THE STORY GRID: A Five Part Video Series from Shawn Coyne.

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Next “Next”

By Callie Oettinger
Published: November 20, 2015

""When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." —Jonathan Swift

“”When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” —Jonathan Swift

Wyck had a brilliant mind. Quick witted. Educated. Creative.

Depending on when you landed in his life, he was the next Jim Morrison, the next Mario Puzo, the next Casey Kasem, the next Babe Ruth.

During the next-Jim Morrison phase he was Molly’s first boyfriend. Unlike Luther, who was his replacement years later, he was a close friend of mine, too. We discussed books and music and dreams. We thought he’d “make it” and that inspired us to want to make it, too.

Looking back . . . He was the next Ignatius J. Reilly.

If his life was a movie, this would be an oft-repeated scene:

Wyck walks into his parent’s kitchen, where his mother and her friend are playing cards.

He walks in with “purpose,” making a point of clearing his throat once he stops to pose, so his presence isn’t in question. He’s wearing his best Jim Morrison uniform (black leather pants and a white, gauzy, poet’s shirt).

Wyck: I’m the Lizard King.

Wyck’s mother: That’s nice honey. Would you like a brownie?

His mother’s line is delivered as she places down another card, not breaking to look up at Wyck.

Wyck pauses. For a heartbeat the audience expects him to scowl like all the other misunderstood twenty-something’s embracing the emerging grunge movement.

Instead, he quick steps to the table, leans in, picks a brownie from the glass plate and then exits the kitchen, looking more Dennis the Menace than Lizard King, a child distracted by a treat.

I thought his parents didn’t “get him” — that they underestimated his potential.

The reality?

They’d lived through 20 years of him being the next x or y or z before I entered their story — and were used to being the test audience for the various incarnations of “I’m the Lizard King” lines that went with each “next.”

I thought about Wyck after reading Mark Manson’s article “Screw Finding Your Passion.”

Read Mark’s entire post. For now, here are two slices:

Today I received approximately the 11,504th email this year from a person telling me that they don’t know what to do with their life. And like all of the others, this person asked me if I had any ideas of what they could do, where they could start, where to “find their passion.”

And of course, I didn’t respond. Why? Because I have no fucking clue. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some jackass with a website would? I’m a writer, not a fortune teller.


The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.

The problem is the, “Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,” or “Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor” or “That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.”

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.

It’s priorities.

More >>

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Boiling A Frog

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 25, 2015

With notable exceptions, just about any story that hopes to produce a powerful impact must build to a climax that strains everyday credulity. An astronaut makes it back safely from Mars, a seventy-year-old male intern saves a hip young female CEO, an outcast high school girl named Carrie immolates her tormenters with her telekinetic powers.

Sean Young as a replicant in "Blade Runner." Do we buy in or not?

Sean Young as a replicant in “Blade Runner.” Do we buy in or not?

More >>

Posted in Writing Wednesdays | 7 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Steal Without Shame, Part Three

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 18, 2015

My friend Dave wrote to me a week ago with a problem.

James Patterson, seen here on his course, maintains a big file of NEW IDEAS

James Patterson, seen here on his course, maintains a big file of NEW IDEAS

How do we as artists and entrepreneurs transition to the next project?

Dave had just turned in a manuscript. He was trying to get the next idea going. The problem was he didn’t know what that idea was going to be.

For me, the transition is as pernicious a Resistance war as the previous project’s attack towards the finish line. Yes, I know we’re supposed to show up, buckle in, lace up the work boots, and “start the next one tomorrow.” [But] sometimes [we] write and write and it still isn’t feeling right. At the same time, we watch our cash flow dwindle and slowly lose our mojo.

This is what I am fighting right now.

Here’s what I wrote back:

Oddly enough, I was just watching (yesterday) the MasterClass course on writing taught by James Patterson — — and he was saying how he keeps a GIANT file of ideas and is constantly adding to it. I do that too.

The ideal situation is to have Idea #2 long before you finish Idea #1. My goal is to have a month or two’s work already done on #2 by the time I wrap #1. Then there is no transition. No agony.

This counsel, of course, was a little late to help Dave. So I added this:

I’m a big believer, when you’re stuck, in stealing. I don’t mean outright ripping off or plagiarism, but rather a benign and respectful mass exposure to everything that’s out here, hoping the somebody else’s stuff will trigger an idea that I can run with.

Read read read. Go to movies, concerts, gallery openings. Read new stuff. Read stuff from the ancients. Read magazines, blogs, listen to podcasts. Keeping writing. Keep working on the NEW IDEAS file, but don’t overdo it. Put your brain on “input” instead of “output” until something clicks.

More >>

Posted in Writing Wednesdays | 9 Comments
Sign up for first look access.

Enter your email to get free access to every new thing I do.

No spam, I promise!

Gates of Fire
The War of Art
The Authentic Swing
The Lion's Gate
Turning Pro
The Profession
The Warrior Ethos
Do The Work
Tides of War
The Afghan Campaign
The Virtues of War
Killing Rommel
Last of the Amazons
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Additional Reading
Video Blog