Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

When It Works

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 27, 2010

I want to try something different this week. I’d like to ask our readers to write in. What I’m looking for is mini-posts about a moment in your writing or painting or filmmaking or any artistic or entrepreneurial career “when it worked.” When your stuff actually connected person-to-person. Here’s the kind of moment I mean:

"Gates" in AFG

From the back of a Special Forces fighting vehicle in Afghanistan (see story below)

When It Worked Moment #1

This just happened last week. Gates of Fire is a historical novel I wrote; it’s about the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.  I got the following e-mail (and the photo on the right) from a staff sergeant in the Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Dear Mr. Pressfield,

I understand you have been in contact with my Team Leader, Michael H., and he recommended I send you the attached photograph.

My Special Forces team passed around a copy of Gates of Fire during this past deployment to Afghanistan. I took this photo while we were in a firefight in the mountains of Paktika Province, during a small lull in shooting. I had the camera out to photograph helicopters making gun runs when I looked over and noticed your book…

We figured you might appreciate it.

Greg M.

Special Forces ODA 3325

When It Worked Moment #2

This is your moment. Post it below in the LEAVE A REPLY box. It should be a moment “when it worked.” When all the hard work paid off.

The three best moments get a free signed copy of The War of Art.

When It Doesn’t Work

You and I, all of us, know only too well how difficult this path we’ve chosen can be. The books that never get published, the movies that never get made, the start-up ventures that never get funded. Or the stuff we actually succeed in getting “out there” only to watch it land with a thud or, worse, sink without a ripple. Or more excruciating still, when we sabotage ourselves and never complete our dream at all. The unfinished dissertation, the unwritten symphony, the new philanthropic venture that never gets off the ground.

But this week, let’s hear some success stories! Here are the ground rules:

1) Don’t cite awards. Awards don’t count. They’re too formal an acknowledgment.

2) The moment should be personal. It should be a connection heart-to-heart.

3) It should come out of left field, unsolicited and unprompted. The more unexpected the source of praise or connection, the better.

4) You can break any of these rules if you’ve got a good story.

It’ll look pretty cool, I think, if we can stack enough “moments when it worked,” one on top of another–and see them all together in one bunch. Just post yours in the LEAVE A REPLY box below. I’m hoping this compilation will encourage us all.

A free signed War of Art for the best three!

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

48 Responses to “When It Works”

  1. October 27, 2010 at 2:26 am

    My moment was also captured by somebody else and sent to me. It was only 50 seconds but it made me happy and felt like we were really doing something.

    We were having a book signing (a children’s chapter book called Sword of the Ramurai) in Long Island and we knew pretty much the entire crowd would be family or friends. We basically begged people to come because we’ve had some very low attended book signings (like 1 person) and it never feels good.

    But it turns out our number one fan, a young girl we had never met, was also coming to the signing. On the way her mom took this little video of how excited she was to meet us. She is walking and talking to the camera about looking forward to meeting us and how she had even prepared things to give us. (Drawings and pictures she made herself which are our favorite gifts.)

    Anyway, we were at a pretty low point in our career(resistance was winning big time) and meeting her and her family was really fun. But to see how excited she was even before the signing made us feel really warm and fuzzy.

    I remembered when I was a kid meeting someone I admired and for the first time I was on the other end just because I wrote a book. This video was taken last summer but I still makes me smile and gives me inspiration to keep pushing forward.

    This is the video her mom gave us (I’m not sure how to make it a link. Sorry!):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrGBk8BYFIM

  2. October 27, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Hello Mia,

    I have been away from my computer for short while, and what a lovely surprise upon my return to find your comment of kind words on my blog post and a note from you here in my email as well.

    As you can see by my posts I am a new blogger and am still learning my way around the blogosphere, and so I cannot tell you how delighted I am that you thought my post would appeal to your readers.

    Being selected to be part of your ‘Thursday Treasure’ is encouragement for me to keep writing, to keep practicing courage and “leap fearlessly” towards this new journey. Thank you for this.

    Your website, ‘four days a week’, is a very special place that is both intriguing and inspirational. It feels like one of those cabinets with dozens of square drawers; each time you pull one open, there are the most interesting things inside, compelling you to open another drawer and then another, just to see what little treasures you may find. I look forward to come and browse often.

    Having read and enjoyed your post for Monday Musings, I must tell you my favourite part was the paragraph:

    “I left my shoes behind and walked to Mom’s garden, her heaven on earth. I stood for a moment and took in the breath of the morning air, my visit home. I dipped my toes into the soil, felt the roots of Mom’s passion and love for the things that grow green and vibrant.” (http://bit.ly/deL2fH)

    The imagery and emotions this evokes is lovely; a truly fine piece of writing.

    Thank you again for visiting my blog and sharing it with your readers.

    Warm regards,
    Orie

  3. October 27, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Mr. Pressfield,
    Here’s my story…

    In 2006 I left the small village, Schull, in West Cork, Ireland to travel europe via Barcelona for 6 months, I was in want of a different adventure at the time.

    In Schull I was painting and selling them through our gallery [1998-2003].
    In Barcelona, at the hostel, I met a writer from Dublin. We began with the usual traveler’s introductory conversation, where you from, what do you do etc.

    The writer, Fionn, told how he’d been to Schull a few years earlier, 2000, and remembered the gallery [the only gallery in the village], then poetically described a painting, the only one he remembered, and what attracted him to it…
    Our conversation was about art and the stimulus artists get from discussing others artworks, only this time it wasn’t one of Bacon’s, Basquiat’s or Twombly’s that provided the spring board – it was one of my paintings remembered from a brief viewing by a stranger 6 years earlier that led the dialogue. The conversation circled our struggles and triumphs, our take on what we see.

    The next day I showed Fionn the image of the painting he’d described on my laptop. By then he’d introduced me to a French photographer, Julie, and a Polish photographer / artist, Magdalena, both of whom I got to collaborate and became good friends with.

    I had left London, to move to Schull, without a ‘career’ or reputation as an artist, 1997, to begin building one from rural Ireland, a decision made and set in motion within 4 days after a conversation with a Set Designer from Schull working in London. By all accounts, I was going the wrong way round. I saw it differently.

    Sitting having a beer with Fionn that night in Barcelona shone a light on something I wasn’t so sure was there. Something had worked. Something I had made lived on in the memory of a stranger and provided fuel.

    I continue to live in Schull, painting and photographing and despite the continuous struggle to reach an audience, small population etc, I’m 13 years into this leg of the journey outside the ‘art world’.

    I ended up staying in Barcelona for the 6 months. It a was a good choice.

    Best wishes.
    Jason Lee

  4. Annette
    October 27, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Hi Steven,

    Thank you for the e-book from last week. I wanted to tell you that you are in my top two blogs that I read and recommend. So I call myself a true & loyal fan of WoA and WW.

