Steven Pressfield

Pulp Heroes

By Steven Pressfield | 21 Comments

I was watching the movie Logan on TV last night. Do you know it? It’s one of the X-Men flicks, starring Hugh Jackman as “the Wolverine,” though in this story he’s the more human-ish version of that character, called “Logan.” I’ve actually watched this movie about ten times. A lot of writers would turn up their noses at this species of pulp-y fare, but I really love it … and I learn a lot because these are the kinds of stories that work. The heroes work. The villains work. The stories work. I was studying the character of Logan/Wolverine. It…

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The Blank Page is Not Neutral

By Steven Pressfield | 24 Comments

It seems so harmless, doesn’t it? A simple sheet of 8 1/2-by-11 bond that you and I roll into our typewriter (or the equivalent empty screen on our laptop.) What could possibly go wrong? (Other than terminal procrastination, paralysis by perfectionism, self-doubt, self-loathing, self-recrimination, self-hatred, not to mention terminal existential dread, panic, hysteria, flatulence, bad breath, dandruff, and the uncontrollable desire to drink, smoke, vape, fly to Katmandu, and have a mad self-destructive affair with the first person that says hello.)   The blank page is not neutral.   If we think of it in combat terms, that empty sheet…

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The Gods Rule by Acclaim

By Steven Pressfield | 28 Comments

  Did you see Oliver Stone’s 2004 movie, Alexander, about Alexander the Great? Indeed it was not one of Mr. Stone’s best, as I suspect he himself would admit if we got him drunk enough. But the film did have a great one-sheet promo line: Fortune favors the bold. (The phrase comes from a Latin proverb, variously rendered as audentes Fortuna iuvat and Fortuna audaces iuvat among others.) Here’s a true story of Alexander from Diodorus and other ancient sources: When he was preparing to march out from Macedonia to commence his assault on the Persian Empire, Alexander called the…

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“B” Speaks for “A”

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

Quick announcement… For years, people have asked me, “When are you going to do an in-person speaking gig about The War of Art, Resistance, etc.?” I’ve always said no. But a part of me never stopped thinking, “Well, maybe one day … “ Short version: That day has come. It’ll be an intimate event, informal, just one day — September 15 in Nashville. I’m going to talk about the artist’s inner world (or at least my own), the self-discipline, the source of creativity, and the interior war that we all have to fight to bring our books and ideas into…

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The Villain Wants the McGuffin

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

“McGuffin” is a term primarily associated with movies (Alfred Hitchcock is usually credited with inventing—or naming—it), but the concept applies with equal effectiveness to prose fiction and even nonfiction. The McGuffin is what the villain wants. The granddaddy of McGuffins is the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend. Closer to home it’s the letters of transit in Casablanca, the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, the Maltese Falcon, the Ark of the Covenant. R2D2 is the McGuffin in Star Wars, according to George Lucas. Here’s the McGuffin’s origin story from a 1966 interview with Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut (also explained by Hitch in…

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Write the Book You Can’t Write

By Steven Pressfield | 42 Comments

I know (from letters and e-mails sent in) that many readers of this blog are published writers, even multiply-published writers, as well as successful artists and entrepreneurs of all kinds. If you’re one of them (and even if you aren’t), for sure you can look back on certain successes you’ve had and say to yourself, “How did I ever do that?” How did I write Braveheart? Where did I find the guts to launch Yoyodyne? Two answers come to mind. “I was so desperate I had no other choice” Or “I was too dumb to know I couldn’t do it.”…

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Write What You Don’t Know, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | 26 Comments

One of my earliest mentors was a writer named Paul Rink. (He’s on pages 111 and 112 in The War of Art.) Before I knew him, Paul lived in Big Sur. This was during the time when Henry Miller was a major personality there. Their families lived on Partington Ridge. Every morning Paul used to shepherd the children of the neighborhood down to the school bus stop on Highway One. He stayed with them till the bus came. To pass the time, Paul had a game he played with the kids (You can read about this in Henry Miller’s Big…

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Write What You Don’t Know

By Steven Pressfield | 36 Comments

  The classic axiom cited to young writers starting out is Write what you know. Makes sense, right? If you’ve just returned from sailing alone around the world, write that story. If you’re a surgeon, a single mom, an opioid survivor … write about that. Write what you know. My theory is a little different. Like the other principles in this series, it’s counter-intuitive. It doesn’t seem to make sense. But, as we’ve seen, sometimes sense is nonsense. Logic and rationality rarely jibe with the unknowable intangibles of creativity. My mantra for myself is Write what you don’t know. When…

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A “Save the Cat” Moment

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

  If you’ve read many of these posts, you know that I’m a big fan of screenwriting guru Blake Snyder and his book on the film writer’s craft, Save the Cat. Here is Blake defining this principle: Save the Cat is the screenwriting rule that says: “The hero has to do something when we meet him so that we like him and want him to win.” Does this mean that every movie we see has to have some scene in it where the hero gives a buck to a blind man in order to get us onboard? Well no, because…

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Pick the Idea That’s Craziest

By Steven Pressfield | 34 Comments

  Sometimes you and I as writers will see a whole menu of ideas before us. One will seem surefire commercial. Another will seem risky but fun. A third might seem totally off the wall. Which one should we pick? Before I give you my own idiosyncratic answer (which you’ve probably guessed already), let me cite two instances from my own career. The idea for The Legend of Bagger Vance came to me just as my screenwriting career, which I had dedicated ten years of my life to, was about to catch fire. The idea came as a book, not…

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