Writing Wednesdays

Art is Real

By Steven Pressfield |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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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Perfectionism = Resistance

By Steven Pressfield |

Have you ever blown an entire morning noodling with a single paragraph or, worse, a solitary sentence? Resistance has outfoxed you. You have hung up an entire battalion trying to capture an outhouse.

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Hit the Page Running

By Steven Pressfield |

My mantra when I finally sit down to work is Hit the page running. What I mean by that is to plunge in immediately. First minute. First second. First millisecond. Why do I do this? Resistance. I don’t want to give Resistance the slightest opening to worm its way into my brain and start me “thinking.” No dawdling. No cogitating. No mulling over. Start. Get to work. Get into the flow. If I’m working on Draft #1 of a new project, I will pick up immediately where I left off yesterday. Without “thinking,” I’ll continue telling the story. If I…

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Ego and Self (and Resistance)

By Steven Pressfield |

Let’s revisit the quote from Rabbi Mordecai Finley that we cited two weeks ago. “There is a second self inside you, an inner, shadow Self. This self doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t love you. It has its own agenda, and it will kill you. It will kill you like cancer. It will kill you to achieve its agenda, which is to prevent you from actualizing your Self, from becoming who you really are. This shadow self is called, in the Kabbalistic lexicon, the ‘yetzer hara.’ The yetzer hara, Steve, is what you would call Resistance.” I believe absolutely that…

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Resistance Thrives in Darkness

By Steven Pressfield |

Resistance kicked my butt for almost a decade in my twenties. I’ve written about this in The War of Art. I crossed the country thirteen times in that era, driving my ’65 Chevy van, for no reason whatsoever except that I was running away from myself and my obligation to do my own work and follow my own calling. But here’s the Big Takeaway: The reason Resistance won was that I had no idea it existed. Resistance thrives in darkness. Resistance loves invisibilty. Resistance’s most diabolical trick is that it masquerades so convincingly as our own voice. When you and…

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A Second (Bad) Self

By Steven Pressfield |

“There is a second self inside you, an inner, shadow Self. This self doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t love you. It has its own agenda, and it will kill you. It will kill you like cancer. It will kill you to achieve its agenda, which is to prevent you from actualizing your Self, from becoming who you really are. This shadow self is called, in the Kabbalistic lexicon, the ‘yetzer hara.’ The yetzer hara, Steve, is what you would call Resistance.” Rabbi Mordecai Finley, in conversation, July 4, 2010 Rabbi Mordecai Finley of Ohr HaTorah congregation in Los Angeles (one…

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Your Agent Wants a Second Book

By Steven Pressfield |

  As you read this, are you at some point—beginning, middle, or end—in the writing of your first book? Start thinking about Book #2. I’m serious. I know when we’re up to our eyeballs in alligators it’s hard to start planning ahead to draining the next swamp. But athletes think in terms of careers, as do dancers and filmmakers and restaurauteurs and entrepreneurs. You and I need to too. Can you picture a shelf of books? Your books. Ten of ’em. Fifteen. Twenty. Can you imagine not just one title but an actual body of work? It’s in you. You…

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