Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

A Writer’s Journal, Day #1056

By Steven Pressfield | Published: August 18, 2010

I’m going to try something different this week. Instead of one full-length post that stays up for seven days, I’m gonna do short, one-a-day “journal entries.” A new one will go up Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, all week. The reason I’m trying this this week is that, in my real writing life, I’m just now plunging in on the last ten or twelve pages of the novel I’ve been working on for the past three years. I’m thinking that a real-time, “under the helmet” look at one writer’s process might be of interest.

Steinbeck's "Journal of a Novel," a fascinating look at a writer's process

To implement this, I’m going to borrow the concept from John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel (an early-AM diary he kept while writing East of Eden) and do these short posts as warmups each morning. When I’m ready to work, I’ll stop the post and sign off till tomorrow.

Okay. Here’s what’s going on inside me right now re finishing this book:

Resistance is monumental; I feel it like a massive brick of fear. But I have three things, at least, working in my favor.

1) I know from experience that Resistance always puts on a full-court press when the finish line heaves into view. So I’m ready for it. I’m not surprised. I know that those voices in my head that say, “What if you screw this up … what if you can’t pull off this climax, etc.” are pure Resistance.  They are not thoughts, they are “thoughts.”

I dismiss them. They are lies and bullshit.

2) I also know from experience that the alternative to doing my work is a hundred times worse than the pain or fear of doing it. I remember vividly the seven years when I did yield to fear and Resistance—and the hell it was for me and for people I loved. I can hear the whip crack. The fear of not doing it is stronger than the fear of doing it.

It’s kind of like finding yourself a thousand feet below the summit of Everest, with a 26,000-foot sheer drop-off beneath you. There’s no real option. It’s climb or die.

3) I’m a professional who has faced this stuff down a thousand times. I will plunge in and give it my all.

That’s the warmup for today. See you tomorrow.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

17 Responses to “A Writer’s Journal, Day #1056”

  1. August 18, 2010 at 1:11 am

    What a great news, Steven!;-) Now, we gonna have more Wednesdays in our weeks! Yay!;-)

    I am totally with you on: that fear of not doing my art is much stronger, than the fear of doing=shipping it.
    Knowing on which word, emotion, thought we ought to put ” “, can save us loads of trouble;-)
    I cannot wait till tomorrow.
    Till then keep on shipping.
    cheers,
    i.

  2. August 18, 2010 at 1:21 am

    What a gift for us, Steven! I look forward to this week’s instalments (and thanks for the Steinbeck recommendation).

    That capital R heckler doesn’t stand a chance …

  3. August 18, 2010 at 1:31 am

    I find it fascinating that you hit your biggest resistance at the end of a book. Mine comes much earlier, after the proposal, as I head into the middle section of the book. Doubts rise up. I’m convinced I can’t write and never have been able to, I’m positive I have no plot and the whole thing is going to fall apart. I struggle for each word. Sometimes have to I go back and read one of my own books to convince myself I actually can write, even a little.

    But the end…By then, I know precisely where I’m going and what needs to be written, and I charge toward the gigantic relief of finishing. I hit the legendary Flow, and can do several thousand words a day. The last 4 or 5 chapters come out all in a piece, and typically with little revision. It stuns me every time. Fortunately, the excitement also leaves me ready to start the next book — and carries me through those dark moments when, once more, I’m convinced the magic will never come again.

  4. Mart
    August 18, 2010 at 6:01 am

    One has to wonder if starting the day by writing a journal rather than getting on with finishing the novel is not a Resistance delay tactic, but I guess we’ll find out this week.

    • August 19, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Ah, yes Mart, very clever, could be. Maybe more like giving R a little something to nibble on while you break left – HARD! Sounds like a promising strategy. I have faith in you Steven! Plus, what a treat for the rest of us! Thanks!

  5. August 18, 2010 at 7:06 am

    I’ll look forward to these short posts.

    Though she doesn’t address resistance directly, Margaret Wheatley writes on fear in her new book “Perseverance”. She writes that the fact of fear isn’t important; what’s important is what we do with it. “It is our curiosity that transforms fear,” she says. Of failure, she writes, “It takes a lot of contributions from many different sources to create” it. It seems you’ve engaged your demons in some of the ways Wheatley recommends and are exercising the choice she says we all have to succeed.

