Steven Pressfield Blog
If it’s true that the Understory (the unspoken story-beneath-the-story) is more important than the Surface Story—and that it’s what REALLY pulls the reader/viewer through the drama—then what exactly is this thing? Where do we find it? And how do we as writers know if we even have one?
I’ve been collecting Muse stories. Here’s an amazing one from Krista Tippett’s podcast, “On Being” (which I highly recommend subscribing to). It’s an exchange between the host, Ms. Tippett, and her guest, Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic, and many more—and a great and deep believer in forces that “are not dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”
The Understory, by its very nature, is embedded in the Story. That’s what Keith Richards was searching for when he played those same two chords over and over. He knew it was in there somewhere. He was just waiting for it to show itself.
Sterling Lord (that’s his real name) was the literary agent who sold my first work of fiction, The Legend of Bagger Vance, in 1994, and my most recent, A Man at Arms, in 2021. He also sold Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in 1954, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962, and so many others it’s impossible to count.
Do you know who Gary Player is? He was one of the “Big Three,” along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, in professional golf in the sixties and seventies. He won nine majors, including the Masters three times.
I believe that the Fifth Symphony existed before Beethoven composed it. Maybe not note for note, but in some form that we would recognize if we could hear it.
I was fortunate enough, a few months ago, to get a sneak look at an upcoming book called The Creative Act by Rick Rubin. Do you know who Rick is? He’s been called the Godfather of Hip-Hop. His recording studio, Shangri-La in Southern California, is and has been a mecca for everybody from the Beastie Boys to LL Cool J, to Run DMC, Public Enemy and many more.
[Quick update: next week, the Wednesday post will arrive in your inbox in a slightly different manner. I will say no more! Hope you like it. Lemme know in the Comments.]
Geniuses are a dime a dozen. The streets of Manhattan are crawling with MFAs from Columbia and NYU, as are the freeways of LA with grads of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.