    I for sure know when it doesn’t work and that is whenever we compromise integrity, have an agenda or some kind of expectation. Its like you are setting yourself up for the big fall. But that’s not what you asked so let me get straight to the point:

    It works when you’ve fallen in love with something (or someone).

    Here’s my story: I am into music and writing songs. I also sing in a choir – that’s my play time, when I’m having fun. Our conductor is a pretty cool guy and super talented. Every moment and movement of his unfolds like beautiful poetry in motion. One day he invited us to a gig to watch his own professional choir perform and I went along. When I saw them I was gripped with awe, I couldn’t help it. I’ve been to so many gigs and seen plenty of “plain average” and boring artists but when you see something you fall in love with it hits you.

    A week ago, he told me he was working on his website and wanted some input. Writing a professional biography for him or a profile for his choir is not my line of business. But the one he had didn’t do much for him so I kind of volunteered. Ideas where flowing, words where coming from everywhere and my pen was just flying over the pad. That’s not to say I didn’t hit the bricks. I did cause there were things I wanted to say and I was looking for expressions that where coming out in fractions and didn’t make sense. But when you love something you can hit the brick wall and realise you don’t need to hit it, you can just climb over it and continue.

    I guarantee you any money, if George Clooney would have his profile written by all the women in the world who have a crush on him, it would probably sound miles better than the version commissioned and paid for by some award winning agent.

    So yes, I can write editorial stuff when I’ve fallen in love with something that moves me, pushes the right buttons inside, and gives me goose bumps.

    Love’s the way forward, makes the world go round.

    Annette

  5. October 27, 2010 at 5:03 am

    I’d been dabbling for a number of years attempting to build an online business and yet could never come up with a product, new or existing, to get behind with passion. I had pretty much given up this past year and decided to just go quietly into an early retirement and focus instead on becoming a better home chef and take a lot of naps.

    The last couple of months I’ve been researching vehicle anti theft devices. Over the years I’ve put a lot of money into after market goodies that I had installed on my truck, and I was starting to get paranoid about driving it anywhere and leaving it parked with the possibility that it would be hit by a car thief.

    A couple of weeks ago I logged onto the forum I belong to for Dodge diesel truck owners and found a thread discussing the best anti theft devices that other truck owners had installed on their trucks. One of the first posts in the thread was a single word “Ravelco.” This same name was mentioned by others in the thread with the most positive comments I’d ever encountered for any product I’d ever seen.

    I took a look at the home page of the company that manufactured the device and it didn’t take long for me to be sold and decide I wanted one to be installed. Why? The company had been manufacturing the device since 1976. The device was completely American made. The device had never been defeated by the bad guys. There were over 4-million installations and no car had ever been stolen with this device installed. The device could be installed simply and quickly not only cars and pickup trucks, but also on big rigs (18-wheelers) and heavy construction equipment. Did I mention that the device had never ever been defeated by bad guys?

    So when I looked around for a local installer I couldn’t find one. And I live just outside the ninth largest city in the U.S. and I thought “what the heck?” So I sent an email off to the corporate office and they quickly responded that they would be glad to install the device for me if I drove the 200 miles from my home to their locale. “Hmmmm,” I thought, “perhaps there’s a business opportunity here.” I jumped back on their website and took a look at what it would take to become a distributor or dealer for the product and I was shocked, shocked I tell you, at how easy it was to become a distributor for the product in my area, but also the exclusive and protected distributor as well.

    So after talking it over with the wife, and doing a bit of market research with local car shops and some buds who are potential dealer/installers, I decided to jump at the opportunity.

    The checklist I used to decide:

    I wanted and needed the product. Check.
    Others would want and need the product. Check.
    Product had a perfect record. Check.
    Product is American made. Check.
    Product easy to install. Check.
    Local market is wide open. Check.
    Product is worth the passion. Check.
    I have the start up money. Check.
    My territory is exclusive. Check.
    Good profit for me and dealers. Check.
    Car theft stats going up due to bad economy. Check.
    No known customer complaints, ever. Check.
    Website domain name I wanted available. Check.
    My accountant said to go ahead and jump. Check.
    My lawyer said to go ahead and jump. Check.
    My wife said to go ahead and jump. Check.
    I jumped. Check.

    So within a matter of days of my discovering the Ravelco anti theft device, I have become the exclusive distributor for Ravelco in the greater San Antonio, Texas, area. Do I have some stomach butterfly’s? Yup. Am I passionate about the opportunity despite the fear? Yup. Am I doing what’s needed to get my business off the ground? Yup.

    So there you have my story. I came face to face with an opportunity to have my own business when I wasn’t even looking for it, and despite the resistance of fear of the unknown and the force of entropy (I was quite honestly rather comfortable in my retirement puttering around the kitchen cooking and taking my naps even though mildly bored), I jumped at the opportunity anyway. The potential profit I will be making was and is secondary to solving a problem for people by eliminating their fear of having their vehicle stolen. (Yes, I know the one strategy of thieves that is difficult to defend against is if they come with a tow truck and simply haul the vehicle away, however, I like to manage for the probable rather than the possible. It’s possible a thief would use a tow truck to steal a vehicle but it’s not probable. There are too many easier pickings for a thief to choose from.)

    If you would like the peace of mind of defending your vehicle with a device that’s never been beaten, do a web search for Revelco to find a local dealer. And if you’re in the San Antonio area or the Texas hill country, give me a holler. My website SouthTexasRavelco.com will online in a couple of weeks.

    • November 1, 2010 at 11:29 pm

      I love this one – he actually got me excited about his anti- car theft device venture!

  6. October 27, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Hey Steven,

    I started out my career as a playwright in Minneapolis. About eight years ago I wrote “The Blouse Method,” a one-act play for the First Stages Festival of New Works at the U of M.

    The play takes place in a rarely-visited museum, an homage to a C-List motivational speaker/preacher named Dudley P. Blouse. The museum is in the basement of Dudley’s childhood home. The “curator” is Elliott, a devout fan who practices “the Method” daily.

    One of the characters is a young man who works at the Dairy Queen, Malcolm, the museum’s only regular visitor (he has a punch card). In this first staged reading of “The Blouse Method,” the character of Malcolm was played by Chase Korte, a brilliant young actor, studying at the U of M. Chase’s friends from Elk River came up for the performance.

    When the play was chosen for the Fresh Ink series at The Illusion Theater in Minneapolis, Chase was the only actor they brought over from the first show. It was his first paying gig.

    The same friends came to see Chase in the Fresh Ink show, except the group was a bit larger. This time, I noticed something strange–they were mouthing the words. I watched their faces as they anticipated lines. How did they know the words to an unpublished play they saw one time? Had they read Chase’s copy of the script?

    Later that summer, we gave Chase a birthday party for in our backyard, and he invited the same group of friends. They seemed nervous, which I figured was due to the fact that we were a good ten years older than all of them.

