Writing Wednesdays

The Life We’ve Chosen

By Steven Pressfield | 14 Comments

I’m gonna take a tiny break from our mini-series about Villains to share a blog post from my friend Seth Godin. Why? Because I think Seth has described in a few short lines the Writer’s Life (or any artist’s life) in a way that nails it like nothing I’ve ever seen. Seth’s blog, by the way, is my go-to. It’s the first one I read every morning. I can’t recommend it highly enough.   THE SOLO MARATHON The usual marathons, the popular ones, are done in a group. They have a start time. A finish line. A way to qualify. A route.…

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The Non-Zero-Sum Character

By Steven Pressfield | 19 Comments

  Here, in no particular order, is a sampling of real-life non-zero-sum characters. Jesus of Nazareth The 300 Spartans at Thermopylae

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The Villain Speech in “Vice”

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

We said in last week’s post that the Villain sees the world as a zero-sum game. This is a corollary to another aspect of the classic antagonist’s view of life as a war of all-against-all. To re-quote Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) from Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men: COLONEL JESSUP Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? … I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the…

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To the Villain, It’s a Zero-Sum Game

By Steven Pressfield | 13 Comments

The definition of a zero-sum game is if one side wins, the other side loses. Whatever proportion of goodies Player A takes, by that exact amount is Player B’s stake diminished. In a zero-sum equation, if I take a slice of the pie, there’s that much less for you. This is the how the Villain in our stories sees the world. In Margin Call, written and directed by J.C. Chandor, the executives at a major investment bank realize, over one long dramatic night, that their trading model is fatally flawed. The instant “the Street” gets word of this, the firm…

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Pulp Heroes

By Steven Pressfield | 20 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 | 27 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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