Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Gravitational Fields Revisited

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 23, 2011

Gravitational Fields” ran November of 2009 for the first time. It’s visiting again for the long Thanksgiving weekend.

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.

The prince's planet was small but it had enough gravity to give him a place to stand

The prince's planet was small but it had enough gravity to give him a place to stand

Even if you don’t know where you’re going. Begin anyway. If it’s a story, a painting, an idea for a business venture … just dive in.

Open a folder on your laptop. Give it a name.

Open a file in that folder. Give it a name.

Now start.

The universe is self-organizing

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post in this space about the self-organizing nature of the universe. It’s true. It’s a law.

As you start to work (and as the work accrues), an amazing thing starts to happen. The work generates its own gravitational field.

It’s like space dust coming together. A speck forms, which pulls in another speck, which becomes a mote, then a fleck, then a glob, a blob, a brick, a Volkswagen. Pretty soon you’ve got a bona fide orb … a sphere … a miniature planet, like the one the Little Prince lived on. Remember that book by Saint-Exupery? The prince’s planet was so small, he would circumnavigate it at the equator in ten paces.

But it had gravity. Its mass exerted enough centripetal pull to keep the Little Prince from sailing off into space.

Gravity is our friend

That’s what our work does, once it reaches threshold minimum mass. It coheres. It hangs together.

It gives us a place to stand on.

You’re writing a narrative. You’ve got a scene here, a fragment there. But the work is all over the place; you don’t know what the hell it is or where it’s going. But now, at the Little Prince planet stage, you’ve actually got Something. That’s better than Nothing. We can build on Something

Still stuck? Start another speck of dust. Build it up till you’ve got a second planet. What happens then? The planets start attracting each other. You’ve got mass now. You’ve got gravity. Between one fragment of a scene on one planet and an inkling of a character on the other, an electric charge shoots. Suddenly you’ve got an entirely new scene involving that character! Something plus Something is More Something.

Gravity plus intention equals momentum

Gravity, like habit, can be a mighty ally because it leads ineluctably to another Newtonian phenomenon: momentum.

Our Little Prince planet, we discover, possesses not only mass but motion. It’s moving through space. Our energy, our intent, our attention are powering it. Now what?

Keep it moving.

Don’t stop. Don’t second-guess. Don’t look down. Take courage from how far you’ve come already. From a speck to a blob to your own tiny planet. Now keep going.

Don’t worry, you won’t fall off. You’ve got gravity working for you.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

10 Responses to “Gravitational Fields Revisited”

  1. Brian
    November 23, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Steve-

    I recently discovered your blog after finishing Do the Work and have also read War of Art. Both great reads.

    You’ve been one of the most inspiring authors for this want-to-be writer and I’ve recently been Doing the Work. Again. Even as little as it still is, it still feels good.

    Thanks.

  2. November 23, 2011 at 6:46 am

    I use this technique every time I start a new story. Just start. Most of the time I toss out the first pass or two at what I am attempting. This is because I usually don’t get all of the idea for the story in one go. So I’ll start and as I am writing suddenly I’ll understand what the story is “really” about. That’s when I plot out a simple outline, and start over amidst the ruins of the previous attempts. But those early passes always seed the final story, and provide the milieu for the story. They are the fertilizer in which the final story grows.

  3. November 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Just what I need to read today. Thanks.

  4. Laura
    November 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Nice reminder that Gravity isn’t the enemy…Resistance is.

    Thanks Steven. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. November 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    When I read Do The Work, I was finalising a novel five years in the writing and half my mind was on the next project, wondering what it might be. ‘Start before you are ready’! So I did. I still haven’t finished the last, but the new one has indeed got a momentum going and a very lively one it is, too. Brilliant advice – thank you so much.

  6. November 23, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I think this is in the same vain.
    I read an interview with Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues where he recalled how he came to write the song QUESTION. They had scheduled/rented recording studio time and when it was time to use it the Moodies didn’t have enough finished songs written to fill the time they had scheduled. Justin had been working on several songs and it dawned on him to piece two of them together to make one complete song. If you know the tune, you can see this. They were like the two pieces of a two piece puzzle. I guess gravity kicked in and the pieces came together? Thank goodness for endless metaphors!

  7. Sonja Eaton
    November 24, 2011 at 5:56 am

    So true. I think it was Nora Roberts who said, “I can’t fix a blank page.” Such a simple maxim, but so true.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Steven.

  8. November 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    I think this is the answer for people who “don’t have time” to do their art. If you deliberately take a day or a weekend to start, you can fill in those bits and snippets of time that appear in even the busiest lives.

  9. kp
    November 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Steven Pressfield,

    sometimes I have to remind myself that you don’t have ESP. You’ve just tangled with the devil so long you can tell us all his tricks.

    Thank you. You are a treasure.

    KP

  10. November 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Thanks for giving me visual imagery to describe everything I’ve ever done.

    I just wrote a song. Started with a very mechanical chord structure I wrote down three days ago, then pieced together three structures in the same key. Finally sat down today and started writing words, and at the end of the 3-piece suite, it flowed, all on its own, into a song I wrote 6 years ago.

    Gravity. No moving parts. No assembly required.