Steven Pressfield

A Second (Bad) Self

By Steven Pressfield |

“There is a second self inside you, an inner, shadow Self. This self doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t love you. It has its own agenda, and it will kill you. It will kill you like cancer. It will kill you to achieve its agenda, which is to prevent you from actualizing your Self, from becoming who you really are. This shadow self is called, in the Kabbalistic lexicon, the ‘yetzer hara.’ The yetzer hara, Steve, is what you would call Resistance.” Rabbi Mordecai Finley, in conversation, July 4, 2010 Rabbi Mordecai Finley of Ohr HaTorah congregation in Los Angeles (one…

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Your Agent Wants a Second Book

By Steven Pressfield |

  As you read this, are you at some point—beginning, middle, or end—in the writing of your first book? Start thinking about Book #2. I’m serious. I know when we’re up to our eyeballs in alligators it’s hard to start planning ahead to draining the next swamp. But athletes think in terms of careers, as do dancers and filmmakers and restaurauteurs and entrepreneurs. You and I need to too. Can you picture a shelf of books? Your books. Ten of ’em. Fifteen. Twenty. Can you imagine not just one title but an actual body of work? It’s in you. You…

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Up From the Trenches

By Steven Pressfield |

About eighteen months ago I wrote a series for this blog titled “Report From the Trenches.” The posts were about a particularly ugly run of months when I was struggling with a book-in-progress that had crashed at the finish line. The struggle was about starting over. It was about not caving in to the massive Resistance that arises when you, the writer, have to go back to Square One and rethink everything. That book was published yesterday. Like just about everybody who reads this blog, I have a really hard time flogging my own stuff. So all I’ll say is the…

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Being a Writer is Like Being an Athlete

By Steven Pressfield |

  I’ve never met LeBron James or Tom Brady but I think about them frequently (and other athletes of that same hyper-disciplined mindset) as I go about my day. They’re human beings, with normal, real-life stuff they have to take care of. But they’re also on a mission. That makes them different from most people … and makes their challenges different too. If Serena Williams has a match this afternoon on Centre Court at Wimbledon, she still has to eat breakfast. Pick an outfit. Take care of her hair. Serena has a baby daughter. She has a husband. She has people…

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A Prayer to the Muse

By Steven Pressfield |

  The first thing I do when I enter my office each morning is to say a prayer to the Muse. I say it out loud in dead earnest. The prayer I say (this is in The War of Art, page 119) is the invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence, the Oxford-educated classical scholar also known as Lawrence of Arabia. We were speaking last week about conceiving of our office/studio as a sacred space. For me, this prayer is part of that process. The prayer was given to me by one of my first writing…

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A Sacred Space

By Steven Pressfield |

When I was eight years old, my family spent part of a summer vacation visiting friends in New England. One of the grownups we spent time with was a painter. He had a big sunny studio out behind his house, just past trellises groaning under the weight of roses and through a little wattle-type gate. I remember the artist’s wife telling me and my brother, “Don’t ever go in there without Peter’s permission.” Of course Peter gave his permission all the time. He was happy to have kids around. Sometimes we would even take naps in the studio. One thing…

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“Get Up! Begin Your Day!”

By Steven Pressfield |

I’m a gym person. I have been for thirty years. I go early. Ridiculously early. Twyla Tharp does too. Here she is from The Creative Habit: I begin each day of my life with a ritual. I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and the weight training I…

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Resistance Wakes Up With Me

By Steven Pressfield |

People ask me sometimes, “When in your day do you first feel Resistance?” My answer: “The instant I open my eyes.” In fact maybe sooner. Maybe before I even know I’m awake. I feel it. It’s like Resistance is this huge, rapacious bear that sleeps in bed at my shoulder. By the time my feet hit the floor, it’s already lacing up its shoelaces. Resistance is waiting for me. He’s wide awake. He’s ready to rumble. He does not give me .0001 second of slack. What’s the answer? What’s my answer? The only way I’ve found to beat this bear…

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The Villain Has No Empathy

By Steven Pressfield |

“Empathy” is a term much in the news these days. It means of course that capacity of imagination that allows one person to feel another’s pain and to identify with, or even act in sympathy with, that other person. If you and I as writers want to create a memorable villain, we will banish that capacity from our Bad Guy’s character. The Alien feels no empathy. The Predator feels no empathy. The pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel no empathy. Each acts only in its own self-interest. Margin Call is one of my favorite movies of the past…

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The Villain Never Says He’s Sorry

By Steven Pressfield |

In the classic Western Shane there’s a character named Chris Calloway (played by Ben Johnson, who later won an Oscar for his role as “Sam the Lion” in The Last Picture Show.) Chris Calloway is the original bully in Shane. He’s the first of the Bad Cattlemen to humiliate Shane (Alan Ladd) in the bar room at Grafton’s, calling him “Sody Pop” and slinging a shot of whisky into his face. Chris brawls with Shane and in general shows himself to be a world-class sonofabitch. But later in the film when Chris learns that his boss, Rufe Ryker, plans to dry-gulch…

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