    As they got comfortable, they started exchanging lines from the play. So I had to ask: “How do you know all of these lines?”

    They looked at each other, and then one of the guys said sheepishly, “We made a bootleg copy of the first show. We watch it a few times a week. It’s kind of our thing.”

    No award or deal could compare to the the thought of these college kids sitting around their parent’s basement, watching a bootleg copy of “The Blouse Method” over and over again. A cult classic in Elk River, Minnesota? Awesome.

    A postscript: Chase Korte got an agent from that first performance of my play. He graduated from the U, moved to L.A., and pursued an acting career. His first starring role was for a fictional feature-length documentary about a young man who, inspired by the book “Peacewalker,” walks 1,000 miles in the U.K. in honor of his brother, a soldier who died serving in Iraq. Chase actually walked the 1,000 miles himself.

    When the film was in post, he drove out to Arizona to meet with the director. On his way back to L.A., his car was hit by a drunk driver at 6:30 p.m. He was killed instantly, the car in flames.

    Chase was a brilliant, subtle actor who reminded me very much of River Phoenix. But more importantly, he was a good, good man with a gentle soul. I wonder sometimes if his friends ever sit down to watch “The Blouse Method,” to see Chase again, a very young Chase who had his whole life ahead of him. Do they still remember their favorite lines? Or does it pain them too much to think about it?

  7. Bighowdy
    October 27, 2010 at 6:24 am

    As a brand manager for musicians and artists, my job is to help them understand who they are, what they really want and clear all the “stuff” out of the way so they can actually focus on being creative. Last week, after a my first working session with two musicians, I got an email that included the following:

    It was a great session and the most clear we’ve been in years.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how things progress and excited to work with you more!   I feel like we made more progress through one meeting with you than we’ve made in years.

    The next day at lunch, another musician client told me (unsolicited) that his entire career and the way he saw his life had changed in the year we’ve been working together. He’s now turning down work for better work. And he’s happier in both his personal and professional lives in a way he said he couldn’t imagine a year ago. Needless to say, both clients’ comments were a real encouragement and a welcome reinforcement that my work is having an impact. And who doesn’t need to hear that every now and then?

  8. October 27, 2010 at 6:33 am

    I’ve written for years. I wrote for the yearbook and newspaper in high school, then wrote for our local newspapers, as well. I have a journalism minor and taught English and journalism in high school for a few years. Today, I’m a superintendent but continue to write regularly.

    A few years ago, an event I wrote about ended up changing my life. Some friends and I were driving to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, from the middle of Michigan, when we somehow encountered Steve Losey who had written an article for The Sporting News called “A Reason to Roar” about the resurgent Tigers baseball team. Read about it here: http://goo.gl/AOsS. He was driving his ‘Vette down I-69 and we were in a mini-van.

    I wrote to The Sporting News about the incident and they contacted Losey, who contacted me. We’ve become friends and I’ve worked with him as a photographer and writer in covering baseball, rock ‘n’ roll, and country. The amazing thing is that I had the issue that he wrote the article in AND he was heading to Barnes and Noble to pick it up …

    The letter I wrote the The Sporting News, which was published, along with pictures, had a changing experience for me ….

  9. Steve Dail
    October 27, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Because I write short, encouraging pieces for co-employees working in a tough business, I get two indications of “when it worked.”

    The first is the emails of thanks I receive from perfect strangers, who report of effects from my themes ranging from smiles to suggestions of saved careers.

    But the second is my favorite. That’s when I pick up an article I’ve written, say, six or seven months ago, read it, and realize that now I can scarcely recall writing it. The voice sounds almost like that of a stranger. I know then that I’d spent happy time “in the zone” where my true self became manifest. And that’s the type of piece that usually prompts the greatest number of thankful responses (including my own).

  10. October 27, 2010 at 8:00 am

    My sister and I wrote a pregnancy guide for single women. A few years after it was published, there was an article in the NY Post (I think) detailing the mysterious disappearance of a woman from her apartment in the city. Among the list of clues linking her boyfriend to the crime was a dog-eared copy of our book, with many passages underlined and exclamation points next to a passage about creating a co-parenting agreement prior to the birth of the child.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know the end of the story — whether she was found, or whether her boyfriend actually did try to “take her out,” but I do like to think that for at least a little while, she was finding empowerment and comfort in the pages we spent so many hours banging out for people just like her — alone and maybe a little bit afraid.

  11. Michi
    October 27, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Hi Steven,
    Here’s my “When it Worked Moment”:

    In 2009 I was attending a one yearlong workshop, divided into three parts, called Sacred Contracts at CMED in Chicago. It was lead by the renowned spiritual author and teacher Caroline Myss and is a course to become a spiritual archetypal consultant/guide, as well as to get to know “thyself” better. The reason for me being there was that I had been in a very dark period of my life, where I have been lost in translation, so to say. I had just begun my path back from bankruptcy, depression and separation from a bad relationship. I have worked as a director and producer and was out of context, but still nourished a dream to become a writer.

    At the first workshop, we had to define some of our archetypal traits/powers. Some of the students were supposed to get their names picked to describe their first memory of the archetype of their choice in their lives. I had picked the archetype of a Storyteller as one of my most palpable traits. Suddenly I hear my name. Caroline had picked my name and wanted me to tell the rest of the class (we were 125 people) my first recollection of the storyteller in me. I shivered and was nervous as I began to tell how I first felt connected to the stars and the Universe. I was ten years old and was out walking my mother’s dog. Then all the lights went off. It was electricity blackout in my town and the starry sky revealed it self. It was extraordinary. I was in awe and wondered how big Universe actually was. I ran home and wanted to tell my mother about this. But she dismissed me by saying that I shouldn’t think about it too much. That night I started to write journals. Secret journals for my eyes-only. Stories and fairytales derived from my imagination. Later in life when I became a mother myself, I read some of them to my children as bedtime stories. They loved them.

    But I never pursued my dream of becoming a writer. So here I was, in Chicago as one of two Swedes in the conference room, telling my story. When I told the story, I went back to the time when I was ten. I forgot where I was and who was listening. When I stopped, I looked around and saw people crying and it was completely silent. I sat down and didn’t know what to do. Caroline said that this was a voice of a spiritual writer for children’s books. Later that year, in the third and last workshops session, I was approached by one of the other students. He asked me if I had a minute. I said yes.
    He said that another student had asked him to bring me a message she didn’t have the courage to say herself. She was too shy. He said that the woman hoped that I would become a writer, because as she had put it: “I need her stories. How else can I tell my own children about life’s wonder and trials”. Then another student sent me an email expressing gratitude for telling the “Star child” story. These two situations were “When it Worked Moments”. I answered my call to write and have started to write the book “Star child”. I am working with an illustrator in this project and I live my life more fully now. So thank for your phrase in The War of Art: “We all live two lives. The one we live and the unlived life within. What stands in between is Resistance”.

