Steven Pressfield Blog

Being a Writer is Like Being an Athlete

  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

  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

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!”

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

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

“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

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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The Mystery Makes the Hero Choose

Let’s stay with Blade Runner in this post, but let’s go back to the 1982 original starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young and directed by Ridley Scott (screenplay by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples.) If indeed, as we’ve been positing in previous posts, The female carries the mystery and The male’s role is to uncover the mystery, then what happens when he (remember, the “male” can be a female too, as long as she acts in the archetypal rational/assertive/aggressive style of a male) does uncover the mystery? Answer: he is thrust into a moral crisis. He is forced to…

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Male and Female in “Blade Runner 2049”

I’m going to generalize wildly in this post so please bear with me. Many exceptions could be cited legitimately to the principle I’m about to put forward (and maybe the principle itself is completely wrong). But it’s thought-provoking and its exploration, I hope, will give us all something to chew on. If, as we have proposed in earlier posts in this series, The female carries the mystery, then what is the male’s role? (Bear in mind that the “male” in our story could be a female, e.g. Diana in Wonder Woman or Sara Paretsky’s tough private eye V.I. Warshawski or…

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Male and Female in “Lawrence of Arabia”

  The movie Lawrence of Arabia, like The Wild Bunch or Seven Samurai or Moby Dick, is a story without any primary female characters. How, then, can it follow the principle we’ve been exploring in the past three posts: The female carries the mystery. The answer, I think, is that Lawrence himself (Peter O’Toole) is the female element. Lawrence is the female element and the male element. The primary issue posed by David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia (or at least one of several primary issues) is, to my mind, How can an individual reconcile his own authentic greatness with the…

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Start with this War of Art [27-minute] mini-course. It's free. The course's five audio lessons will ground you in the principles and characteristics of the artist's inner battle.

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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.



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.



Read this one first.
It identifies the enemy—what I call Resistance with a capital “R,” i.e. fear, self-doubt, procrastination, perfectionism, all the forms of self-sabotage—that stop us from doing our work and realizing our dreams.
Start here.
Everything else proceeds from this.



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?"



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.

do the work book banner 1


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.