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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Make It Beautiful

By Steven Pressfield
Published: January 21, 2015

Picasso's "Guernica"

My first exposure to contemporary writing and art came in eighth and ninth grade. I can’t remember what books we were assigned in English class (I don’t think we read Catcher in the Rye till tenth grade) but whatever they were, they were dark. The point of view was bleak and despairing.

That’s what I and my classmates came to think of as “literary.”

Movies were grim too. Dance was weird. Sculpture was industrial and monolithic. Fine art’s job, it seemed, was to mock fine art, to declare that the creation of art was impossible in an era of nuclear bombs and Cold War. Comedy was ugly then too. Four-letter words were coming in. The more avant-garde a piece was, the more disgusting its subject matter had to be.

This again was what I imagined art was. If it wasn’t repulsive or nihilistic or deliberately pointless, it wasn’t serious. An artist couldn’t seriously have a positive point of view. By definition, an artist who produced something beautiful testified only to her own state of delusion or denial. Her head was in the sand. She just didn’t get it.

I confess I still don’t have a handle on this issue. How dark is the world? God knows the news could hardly be more grisly. The human race seems hell-bent on destroying the planet, not to mention each other, as fast as it possibly can.

If you’re an artist or a writer, what do you say to this? What kind of art do you produce? What’s the point of producing art at all?

And yet …

And yet art demands to be beautiful. Even the sentences of this blog post are crying out to me as I write them: “Make us look good. Make us cohere. Make this whole piece interesting and fun and informative.”
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Posted in Writing Wednesdays
21 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Video Didn’t Kill the Radio Star

By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 23, 2015

What would Sir David Lean think of "Downton Abbey?" Image credit: BFI.

In the March 1914 edition of Vanity Fair, James L. Ford discussed movies as a menace to stage.

A hundred years later, in the March 2014 edition of Vanity Fair, James Wolcott called “Everyone Back to the Cineplex” (after two years before writing, in the May 2012 issue of Vanity Fair, that “cinema has lost its sanctuary allure and aesthetic edge over television.”)

In March of this year, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s new Netflix series, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” will be released, and the conversation that will follow this already-buzzing series promises to be a continuation of the old-as-dirt debate that one format is in decay and another is taking its place.

That argument is rubbish. In the late 70’s, the Buggles sang “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but the reality is that a new medium didn’t kill the radio star or the theatre production or film or books or television shows. Lack of vision killed the second-rate versions of all of these, while the classics survived and the visionaries emerged.
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Posted in What It Takes | 14 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Power of Negative Thinking

By Shawn Coyne | Published: January 16, 2015

[Join www.storygrid.com to read more of Shawn’s Stuff]

So just how do you take your story to the end of the line…to the limits of human experience?

The storyteller needs a tool to not only understand this concept, but to evaluate whether or not they have successfully done so. And if you’re writing a big story, you have to go to the end of the line.

Positive Thinking Gets All the Press

The trick to figuring out how to do that is discovering what Robert McKee calls the negation of the negation of your global story value.  Once you understand the negation of the negation of a global story value you will discover whether or not your draft or your murky foolscap sketch for a story has legs.  And in the process, if you do this work early and often, you’ll be able to clearly understand the obligatory scenes and promises that you are making to the reader by your choice of genre and or mix of genres.

Let’s take a step back and look at Story values again.

What the Hell am I talking about when I use the phrase “story value?”


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Posted in What It Takes | 12 Comments
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