Writing Wednesdays

“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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Write What You Don’t Know, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | 26 Comments

One of my earliest mentors was a writer named Paul Rink. (He’s on pages 111 and 112 in The War of Art.) Before I knew him, Paul lived in Big Sur. This was during the time when Henry Miller was a major personality there. Their families lived on Partington Ridge. Every morning Paul used to shepherd the children of the neighborhood down to the school bus stop on Highway One. He stayed with them till the bus came. To pass the time, Paul had a game he played with the kids (You can read about this in Henry Miller’s Big…

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Write What You Don’t Know

By Steven Pressfield | 36 Comments

  The classic axiom cited to young writers starting out is Write what you know. Makes sense, right? If you’ve just returned from sailing alone around the world, write that story. If you’re a surgeon, a single mom, an opioid survivor … write about that. Write what you know. My theory is a little different. Like the other principles in this series, it’s counter-intuitive. It doesn’t seem to make sense. But, as we’ve seen, sometimes sense is nonsense. Logic and rationality rarely jibe with the unknowable intangibles of creativity. My mantra for myself is Write what you don’t know. When…

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A “Save the Cat” Moment

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

  If you’ve read many of these posts, you know that I’m a big fan of screenwriting guru Blake Snyder and his book on the film writer’s craft, Save the Cat. Here is Blake defining this principle: Save the Cat is the screenwriting rule that says: “The hero has to do something when we meet him so that we like him and want him to win.” Does this mean that every movie we see has to have some scene in it where the hero gives a buck to a blind man in order to get us onboard? Well no, because…

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Pick the Idea That’s Craziest

By Steven Pressfield | 34 Comments

  Sometimes you and I as writers will see a whole menu of ideas before us. One will seem surefire commercial. Another will seem risky but fun. A third might seem totally off the wall. Which one should we pick? Before I give you my own idiosyncratic answer (which you’ve probably guessed already), let me cite two instances from my own career. The idea for The Legend of Bagger Vance came to me just as my screenwriting career, which I had dedicated ten years of my life to, was about to catch fire. The idea came as a book, not…

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Start Before You’re Ready

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

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

By Steven Pressfield | 7 Comments

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

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

  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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