  12. October 27, 2010 at 9:06 am

    WHEN IT WORKED: When my teenage nieces read a draft of my fantasy novel CEL & ANNA. There was no mistaking the light in their eyes or the enthusiasm in their voices. They were not being “nice.” This was real.

  13. Stef
    October 27, 2010 at 11:10 am

    It worked when I became invisible.

    The first spec screenplay I ever wrote became a film, had some success and was shown at a few film festivals. That was a high. It was also one of the worst things that could’ve happened to me.

    The film was co-written with an established writer. He got all the credit. I could not get a producer to read my stuff. They assumed that his talent alone was responsible for the script, that my participation was minimal. Rejection made me bitter, full of self-pity. I needed money, so I agreed to ghost write for other people. Sometimes it was a just a few scenes, other times it was whole scripts. Some of my stuff got produced, the work got good reviews, just not under my name.

    I was invisible, and it was ok with me. I had no status, no recognition, but I realised that writing was the only thing I could do, the only thing that I truly loved.

    I wrote a film and decided to keep it, to not sell it as a ghost. That screenplay got chosen for an international screenwriting workshop. I was the rookie, with only one credited screenplay, working with incredibly talented writers, being read by people who’s films had won at Cannes, Berlin and Venise.

    It was not a high this time, no. It was pure satisfaction. I had kept at it, experience had made me a better writer, with or with out recognition.

    The left field part came after a workshop. One of the writers told me his favorite film from my country was one I had written, as a ghost. He praised the screenwriter, how he could touch people, such talent… I nodded in agreement, praised his good taste and asked him wich scene was his favorite. I stayed invisible, even if the huge smile on my face made me look like a lunatic.

    “Whatever I do, however I find a way to live, I will tell these stories. … I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. … I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.”

    What is the what a novel by Dave Eggers.

  14. October 27, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Mine is pretty simple. I was diagnosed with a mental illness called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and since then have begun to speak around the country about it. I always labor over my writing and my speaking, making sure I first and foremost create a compelling story. It’s hard work and I never really know if I’m any good at it.

    This time was no different. I spoke for 15 minutes, a time that seems like eternity in the spotlight; you feel so vulnerable, so open and fragile. You don’t know how people will take it, whether they understood what you’ve said or if they are just being polite sitting there, thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch. I thought I tanked, speaking too fast, cutting some paragraphs on the fly, worried I’d not end on time. And then I thought my story was too intense for the crowd. Silence. They didn’t get it.

    As I began to pack my things and head out the conference, a woman from the audience patiently waited to speak to me. She thanked me for my talk and said,

    If only my daughter was able to hear you speak. Perhaps she would still be alive.

    She began to cry, and I began to cry too. I didn’t know what else to do but give this stranger a hug. I felt helpless, wanting so much to console her. Later, in the solitude of a bathroom stall, I cried again, overwhelmed with significance of that encounter.

    She emailed me saying, When I heard you speak I was overwhelmed with emotion. For the first time, I met someone that was able to describe how my daughter felt and to truly empathize with how I feel. Knowing that she suffered and died because of BPD has forever changed my life. Losing my daughter hurts but watching you recover and assist others in the fight against the throes of BPD — that helps.”

    These little moments are what keep me going, keep me speaking up about the people whose suffering I seem to give a voice to. The work that I do is hard but I know that when it works, I am building meaning in my life and meaning in the lives that I have connected with. For this mother, her daughter’s life can still be sign of hope. When it works, meaning can overcome even death.

  15. October 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Several years ago, I did a watercolor of three pine cones. I loved the painting. It was simple and loose and earthy. I displayed it at my annual studio show for years.

    Year after year, I’d clean the glass, oil the frame, and think, I really like this piece, why has no one ever noticed it? Is it too plain? I couldn’t bear to retire it as a loser. I still felt it was a lovely painting and I still had not fallen out of love with it. That happens, you know. Sometimes you decide you hate a piece after a while and behind the studio futon it goes to the dust and spiders. Then you bring it back out and remember why you loved it in the first place when it was declared “done” and varnished.

    One year, someone noticed the pine cones. She shyly came up to me and asked if I would hold a check for a few days if she bought the painting. Of course I would, and as I started writing up the receipt, I realized the tag had the wrong price and it was $100 dollars less than it should have been. I apologized and told her of the error. She decided not to buy the painting. I understood. Money was tight for her. But I couldn’t give my beloved pine cones away for that price.

    So, a few more years went by. I’d trot out the painting and admire it once again, thinking that maybe I should just find a good spot to hang it—giving up the idea that it would ever leave me.

    Then last year, a sweet friend who confessed she had been admiring the piece for a couple of years (oh yes! validation!), bought it. I was so happy to see it go to a good home. I would miss my pine cones, yet at the same time I was glad that someone finally loved it as much as I did.

    Later in the day, another friend expressed regrets from a mutual acquaintance, Linda, who could not come to the show. She hadn’t come the year before, and in fact, I had not seen Linda for maybe three years.

    “Linda wants to know if you still have that painting of the pine cones.”

    “What? Oh my, I just sold that piece earlier today,” I said.

    “She’s been thinking about it since she was here last and wanted to know if it was still available. She told me to buy it for her if it was still here.”

    Sometimes things have to ripen. Like a pod that won’t open until it fully dries, suddenly bursting and scattering seeds to the wind, my pine cones painting had come into its own. It was ready to settle somewhere new. I imagine it must have still had tinges of green when the first woman nearly bought it a few years earlier. And now, it was my star. This quiet little painting had been noticed and loved by others too.

    These are my moments of connection: when the paintings I love the best—become—like a homely girl who has grown into a striking woman. The paintings that touch someone and whisper, “take me home”.

    PS. Thanks for the War of Art

  16. October 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you everyone for sharing your moments, which I have enjoyed reading. You truly are brave and inspiring.

    Mia

  17. October 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I recently heard from a friend from high school on Facebook. We’ve been out of contact for decades. She recalled reading a story I wrote for our local newspaper over twenty-five years ago… about our classmates (5) who were killed in an auto crash just weeks after graduation. She said to this day that article I wrote haunts her. I had forgotten that I even wrote it. But the eerie thing is that I’m currently outlining a new screenplay about that HS tragedy… and her comment on Facebook was like a way of saying I’m on the right track. This story is meant to be written.

