Steven Pressfield Blog
True confessions: I’m 95% through a project I’ve been working on for two years, and I find myself suddenly wracked with self-doubt. All the negative thoughts that we’re all so familiar with are surfacing. Have I screwed the pooch? Have I lost my mojo? Do I really have anything worth saying? I know the tune. The question is: What do I do about it?
There’s a story in The War of Art about the afternoon when I finally, finally finished my first novel manuscript–after failing ignominiously in numerous attempts over the previous ten years. I was living in a little town in Northern California then; I trotted down the street to my friend and mentor Paul Rink and told him the triumphant news. “Good for you,” he said without looking up. “Start the next one tomorrow.” There’s big-time wisdom in what Paul said and here’s why:
I had been writing professionally for 30 years when I read Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages, a Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile–and I still learned a ton of valuable stuff. Get this book. If you’re an aspiring writer, it’ll save you from the agony of unnecessary rejection. (You may still get rejected, but at least it won’t be unnecessarily.) Even if you’re a grizzled pro, Mr. Lukeman’s short, smart book is worth reading just to re-bone on the basics.
How do you get a project started? Sometimes the thoughts in our head are so scattered, we don’t know where to begin. Here’s a trick that my friend Paul Abbott taught me: Just start.
Because of the response to Monday’s posting of Major Jim Gant’s paper One Tribe At A Time, I’d like to keep the post “above the fold” all week, and run a shorter “Writing Wednesdays” post this week. The focus? Resistance and Major Gant.
My first real job was in advertising. I worked as a copywriter for an agency called Benton & Bowles in New York City. An artist or entrepreneur’s first job inevitably bends the twig. It shapes who you’ll become. If your freshman outing is in journalism, your brain gets tattooed (in a good way) with who-what-where-when-why, fact-check-everything, never-bury-the-lead. If you start out as a photographer’s assistant, you learn other stuff. If you plunge into business on your own, the education is about self-discipline, self-motivation, self-validation. Advertising teaches its own lessons. For starters, everyone hates advertising. Advertising lies. Advertising misleads. It’s evil,…
If you’ve read The War of Art, you know that the thematic core of the book is the concept of Resistance. Resistance with a capital R, which the book defines as “an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.” Resistance is what keeps an entrepreneur from making the cold calls he knows he has to, to get his business rolling. It’s the force that keeps an aspiring painter away from her studio, or makes a writer back off from the…
Chaos. The Big Bang. Crap flying everywhere. Imagine ourselves back at the beginning of time. The universe is raw energy, blasting at light-speed in all directions. (Stay with me, this is going somewhere). What happens? As time passes, electrons coalesce around nuclei. Molten matter cools; stars and planets form into spheres. Celestial objects find paths and settle into orbits. The gravity of one star system counteracts the fields of others. Galaxies appear. Order emerges.
I once did a rewrite on a porn flick. Before I began, the producer wanted to get together with me, to give me my marching orders and to make sure that I didn’t slow the project down by making avoidable rookie mistakes. We met for breakfast at a coffee shop in Santa Monica. In that meeting, I got two of the best lessons in writing I’ve ever received. Why porn is so bad
Patricia Madson taught Improv in the Drama Department at Stanford for years. Students would kill to get into her class. My friend Victoria Labalme has told me of racing across campus more than once, frantic not to be late. Once the door closed, it stayed closed. Professionals only!
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