and finding such valuable in shaping and polishing my works, I tend to agree that we alone must use our creative vision and instincts to form our final words. Still, I know in my head and heart that my work is better for my efforts to solicit feedback from others, and I’m grateful for that.kind and thoughtful community.

  12. Victor Juhasz on May 22, 2024 at 5:45 am

    True. True. And a great story about Joyce and Hemingway.

  13. Kathy on May 22, 2024 at 5:52 am

    One of my sisters bakes and decorates cakes . They aren’t just any cakes! They are more elaborate than I have ever seen. Spectacular and beyond my imagination.

    Sometimes she donates her artistic endeavors to “Cakes for Kids”, which is an organization that honors birthdays of lost and neglected kids in life. A small effort for lot of underprivileged and foster kids. My sister goes all out on those cakes and she takes it very seriously. So, she just got an order from , “Cakes for Kids”, for a graduation cake.

    She texted me,

    “I have no clue as what to do for this cake!”

    So, I responded with different ideas. How about a ship theme, representing the voyage of life? Or, maybe a trail in a forest?

    “I think it needs to be elegant”, was her response to my ideas,

    I am reflecting on that as I reflect on your idea of needing or not needing a creative buddy. I’m not sure I want one. I might wind up making a ship on a voyage, instead of the elegance I feel in my heart.


  14. Wade on May 22, 2024 at 6:41 am

    I love this story, and after reading so much Hemingway, I can believe it’s true, even if it isn’t. I would like to prefer it rings some truth.

  15. Jan on May 22, 2024 at 6:45 am

    I feel very blessed that thanks to Story Grid, I am never alone in the writing process. At the conclusion of a SG scene writing workshop, five of us decided to meet on a regular basis to critique each other’s scenes. Thanks to Zoom and some flexibility, we have found times that work for all five of us despite the fact we span three US time zones plus New Zealand and Uruguay. The other critical components of our success are candor compassion. We committed to no holds barred critiques delivered kindly and that has served us all enormously. Every one of us has become a better writer as a result and our works in progress have improved mightily.

    • Andrew on May 22, 2024 at 7:05 am

      Beautiful story

    • Aaron C on May 22, 2024 at 1:36 pm

      This sounds awesome. I wish I could find a small group to do this with in my genre, informally. Classes seem so stressful and everyone seems to be a better writer than I. I’m almost embarrassed to submit my stuff sometimes and it always feels so “official.”

    • Marcia on May 22, 2024 at 2:38 pm

      Hello Jan,

      It’s wonderful to hear you have a regular critique group across time and geographies! It’s also great to hear you all share SG as your touchstone for writing. I’m sure SG gives you a common vocabulary and basis for constructive critiques. With the help of a coach, I applied the principles of SG scenes to construct my first creative nonfiction book (late in life). I shudder to think how the book would have turned without its SG scaffolding.

  16. Fabiana Lenz on May 22, 2024 at 6:48 am

    This is so true, but I feel to… an another thing… and I can call this of lucky. The lucky of found inside the only place who we can stay, just us, just me. And the other, well, the other is like a window, but the eye is my. I can open the window, but I can look. I found this the mosted lucky!

  17. Jackie on May 22, 2024 at 7:04 am

    We’re not only alone and on our own, but also we must fight for the right to claim legitimate job status. When asked what I do, the answer, artist and writer, is met with inward eye rolls or silence. My former day jobs garnered questions, not so the artistic pursuits. More people conversed about the cleaning job and scrubbing toilets than painting and writing.
    Be a warrior with your time. Value yourself and your work. Some days, you’re all you’ve got.
    Loved the story, Steve.

  18. Scott Mitchell on May 22, 2024 at 7:58 am

    Like Jan above, I’m a member of a Cohort in Story Grid. Although the Cohort was “officially” retired many months ago, some of the members decided to keep meeting. And the results have been marvelous. We meet for an hour and half each week and exchange our work for comment. I think the three aspects of this that make it work so well are (1) We’ve all been trained in a common methodology (Story Grid) so we speak the same language and use the same vocabulary (2) the discipline of producing *something* every week, and (3) my colleagues are talented and hardworking with a sense of humor. So I don’t feel alone at all in my writing — I know my cohort colleagues will give my work an honest critique.

  19. CurtissAnn on May 22, 2024 at 8:54 am

    Maybe the sense of being alone is relative for each one of us. I am one who definitely feels alone, as a widow and introvert. My husband used to be a great source for feedback on my ideas. It’s about trust, I think.