  18. October 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve been struggling with the last chapter of my novel Shadowo of the Lion” and up against the wall (resistance), stuck and not sure what was working or IF it was working. I had a conversation with the woman who is doing a reading critique for me (she’s been reading parts 1 and 2 so far) first as a reader and then as an editor. She began to rave over my story, how exciting it was, how well I have developed the characters (she especially loved the way I deal with the women) She was so excited about it and kept saying “but don’t tell me the ending!” so I knew I have built up the tension, all those imortant ingrediants a writer must do to make a successful story. That conversation helped me get ‘unstuck’ and the next day I was able to go back, do the necessary revisions on the chapter segment that had put me up agains the wall, and now I can proceed to the very end. Whew! That was my “it’s working!” moment. And I also have to thank you, Steve, for encouraging words you have given me in the past! I’ll soon be done and you’re name will be included in ‘acknowledgments’.

  19. Printer Bowler
    October 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Weird ideas began flowing into my mind several years ago and I started jotting them down. I’d been a student of metaphysics, natural law and golf for most of my life. The ideas were saying, “Why don’t you collect these notions and describe how we can consciously use these universal laws in our daily lives? You need a handle, something to wrap these abstract ideas around. How about golf?”

    So I thought, why not? I finished the book and, with the help of some dear friends, got it published under the title, “The Cosmic Laws of Golf (and everything else).” Golf publications ignored or put it down, as I thought they would. Then one day I got a letter from a guy in Mokena, Illinois that said:

    “Your book found me . . . I have been looking for it for years. I don’t believe it came in a golf book! This book is the truth. I keep reading it over and over. This book is what kids should learn in school. It’s like an owner’s manual for you mind.”

    The clincher came a year later, in another letter from the same guy, two sentences: “I wrote you a year ago–since then my mind went negative from some curve balls of life. Your book brought me back.”

    I’d touched someone deep, and he told me about it. To speak one’s truth and know it ignited a turn-around in someone else’s life . . . it doesn’t get any better than that.

  20. October 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    I learned to play guitar after my fingers turned to gnarled sticks in my mid-fifties. But, by lesson two I felt drawn to song writing. My teacher, Eric Hauck, encouraged me, and we made a CD together on his computer, songs I wrote as the years passed. Oh, it took time. I called the F, the fuh chord because that’s how it sounded until I had lots of practice. Eric helped and guided–a lot.

    Then he got called away to be music pastor at a church in Kansas, many states away. I never found a teacher with the closeness I had with Eric. Finally, I decided to write another song, a brave move since I didn’t have my mentor’s help to make final decisions: change the bridge; try another key; start with the second verse. I had to remember what I learned.

    I tried my creation out on my writing class. One woman sobbed. She said it was beautiful. All comments were positive. Good news since I wrote it as Positive Music, something I learned about only recently.

    Positive. Not bad as a way of life either.

  21. October 27, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    There are very touching stories in all the replies.

    I went to my blog archives to find a comment that meant something to me–and rediscovered that I needed my own encouragement from my original post. Thank you, Steve, for reminding me that all writers have setbacks and accomplishments. Here is the link to my post and Dave Jarecki’s comment:

    http://janesstories.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/how-does-a-70-year-old-woman-learn-to-ski-more-advice-to-new-writers/

  22. October 27, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    How uncanny that this is today’s subject…

    I just posted on my blog today, recalling a time in my life when I felt completely alone and sad, and and my 82 year old mom–who never comments on my blog posts (verbally and certainly not online)–made it a point to email me this afternoon and tell me that reading my post brought tears to her eyes. She said she never realized what I went through back then, and she wanted me to know she always thought I was so strong during that time. Mind you, we have a close relationship and talk all the time, but somehow she saw things with new eyes while reading the blog post I wrote, and felt compelled to tell me so.

    This simple moment of connection with my mom has made my writing journey worthwhile. ((big cheesy grin))

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my story. It’s neat to read everyone else’s, too…very encouraging!

  23. October 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Okay, here it goes:

    I’ve always done writing on websites. Back around 2002, I had a satire site that got extremely popular – like 1 million hits per month at one point. Then, I felt moved by the Muse to abandon it all and try something new. I walked away from that site, and started a simple blog to write about the search for God and meaning.

    The one thing about this new site was that I didn’t feel like I was supposed to bring my cynical side to it. Though part of me very much wanted to throw down the smack and write a bunch of posts criticizing everyone and everything to show off what I perceived to be my dazzling wit, I held back. I just felt that I was supposed to channel a different, perhaps higher side of myself.

    Then one day I got a comment on my blog from a woman whom I’ll call “Jan.” Jan said that she’d never commented before, but that she wanted to tell me that my writing was helping her right now. You see, her seven-year-old son died suddenly two weeks before. He wasn’t sick; it wasn’t expected. In her grief, she found my words to be some small source of comfort, and wanted to take a moment to thank me for that.

    I just put my head in my hands and cried. I thought of all the times that I came so close to spewing out a bunch of nasty garbage that would have gotten me tons of hits, but would have left her high and dry in her search for words of peace and meaning. I’ve never doubted my new calling in writing since then.

    Thank you for this exercise, Mr. Pressfield! Your blog is such a gem.

  24. October 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Will keep this short and simple as possible.
    Your book “the war of art” is in my top-10 all-time favorite books!
    You made a comment above that hit hard,
    “The books that never get published, the movies that never get made, the start-up ventures that never get funded start-up ventures that never get funded.”
    It is sad that so many people have the potential to create books, movies, music, paintings, computer programs, and so much more, but don’t.
    I believe it was Bob Proctor who had once said the death of so many dreams is a cemetery. It is a place where untold stories, movies, and songs also are put to rest because so many people didn’t create them while they had a chance.
    So, here is a way that start-up ventures can get funded. Please note that I’m not invested in this company, but I have used their services.
    Kickstarter.com is a great way to raise funds for creative projects: music, writing, photography, films, plays/ performances, comics, and so much more. Nearly anything goes as long as it is creative.
    You create a profile. It works best if you have a short video, too, which is quite simple with today’s technology.
    People can pledge financial support to help you fund a project. It is all-or-nothing. Say you’re requesting $1,000. Then you must get pledges for at least $1,000 or more or you won’t get funded at all.
    I raised nearly $1500 to self-publish a children’s book. That was the moment when it connected for me. I raised the funds without a complete outline for the book. I knew I had to create a “Better-than-Good” when I received the funding. It was an extra external motivator to encourage me to work hard to produce something creative.
    You can view my kickstarter page to get an idea for it. This isn’t a self-promotion link because the funding is already complete and it is not open for taking more pledges at this time. So, you can check it out here:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/DannyPettry/announcing-an-amazing-picture-book-that-teaches-ch?ref=search

  25. David
    October 28, 2010 at 8:19 am

    What I experienced this year that worked was having executives at production companies tell me that they like my material and want to do something with it. Although we need to keep writing anyway, it was encouraging to me to hear that people in the business would actually want to do something with it.

