Writing Wednesdays

The Non-Zero Sum Character

By Steven Pressfield | 0 Comments

We’ve been positing in our series on Villains in film and fiction that the Bad Guy as a general rule believes in a world of scarce resources, a cosmos in which all men and women are born selfish/evil … and that this condition—“the state of nature,” as Thomas Hobbes phrased it—produces inevitably a “war of all against all.” The villain in other words sees the universe as a zero-sum proposition, i.e. a world in which, if he is to gain, he must take away from you and me. In this post let’s examine the opposite proposition. Let’s consider the world…

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Kati’s Reply (and Mine)

By Steven Pressfield | 103 Comments

I wanted to post Kati’s letter as soon as it came in because I felt certain that there would be a strong and passionate response. But the outpouring of support, encouragement, tough love, not to mention some pretty deep wisdom overwhelmed me. I think it overwhelmed Kati too. My thanks to everyone who wrote in. The notes were so heartfelt and contained so much kindness and caring, it almost didn’t matter what specific “advice” or kicks-in-the-pants they contained. The gesture was everything. Kati responded right away, but because her reply appeared in the Comments section on the same day the…

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“Writing is a Bad Idea”

By Steven Pressfield | 141 Comments

I got this note a few days ago from a writer named Kati Reijonen. I have no prior acquaintance with Kati. In a raw and quite brave way, Kati’s letter expresses the “heart of darkness” that all of us as writers and artists carry around in our guts. With Kati’s permission I have reprinted the entire note below. If you like, please respond to Kati in the Comments section. I’d be very interested to hear what we all think. I’ll post the answer I sent to Kati next week.   Dear Pressfield and company, I am a Finnish writer, just…

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Resistance = Fear

By Steven Pressfield | 12 Comments

Artists and warriors live and die by one primal emotion.

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Our Michael Moment

By Steven Pressfield | 14 Comments

Every great second act has a midpoint. In this instant something happens that ratchets our entire story to a higher level. The stakes go up, way up. Characters whom we thought we understood must suddenly be viewed in an entirely different, and far more serious, manner. The story upshifts. Every relationship in the narrative alters. Until this moment, we had thought the drama was about “X.” At once we understand it’s about “X squared.” MICHAEL They want to have a meeting with me, right? It’ll be me, McCluskey and Sollozzo. Let’s set the meeting. Get our informers to find out where…

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Glaukos and Sarpedon

By Steven Pressfield | 49 Comments

[I’m starting (actually I started it a couple of weeks ago) an informal series on Instagram, where I will be recommending books on leadership—primarily military but also corporate, nonprofit, and so forth. The first book, inevitably, will be the Iliad. Doing some preliminary research I stumbled onto this post from nine years ago, before we were even doing “Writing Wednesdays.” I bring it back today, just for the literary greatness of the passages quoted from Homer. I hope our readers judge it worth their time and attention.]   Was there a greater war story, ever, than Homer’s Iliad? It’s almost a…

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Art is Real

By Steven Pressfield | 25 Comments

When I had reached the depths of my own hero’s journey, living in an abandoned cinder-block house with no doors or windows, no electricity, no bathroom and no running water, I found that my requirements in reading material had altered dramatically. I couldn’t read even good books, from outstanding authors, books I had read and loved in the past. They didn’t work for me any more. They felt shallow. They didn’t give me what I needed. The only works I could read were Homer, Shakespeare and the King James Bible. I loved these. I would crack the Old or New…

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Your Hero’s Journey and Mine

By Steven Pressfield | 17 Comments

I’m from the Northeast. But my hero’s journey played out in the South. My family is middle-class, but my journey was strictly blue-collar. Why? Something impelled me to that part of the country and that stratum of society. I drove tractor-trailers, I worked on oil rigs, I picked fruit as a migrant laborer; I lived in hellholes without electricity and running water; my friends were mechanics and roustabouts and body-and-fender men. Why? Had I been in control of my journey, I could have selected any one of hundreds of other places and people and odysseys. Something made me choose this…

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2 Notes for the New Year

By Steven Pressfield | 14 Comments

Cartoon by Harry Bliss from the December 30th L.A. Times: A cat wearing spectacles is sitting at his writing desk scribbling in his journal. Dear Diary, Finished writing the novel, got a bit or weeding done, had ‘The Big Conversation’ with the wife … HA! Just kidding. Slept. (The actual cartoon says, “Finished reading the novel.” I tweaked the text for our own special group.) The second story comes from the ancient world: The Games sacred to Zeus were held every four years at the city of Olympia in Greece. The stadium is still there. You can walk through the tunnel…

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Art is Artifice

By Steven Pressfield | 8 Comments

Art, by definition, is artifice. It’s fake. It’s not “real” in the sense that a sunset is real, or a trout or a pomegranate. Art is a work crafted with calculation, forethought, and skill to create either the simulacrum of something real (a painting of a sunset, say) or to express an insight into, or attempt to bring order out of, nature or the experience of life. Art is made by man, not God. The simple fact that art is made, not discovered or revealed, makes it artifice. But art is also real. The pomegranate in the painting may not…

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