Steven Pressfield Blog

Start Before You’re Ready

We feel a book inside us. It’s there. We see the characters, we feel the structure, we sense the contours. We just need another week/month/semester to get our heads in the right place to begin … Start before you’re ready. Forget that week. Strike that month. Start now. Don’t wait till your ducks are in a row. Dive in now. Why does this seemingly irrational principle work? Because the sphere of invention operates by different (and higher) laws than that of normal, conventional enterprises. The Muse works by her timetable, not ours. When the train leaves the station, you and…

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The First Page

There’s a terrific book that I often recommend to young writers—The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. Mr. Lukeman is a long-time agent, editor, and publisher. The thrust of his counsel is this: Most agents and editors make up their minds about submissions within the first five pages. If they spot a single amateur mistake (excess adjectives, “your” instead of “you’re,” “it’s” instead of “its”), your manuscript goes straight into the trash. Grind on those first five pages, says Mr. Lukeman. Make certain they are flawless. I would go further. The make-or-break page, to my mind, is Page One. Even…

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Write It Like a Movie

  The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside the men—to feel whether this time the men would break … The children stood nearby, drawing figures in the dust with bare toes … Horses came to the watering troughs and nuzzled the water to clear the surface dust. After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break.   Feel the power in…

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Little Joe

  [Resuming our deep dive into the structure, characters, and theme of the classic 1953 Western, Shane.]   The character of Little Joe or Joey (Brandon deWilde) is worth examining in some detail because he serves so many purposes in the story yet, if you think about it, the core of the drama doesn’t need him at all. The movie is really about the gunfighter Shane (Alan Ladd) and the dynamics between him and Joe Starett (Van Heflin), him and Joe’s wife Marian (Jean Arthur), him and the cattle baron Rufe Ryker (Emile Meyer), and him and the gunslinger Wilson…

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Villain = Resistance

  [St. Patrick’s is a special day here at Black Irish Books. So to celebrate, we’re giving special pricing on Black Irish JABS. From now through Sunday, you can get a book every month from me with a $50 discount. Click here to get going: https://blackirishbooks.com/jabs. [And now to today’s post … ]   Every villain is a metaphor for Resistance. I know this sounds all-inclusive to the point of outrageousness, but it’s true. In Jewish mysticism, the negative force (translated by my friend Rabbi Mordechai Finley as “a turning toward evil”) that equates to Resistance is called the “yetzer hara.”…

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Unseen Forces

  The tragedies that have come down to us from the ancient Athenian stage often feature as prominent players gods and demi-gods … and such unseen forces as Fate and Destiny. Prophecies are a frequent device, as they are in the Bible. Even in real-life, oracles such as Apollo’s at Delphi made pronouncements that the Greeks took with deadly seriousness—and many in fact proved true.   The wooden wall alone shall preserve you.   Either Sparta will fall or she will lose a king.   In other words, the Greeks believed (and the Book of Ecclesiastes concurs) that man was…

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The Understory

  Editors call it “narrative drive.” Writers want it. Readers need it. How do you get it? One way is by skillful use of an Understory. One of my favorite scenes in movies of the past few years is the Frozen Park Bench scene in the first of the Jason Bourne movies—The Bourne Identity. To refresh your memory:   It’s early in the story. We’ve met Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and learned that he is a young man who has lost his memory. He doesn’t know who he is. He’s an American on his own in Europe, specifically Zurich (where…

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Harvey Keitel’s Villain Speech in “Cop Land”

Have you seen the movie Cop Land? It’s a vastly underappreciated 1997 film written and directed by James Mangold, who also did Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, and 3:10 to Yuma. The script for Cop Land was good enough to attract Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Anabella Sciorra. It even got Edie Falco (before she became Carmela in The Sopranos) in a no-dialogue, ten-second cameo. But what I like most about it is the Villain Speech. An NYPD cop named Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) is the Bad Guy in Cop Land. The story revolves around the…

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The Final Deadline

December 1, 2010, Steve introduced the “What It Takes” column with his introductory article of the same name, “What It Takes”. Shawn’s first article in the series, “Getting the Meeting”, went live December 3, 2010, with an introduction by Steve that stated:

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“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman

I almost never do interviews. But I went out of my way to do three, in New York, over the past ten days. I’m gonna take this post to talk about the first one, with Brian Koppelman, on his podcast, “The Moment.” Here’s the link via Stitcher (though you can listen in other ways too.) Have you heard of Brian? He’s one of the co-creators (as well as a showrunner and writer) of Billions, in its fourth season on Showtime. He’s also a screenwriter and director, a former music industry exec and producer, and a lot of other stuff. He…

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FREE MINI COURSE

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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DO THE WORK

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.

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NOBODY WANTS TO READ YOUR SH*T

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.

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THE WAR OF ART

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.

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TURNING PRO

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?"

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THE AUTHENTIC SWING

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

DO THE WORK

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.