  26. Lucinda Ziesing
    October 28, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Strike: Based on a true story. I typed that to the title page. I was done telling my great grandparents story. Done for this round. I could have birthed 11 elephants in the time it had taken me to write this story. My son graduated from high school in June and went off to college. My younger son is pushing 250 lbs. at the gym. They are big boys now. It was time. Hearing the woosh that follows pressing send, my story streaked out across the sky with a feathered prayer into offices of mucky mucks. What would they think, these mucky mucks? Would they toss it, read past the first 5 pages, would they listen to the story that I had found in the shoebox of letters from my great grandfather a prospector to his Phoebe? I forgot for a moment as the aspen trees around me that day fluttered like tiny gold bells to the ground. I had forgotten my waiting to hear. On my phone a message from a strange number. I push to listen. A woman’s soft and halting voice “I want to talk to you about your wonderful screenplay”. A true story not yet finished.

  27. October 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    I’ve been a travel writer and photographer for over 10 years now but I’d always kind of seen the words as just a necessary vehicle to get my photos published. Until one day a couple of years ago. One of my specialities is Japan. My original university degree is in the Japanese language, my wife is from Sapporo and we visit there with the kids every year. Anyway I wrote an article for a backpacker magazine on how to travel there on a budget. Lo and behold a few months later the editor forwards me an email she received from an elderly couple in a tiny, remote tone in the far north of the country. It seems that they had always harboured a dream of visiting Japan but had always just assumed it was too difficult and expensive.

    After reading my article they were so inspired they rushed off to buy a plane ticket and had a wonderful 4 week trip through Japan and were already planning their next trip. They wrote to the editor to thank her for publishing an article which changed their life, and me the reluctant travel writer for writing it! To have had a small part in encouraging complete strangers to get out and explores part of the world I love, people that might have never visited otherwise, well that’s without a doubt one of my biggest ever artistic thrills. Who needs awards when you’re changing people’s lives?

  28. Tricia
    October 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Not a story, simply a reflection.

    Reading the comments (especially Amanda’s) made me think about what someone much wiser than me once told me: that when you really relate from your true but inevitably vulnerable centre, you will always touch people in ways you can never imagine. The point is to be yourself in life (and not just in a creative endeavour) and simply through being yourself you will always touch others. Just don’t expect to know how much or even when.

    Tricia

  29. October 29, 2010 at 1:34 am

    The story which I choose to tell, is not from my own actions and work. But nonetheless,
    it was a magical moment in my life which I would like to share with you.
    First some background information.
    The dream I actively pursue is to be a Saxophone player.
    I flew over to Europe at the age of 22 years – and stayed there for a delightful 9 years.
    I ended up studying at a Conservatory of Music in Amsterdam, Holland.
    After completing my studies (6 years) – I still found this phenomenon of Music to be a huge and elusive mystery.
    And I felt in myself an inner-hunger, for some useful insights and information of how I could possibly manage to create some beautiful and flowing music.

    From Amsterdam I moved to New York City. One major purpose of this move, was a Quest for a true Master who could teach me something about the mysteries of improvised music.

    One lucky day, I stumbled into the now defunct jazz club located on Bleeker street in the west village called “The Village Gate”.
    It was a big hall. At one far end of the room, was a jazz quartet playing on the stage. I was at the other end of the room, at the bar drinking a beer.

    At one moment, it seemed that the song had come to the ending. But to my surprise I was wrong. Although the band had stopped playing – the Saxophonist kept on going and going and going. He played totally alone with no help from his musician friends.
    And I remember thinking to myself: wow, he is courageous to do that !! I would-nt be able to do that. Without the support from the drummer, pianist and bass player.

    And as this guy bravely played his notes totally alone, at the same time – I could hear this continuous loud rumble from the disrespectful and distracted audience.
    There was no entrance fee to come to the concert.
    So many people there, probably did not even care about the music. They were there to eat, drink and talk.

    I would say there were 200 people in the room. Many big round tables, filled with guests with their backs to the stage. Blabbing, blabbing , blabbing about their days of shopping and whatever else. It struck me as funny this contrast. I could hear this saxophone flowing flowing flowing with its melodies and rhythms, and at the same time – these sounds were being buried by a loud rumble of chatter.

    The saxophonist (Thomas Chapin) never stopped playing. And as he continued to play play play, slowly one by one – people stopped to talk. There was a feeling in the room, that something important was happening somewhere in the room. Where ? on the stage !
    People started to turn their backs and face the stage out of curiosity ? what-s happening ? This master musician was able to single handedly – armed with only his clever musical mind and an alto saxophone, to get the entire room to a complete silence. All those 400 ears were now focused on him. All those 200 mouths were shut.

    I was flabbergasted. I knew that there were very few musicians on the planet capable of accomplishing this feat.
    More than once, I have seen musicians shout from the stage: Shut up !! I am playing music !! But to express that in a powerful way with only one saxophone before a rumbling crowd – felt like a miracle equivalent to moses parting the red sea.

    After the concert, I went up to this magic man with the horn.
    And asked him: Do you teach ? Can I have your phone number ?

    So that is how I found my teacher:
    the much beloved and never to be forgotten Thomas Chapin.
    I would also like to share with the reading audience 2 things
    that Thomas said to me during our first lesson.
    Because they resonate so well with the writings of Steve Pressfield.
    1. – Music is a spiritual path.
    2. – Music is a “WORK” – shop.

  30. October 30, 2010 at 3:43 am

    My “when it worked” moment came in the dentist chair. I had that noisy vacuum thing in my mouth and my dentist was checking my teeth when he mentioned that he’d bought my second novel and read it. He said it was as if I was writing his life. If you were among the two dozen people – plus my mother – who read the book when it was out, you would have said TMI! I couldn’t say much at all given the instruments in my mouth (aauugghh… was about it), but I was deeply grateful to hear that the hours I put in writing meant something personal from someone I never expected. That experience was repeated – minus the dental impediments – from an artist. To strike a nerve twice (pun intended) more than made up for disappointing sales.

    Thank you for doing this – it is heartening to read the others and to remember those ‘smaller’ moments of success.

  31. October 30, 2010 at 5:56 am

    So I started putting new music on the internet every week.

    Because of that, and because I was suddenly extremely honest in the work I was doing, I ended up meeting someone who loves me for who I really am.

    That’s fantastic.

  32. Dana Diament
    October 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    In September of 2002, I was a sophomore in college and a member of a student-run charity group called Help A Life Organization, whose mission was to improve the care of new born babies around the world. HALO had many projects, and one of them, Make and Give, I spearheaded. Our original idea was to sew baby clothes and give them to moms who couldn’t afford clothes for their babies. This idea was flawed in more than one way: few of us could sew the onesies well enough, and the babies would grow out of them very quickly. It wasn’t long before we moved on to making baby blankets. The simpler product and much easier making process meant more volunteers could be involved.

