Writing Wednesdays

The Ego and the Self

By Steven Pressfield |

Where does Resistance come from?  Seth Godin says it arises from the “lizard brain,” i.e. the primitive reptilian stem that knows only fight-or-flight and thus resists all attempts by the organism—you and me—to ascend to higher realms. There’s something to this, I think, but not, in my opinion, the way Seth sees it. The source of Resistance, to my mind, is the clash between the ego and the Self. A definition of the ego What is the ego? The ego as I would define it is that identity-center that runs our lives in the here and now, the material dimension.…

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Humility

By Steven Pressfield |

We were talking last week about ambition. Judging from the response, the subject struck a chord. Apparently no few of us, if we’re honest, have to admit that, however egotistical or un-PC it may sound, we really do want to excel, to succeed, to make a mark. We want to do something great, and we’re not going to apologize for it. So maybe this week we should balance things out and talk about humility. A scary world out there The artist and the entrepreneur (and all of us on the soul-level) live in an uncertain world. Our trade is in…

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Ambition

By Steven Pressfield |

Thirty-something years ago, I read a book that changed my life. The book was by Norman Podhoretz and it was called Making It. I can’t really recommend it as a read for today (I tried a month ago and couldn’t get through it) and I certainly find little to admire about Mr. Podhoretz’s current politics. But his book hit me like a box of dynamite. It overthrew everything I thought I knew about myself and turned my life around 180 degrees. Making It is about ambition. Mr. Podhoretz’s thesis is that the “dirty little secret” of American life is not…

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Icons and Iconization, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield |

Last week’s post was great fun for me because of the generous, insightful and tremendously articulate Comments that came in. Thanks to everybody who took the time to write; I appreciate it and I’m sure everyone else does too. When I first started Writing Wednesdays about a year ago, friends told me I would be surprised at how interactive the exchange would become. That’s starting to come true and I love it. If you haven’t glanced through last weeks’ Comments, a quick scroll will be well worth it. What I enjoyed most about last week’s Coments, even beyond the content,…

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Icons and Iconization

By Steven Pressfield |

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Iconization as an issue in real life–and as a form of Resistance. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. First, what is an icon? The dictionary says it’s “an object of worship.” An icon originally was an actual physical artifact—a splinter of the original Cross, say, or an article of apparel once worn by a martyr or a saint. Worship could be directed at this object, as a stand-in or intermediary for some higher embodiment of the divine. (Some would call this idolatry, but let’s leave that alone…

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Start Before You’re Ready

By Steven Pressfield |

In the past few weeks we’ve put up a couple of posts—“Cover the Canvas” and “Start at the End”—that seem like advice on the subject of writing. They aren’t. They’re about beating Resistance. A number of the principles that work against Resistance are counter-intuitive. They seem to make no sense, but in fact their logic is impeccable. Here’s one that’s worked for me many times: Start Before You’re Ready. Don’t wait till you’ve got your ducks in a row. Dive in now. Have you ever asked a friend who’s an artist or entrepreneur how they’re doing on a project you…

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Loving A Writer

By Steven Pressfield |

Are you in love with a writer? Are you sure about this? Sure you don’t want to try someone easier on your heart, like a bull rider, a Black Ops commando or a motorcycle stuntman? Herewith, from painful experience, a few guidelines for those who have given their hearts to servants of the literary Muse. (The following observations apply equally, of course, to actors, artists, musicians, comedians, entrepreneurs and all others of this particularly unruly stripe). Please, lovers, keep the following in mind: 1) Writers are not normal. E.L. Doctorow calls writing “a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” What he…

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Start At The End

By Steven Pressfield |

Last week we were talking about first drafts (Cover the Canvas, 6/9/10). The idea was to get Draft #1 done from beginning to end, no matter what, even if it wasn’t perfect. The reason? Because once we’ve got a first draft, we’re re-writing, not writing. Writing is too freakin’ hard. The obvious next question (or maybe it’s the preceding question) is: “Okay, but how do we decide what’s in the first draft?” Work from back to front Here’s a principle that screenwriters use: Start at the end. Begin with the climax, then work backwards. I’m a big fan of this…

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Cover the Canvas

By Steven Pressfield |

Is the first draft the hardest? Is it different from a third draft, or a twelfth? Does a first draft possess unique challenges that we have to attack in a one-of-a-kind way? Yes, yes and yes. First drafts are killers A first draft is different from (and more difficult than) all subsequent drafts because in a first draft we’re filling the blank page. And we know what that means: Resistance. Here’s my mantra for first drafts. Cover the canvas. What that means is get something done from A to Z, no matter how imperfect.  A first draft doesn’t have to…

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Second Act Problems

By Steven Pressfield |

I’m reading a terrific book by David Mamet called Three Uses of the Knife. It’s not a play or a novel, it’s a treatise on the subject of drama. There’s some great stuff in it, particularly in the section Mamet calls “Second Act Problems,” that we as writers, artists, entrepreneurs (and just plain human beings) can profit from. All writers know: Act One is easy. You come up with some crazy idea and heave it against the wall. Act Three isn’t that hard either. We’ve figured out where we’re going; we just tromp on the accelerator and go there. Ah,…

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