    A long time ago I heard the great mystery writer Tony Hillerman tell the story of pleading with another writer, famous somebody, to critique one of his books. He said he learned from this to never have another writer give feedback on your work, because a writer will tell how they would write it. What Hillerman found best was to have his wife read his work. If his wife came back with, “Oh, it’s good,” he knew he had a lot more work to do. If his wife came back with, “Oh, Tony, this is wonderful!” he knew he was on the right track.

    I have found it is chancy and often unsatisfactory to have another writer give feedback on my work–pretty much plays out how Tony said. But I have learned to trust myself and can take what I like from a critique and leave the rest. Still, in the end the writer makes the final call for what he writes, and yes, this can be lonely. The independence is great.

  20. Alfred Ortega on May 22, 2024 at 9:18 am

    Thank you for this Mr Pressfield, I am currently reading
    Put Your Ass,,,, very helpful. And of course I refer to the War of
    Art frequently. Alone, so true, and yet I feel very connected
    and at one with the collectors and viewers of my work, (they
    enjoy it) = good, good
    At some level, which you have explained, we are not separate,
    this mystery is that it looks like we are. And so I continue to work.
    Many thanks

  21. Sam Luna on May 22, 2024 at 9:25 am

    Writing is a solitary activity. The only other person involved is the reader, but that person doesn’t arrive for several years after starting a work and it’s likely you’ll never meet them. We have to believe something can save us from this lonely habit — social media maybe, or starting a Substack. But the fact remains it’s just the writer and the paper/keyboard. It goes against every human instinct to herd up and survive as a species. It’s about to be summer — who wants to spend it inside writing by yourself?

  22. Kate Stanton on May 22, 2024 at 10:11 am

    I loved this today, Steven! So true–we think others may be helping us along the way, and sometimes they truly are, but when it comes down to our work. Our ears need to listen. Our eyes need to see it. Our heart needs to feel it. Our brain needs to think it. Our gut check and artistic integrity needs to be seen and heard–and that is indeed an inside job.

    Wisdom. Wednesday Wisdom I am so grateful for.

    • Jackie on May 22, 2024 at 1:14 pm

      Well said Kate. I paint with a group of women. We offer critiques when asked. We each have our own style. The final brush stroke comes down to what you said above. Even when we have a tribe, we as artists are alone in a way. And that’s not all bad. It’s easier to hear the small voice inside without a crowd.

  23. David McLoughlin on May 22, 2024 at 10:24 am

    One of the things that draws me to writing is being alone. After making films for twenty years I just got burned out on people in general. I enjoy the thinking and writing time.

  24. Srinivas Pippalla on May 22, 2024 at 10:35 am


    I humbly disagree. I think we have the divine. Yes, would be great to have a creative friends to brainstorm and talk etc. Absolutely yes. But, in the absence of that, I have been practicing that IDK ( I don’t know) is sacred. That I am a channel to something bigger. How do I be the best channel possible for that creative idea to manifest via me.

    Thank you for these newsletters. I love the size and content : ). I really appreciate what you do.

  25. Andrew on May 24, 2024 at 6:03 pm

    Are we alone? In one sense, yes, in the sense that our dreams, thoughts, and emotions are visible to no other. Yes, there is no one else who will finish that chapter, that much is true. And yet we are together in our endeavor in ways like this. Good luck to all of you.

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  27. Yves Musoni on May 29, 2024 at 2:16 pm

    I think those writers or artists Steven is talking about are those who try to work on what Jim McKelvey,- The Innovation Stack, calls : “perfect problem”. According to Jim McKelvey, a perfect problem has a solution, but not a solution that exists yet. We can compare those artists or writers to entrepreneurs who in their work, are also essentially alone. You become alone when you do things that hadn’t been done.

  28. John E. Bishop on June 1, 2024 at 10:53 am

    Steve, I would encourage all hands to take a close look at CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien’s commitment to The Inklings. There has been much written about this group and the impact the group had on the writings of its members. Maybe there is something we can, in these times. learn from them that would give a better perspective on loneliness.

  29. Mary on June 13, 2024 at 7:06 am

    The content is amazing, just like a perfectly crafted Chocolate Cake Pop ! The vivid analogy captures the unique solitude of a writer’s journey, while the humorous anecdote about Joyce and Hemingway adds a delightful touch. This piece beautifully underscores the importance of a supportive community for artists, even in the most solitary of pursuits.

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