    Year after year we made baby blankets and sent them away with volunteers going to poor villages in Africa or Asia. We didn’t have the capabilities at the time to figure out how useful our blankets actually were or how the recipients felt about them. However, we believed in their value and HALO members loved making them so we forged on. I graduated in 2005, leaving HALO and Make & Give behind, but the project continued on with new leadership.

    In January of 2009, I was forwarded a remarkable email. One of the volunteers who took blankets to a clinic in Ghana in 2007 was trying to reach HALO again because the head of the NGO that runs the clinic was looking for a new source of blankets. The email explained that the midwife in the clinic noticed that when a baby blanket was handed out with each birth, more women came to the clinic to give birth, rather than giving birth at home. In rural Ghana, where 1 in 45 women die from causes related to childbirth, giving birth at home is very risky. Giving birth at the clinic is considerably safer, and the baby blankets create an incentive for the women to walk the 15 minutes from their village to the clinic to give birth with a skilled attendant. I couldn’t believe that these baby blankets were helping to reduce infant and maternal mortality.

    After reading the email, I felt compelled to figure out a way to get more blankets to the clinic. I immediately wrote to my friend Carol, who was my boyfriend’s mom at the time that I started Make & Give. She had arranged for a friend of hers to donate a sewing machine and lots of fabric when we first started the project. She’s also very involved in her synagogue’s social action committee. Not only did I want Carol and her friend who donated to Make & Give to hear about the powerful impact the blankets had but also I was hoping her synagogue would take on this project.

    Sure enough in June of 2010, 230 blankets were donated by Carol’s synagogue to the clinic in Ghana. Just a few weeks ago, on October 10, Carol forwarded me the thank-you email from the clinic. In the email was a photo of the midwife with all of the 230 blankets. I have never seen a bigger smile than the one on the midwife’s face.

  33. October 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Last night, the fifth and sixth grade football team my son plays on, and I help coach, had the opportunity to play under the lights on our little town’s high school field. Now I don’t take coaching to terribly serously, so this was not a big deal to me, but it was a serious event for the kids; first time in a high school locker room, first time under the lights.

    And then it happened. After the head coach had given a rousing speech and the blood was pumping in he boys, I recognized -the- sound. In a moment the room went eerily quiet and all that was heard was the sound of helmets being donned,pads being strapped up, and minds being set for a single minded task. It was the sound of war. It was the same sound that has been heard since man first banded together to fight a common foe.

    In a flash it was gone, replaced by fifth and sixth grade conversations about Halo Reach, how much playing time they were each going to get, and a thousand other insignificant things. But for that brief moment, those boys were Spartan’s, they were a Roman legion, They were the 101st on D-Day, and it sent chills up my spine.

  34. October 31, 2010 at 3:36 am

    My crime has always been to start projects and not finish them, and 2010 has been no different, except with the plans a little bit more ambitious. But this year I resolved to start *something* and finish it.

    So in March I started work on an ebook for young journalists all about how to survive in the changing economic climate. I spent eight weeks writing it, and faced all the usual demons, which, thankfully, War of Art had prepared me for.

    And I finished it. I clicked “publish” and put it on sale. That felt like a winning moment for me, personally. I didn’t care if people read it, what mattered was I had actually finished something I had started.

    But the second When It Worked moment came a few weeks later when readers started emailing me telling me about how it had changed their outlook and had inspired them to do great things with their work. I made sure I replied to every single one. Those few short emails made the whole thing worthwhile.

  35. October 31, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    When life works.

    Over two years my friend/soulmate discovered a growth on one of her lungs. I was was there for the surgery–supporting her, her daughter and her partner. Two months later, when she was to start chemotherapy, they discovered a growth on the other lung. I flew back across the country for round two. I was not working at the time and am grateful for it.
    While visiting at Xmas that year we attended her daughters Xmas concert. My friend was 3/4 of the way through her chemo. After the concert I was introduced to her mother in-law. She shook my hand, looked at me and said “Thank you for what you are doing for my children”.
    That was all.
    The gift, up until then had been in the giving. But there was something in that simple moment, that pierced my heart in the most beautiful way. I had been of service. Life was working.

    I make my living as a Cinematographer and I am writing a non fiction book.
    The War of at is my #1 tool.

    My friend, is doing very well.

  36. November 1, 2010 at 4:05 am

    I had just finished reading “The War of Art”. It was if this road side work light turned on in the night. We had just returned from a small weekend kayaking trip. Monday morning I kept the kayak on the van I loaded up my camera equipment and lunch, told the wife I was off to work and paddled out to take photos of river reflections. I recognized the shot from a distance and had to laugh. It worked for me, I got it, That event had a hugh impact on my life. I started applying to juried art shows and that shot is a big seller for me. The pieces started to fit as I took a step, some one loaned me a tent, the credit card issue was resolved by a chance meeting, I got into two other juried shows at the last minuet. I have to tell the story and talk about your book. I may even buy a case of your books and pass them along during shows. I am no writer but I started to blog and just get it out. Here is the blog report
    “There;s a war?” http://stephen-reflections.blogspot.com/2010/10/theres-war.html. Learning to live the warriors life. Thanks Steven Pressfield

  37. Victor Coppola
    November 1, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    All,

    “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
    Matthew 21:16

    This is not much of a story. It’s more of a moment. I’m a musician, a guitar player. My wife and I teach a guitar workshop for free at our church. A mother brought her son and daughter to learn how to play, they don’t belong to our church or any other church for that matter. The kids just wanted to learn how to play. Funny thing is, the Mom joined in and learned right along with them. The following two emails are from the son and the Mom. One of the best moments (forget music) I’ve ever had.

    Blessings,

    Victor Coppola

    Subject: Thank you for guitar

    Thank you Victor and Rachel I practiced and practiced and that made me better. You are the best teachers ever in the whole wide world. Thank you for giving me your guitar, I played better but my Mom does not want to buy me one. And she said when I grow up. And the little guitar will go to my little sister Angelina. And my Mom will buy me one. I will sing better on it.

    Thank you,

    Adrian.

    Hi Rachel and Victor,

    I wanted to thank you one more time for your time and effort to teach us the guitar chords. We really enjoyed it, and we are still so excited and practicing every day the chords. We looking forward to seeing you next time.

    I hope you didn’t mind Adrian’s email, he wanted so badly to thank you, so I let him put his thoughts in the email. Alex also wanted to send you a thank you email, but she got busy with the school projects.