  6. August 18, 2010 at 7:42 am

    I share your feelings. I have two projects that are nearing completion. I can feel the tug of wanting to pull back, the thoughts of what if this sucks, and the fear of finishing and than an empty feeling of “now what.”

    Ugh. Keep plugging.

  7. August 18, 2010 at 7:48 am

    It’s always good to hear what’s on your mind, Steve. Very generous of you to share your insights.

  8. Ines
    August 18, 2010 at 7:54 am

    #2 is the one that bugs me. My friends and family do not understand me. When I voice my “fear of not doing it,” this fight I am trying to win, they wonder out loud, “why do you need to write?” Because I question myself, they question me too. When I see that look on their faces, Resistance smiles.

    Loved your words: “It’s kind of like finding yourself a thousand feet below the summit of Everest, with a 26,000-foot sheer drop-off beneath you. There’s no real option. It’s climb or die.” Yup!

    Maybe if I explain it that way, they will understand…or perhaps not. Agh, who cares? I am writing, PERIOD.

    Thank you!

  9. Steve Lovelace
    August 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Just make sure this blog doesn’t become a form of Resistance. As much as I like reading it, I know that finishing your book is more important.

  10. August 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

    This is absolutely fascinating, and so helpful, as always. I’m at the end of my first book (draft is done, but working on major revisions). I have an agent but no publisher yet, meaning that I’m free to blow my self-set deadlines. The Resistance is indescribable. Like you say in the War of Art, it hits me with something new every day.

    I’m leaving this comment during scheduled writing time, so I guess I’d better stop and get back to it. :)

  11. August 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Thank you so much for this post. May effortless ease be with you as you finish your book–I, for one, can’t wait!

  12. Scott Michael
    August 18, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I think it’s great there’s even a discussion out there about Resistance (what some would call the voice of the ego) which, in its own isolationist way, seeks to protect us from change in the status quo… or from leaving its “protective” embrace.

    If more people in other walks of life would acknowledge the existence of this insistent, judgmental life-limiting voice in their heads, we’d have less hate/fear. Too esoteric? Just call it the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, like in those old Tom & Jerry cartoons.

    Just be ready for some folks’ voices telling them that we’re possessed by demons for simply admitting our voices.

  13. August 19, 2010 at 6:33 am

    “The fear of not doing it is stronger than the fear of doing it.”

    Amen. I spent nearly five years battling Resistance in the form of chemo fog… though where the actual fog ended and Resistance Proper took over I’ll never be able to pinpoint. Thankfully the passion to write never left, and I figured out at last that the only way to write again was to write, even if that meant sitting here and typing out one sentence per hour. I didn’t have a name for Resistance then, but when I read WOA for the first time recently, I sure recognized it. I now have a name for it, a language with which to speak about it, far less fear of it, and a greater determination to overcome it each day.

  14. August 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

    This is wonderfully honest and good for any writer to hear.

    I don’t think that writing these blog posts is necessarily a form of Resistance. I’d rather think of it as a form oc Accountability. After all, you’ve just shared your goals with us and if you start babbling off on blog post after blog post we’re going to hold your feet to the fire and tell you to FINISH YOUR BOOK!

    Grt insights & inspiration. Tks for taking the time to put them out there.

  15. August 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I like this format. Makes me see the reality that everyone goes through resistance, not just beginners. Before it made sense but it wasn’t as up close as personal as this feels.

  16. Michael DeFoe
    September 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    I’m 25 – I’m young and I haven’t produced much in life. Mostly I look to your posts like a pupil to a professor – I need your input to improve myself and to continue my work.

    The change of pace of this series struck me, it pulled the veil. This isn’t a classroom – its a battlefield. We’re brothers in arms, side by side. We’re leaning on each other.

    That’s exciting – empowering on my end. But at the same time its frightening in its revelation: I’ve got the same power of action that you have and there is no barrier to break – only improvements to make. This fight will continue. It will always continue.

    I’m in the fight and your posts help me to keep my head on a swivel. Thank you.