    Have a wonderful and healthy weekend,
    Alexandra, Adrian& Claudia

  38. November 2, 2010 at 3:42 am

    The prologue of my Roman adventure novel takes place in an arena. A young man got arrested together with a bunch of Christians but unlike them he refuses to give up. I won’t go into details here but he survives and gets to be the story’s hero.
    Anyway, I gave a large part of the manuscript to a friend to read. A few days later I received a photo message with an eleven year old girl (my friend’s daughter) standing in the middle of the Colosseum, waving at me, asking when she can read the rest. She’d looooved it. My friend later told me she did too and that stories like these make history come alive.
    Although I’m still searching for a publisher the picture will forever keep me going.
    Best wishes,
    André

  39. November 2, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Unable to post.

  40. November 2, 2010 at 7:31 am

    When life works.
    Over two years my friend/soulmate discovered a growth on one of her lungs. I was was there for the surgery–supporting her, her daughter and her partner. Two months later, when she was to start chemotherapy, they discovered a growth on the other lung. I flew back across the country for round two. I was not working at the time and am grateful for it.
    While visiting at Xmas that year we attended her daughters Xmas concert. My friend was 3/4 of the way through her chemo. After the concert I was introduced to her mother in-law. She shook my hand, looked at me and said “Thank you for what you are doing for my children”.
    That was all.
    The gift, up until then had been in the giving. But there was something in that simple moment, that pierced my heart in the most beautiful way. I had been of service. Life was working.

    I make my living as a Cinematographer and I am writing a non fiction book.
    The War of at is my #1 tool.

    My friend, is doing very well.

  41. November 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Steve, here’s my story:

    About 15 years ago, a good friend of mine who was dying of cancer gave me a little stuffed bear to take with me on a trek through the Grand Canyon – she would “see” through the bear’s eyes what she could not see for herself. Maggie Bear became my constant hiking companion. So when I started working on a novel of tragedy, trial, and triumph, it was natural that my young heroine would be named Maggie. I’d written several books, including a few inspirational parables, but “The Healing Tree” would be my first real novel. It was going nowhere, and the problem was Maggie. It was as if she was determined to stop me dead in my tracks. Maggie was Resistance on steroids.

    One night Maggie and I had a conversation (I think it was in a dreaming state, but I’m not really sure). And Maggie told me that she was a poet, and that she would not let me write the book until I wrote her in as a poet. Now, I have never understood poetry, never liked poetry, and certainly never had any desire whatsoever to actually write the stuff. But Maggie had me in a mental hammerlock. I began to read poetry (and was blessed to come across the work of Billy Collins, who showed me that it did not have to be stilted and priggish to be good). And I started to write some of my own. Once I started, Maggie stepped in and took over. I’ve been working on the story on-and-off for almost ten years. I actually self-published an early edition several years ago, and got some pretty good reviews – but not from Maggie.

    This weekend I will be proofreading the final manuscript before it goes to press. I’m proud of the book, but more important, Maggie is proud of the poetry that is seamlessly woven into the story. No one who knows me believes that I actually wrote the poems in it – I’ve given up trying to explain that they are right, that Maggie (and her pupil Carrie Anne) wrote them all. The funny thing is that I could not write a respectable poem to save my life, except when I’m writing for Maggie and Carrie Anne.

    So in my case, the “it” in when it works is Maggie the Muse. If anyone would like to preview the manuscript, it’s a free download at http://www.Healing-Story.com.

    Joe Tye

  42. November 3, 2010 at 8:22 am

    A friend posted a an essay from by blog on his site and I received this e-mail, through him, from one of the photographers that contributes to the site. The subject was creativity and talked about, among other things, The War of Art.

    I finally got around to reading Ken’s essay from last weeks’ page…and absolutely loved it. When you get a chance, please pass my praise and thanks on to him. I’ve been experiencing a lack of inspiration or faith or whatever you want to call it (if my photo submission for this week was not evidence enough); his essay seems to have come at just the right time.

    That feedback made it all worthwhile.

  43. November 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I’m almost in tears reading these. What a gift!

    I have one, that I had forgotten about until I read all these tremendous success stories.

    Once upon a time, many years ago, I was a representative for my church in the People’s Republic of Hungary. We had just received permission from the government to operate in the country, and as a result, we were being interviewed by Hungarian State Radio. I am not Hungarian, I’m just some kid from Virginia that picked up the language from being tossed headfirst into Budapest. But I loved those people so fiercely it still brings tears to my eyes. I talked with everyone I could find. I watched cartoons and read comic books (this technique, people, really works). I went to soccer matches. I was conversant. But this was much more important than being able to order a sandwich.

    The interviewer introduced herself in English and brought a translator. I greeted them in Hungarian and we talked for a moment. She was lobbing softballs, speaking slowly, trying to gauge how good I really was in the language. And then she turned on the tape recorder and she decided it was time to get serious.

    State Radio was about as atheist as it gets, and this was a hard, cynical, twentysomething representative thereof, immediately bent on making me and my church looks as foolish as possible. She ripped off a sentence as fast and complicated as you could imagine. It was positively wicked, but she was doing her job.

    A few years ago, I found the recording I made of the broadcast. I’m still very good in Hungarian, can read and translate news broadcasts, though not as smoothly as I once could. But I listened to the broadcast two or three times. I knew who was on it, and what the circumstances were. And I could not believe the voice on that recording was mine. I never stumbled or stuttered. I never searched for a word. What she dished out, I gave back, in flawless, unaccented Hungarian. By a couple minutes in (we had a fifteen-minute interview), you could hear the respect creeping into her voice. By ten minutes, we were old friends. The translator never said a word the whole time.

    It was magic, a miracle. I can still feel the power of it. And I had forgotten.

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  45. December 6, 2010 at 12:46 am

    The very first comment on my blog. 1995. I didn’t think anyone would ever care to read what I had to share. Then, after a week, I noticed this:

    “I love it. It’s almost surreal to watch you evolve to this place …as if you have been pedaling past here every day on your way to another place – and one day you just stopped, unsure why – to just stop. (world’s longest run on sentence – but I made my point). Suddenly I feel this sense of pride in your growth – as if I’ve really been there for every mile. I’m happy to see that you took the time to stop. It is a good place.”

    That was it: I was hooked, not on the writing itself – that happened when I was a kid – but on publishing. Writing for myself seemed kind of a waste of time after that first comment.

    PS: I swear the person who wrote that wasn’t my mom.

    Cheers.

  46. December 7, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Jerry Pournelle called me an asshole for something I wrote last year. It’s not often one’s childhood heroes even realize you exist, let alone recognize your finer qualities.

    On business: I realized it’s all going to work when I turned down a day job I’d have killed for a few years ago. In finance. In the great recession. When I had little more than moths in my pocket. Yeah, I could have taken the job: I’d probably pull a half million bonus in a year or two if I had. In a decade, I’d sprout broccoli-like tumors from swallowing my bile every day in order to make the house payment and pay for the wife’s lifestyle, wondering why I didn’t work a little harder at my big idea while I still had a chance. No thanks: I’ll do it my own way.

    It’s like my uncle Fred said, “If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Sure, I might go bankrupt, or end up nuts like the guy in that movie “Pi,” but I’m not going to decant myself into a grey cube farm, just because it’s safe and lucrative.

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