Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Mojo

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 17, 2012

We’ve been talking for the past few weeks about thinking in blocks of time, saying no to distractions, and digging in for traction. What’s the point of all this?

The point is to produce mojo.

Titles sequence from "To Kill A Mockingbird," designed by Stephen Frankfurt

According to Wikipedia, mojo is “a magical charm bag used in hoodoo, which has transmuted into a slang word for self-confidence, self-esteem or sex appeal.”

Here’s my definition:

Mojo is a force field of positive attraction produced by sweat, intention, dedication and love. It’s a groove, a rhythm. It’s “flow.” It’s “the Zone.”

Mojo builds up over time. It feeds upon itself. The more mojo we have, the more we can generate.

Mojo is the opposite of Resistance. From the cloud of mojo we pluck the lightning bolts that we hurl at Resistance (not to mention the charm, the flair, or the smoke bombs we use to distract Resistance.)

What is the education of a professional? In many ways it is simply this: learning how to produce traction. How to generate mojo.

The average bear embarking on a serious, long-form project (losing twenty pounds, mounting a philanthropic venture, launching Squidoo II) has no conception of the level of mojo he will need to get from One to Done.

We fail, and we fail again. Each time we come back able to produce a little more focus, a little more intensity, a little more traction. Each time we bring a little more dog into the fight.

Have you heard the axiom, “If you want something done, give the job to a busy person.”

A busy person has mojo. My friend and mentor David Leddick has just turned in a book for Black Irish. This is in addition to the musical he is opening Off-Broadway, for which he has written the book and the lyrics, as well as producing it and performing in it. David is squeezing this in between the publication of his new novel and full-time work on his autobiography. On top of singing lessons, ballet class, and stuff I don’t even want to know about.

David is 82.

David has mojo. He has always had mojo.

When you have mojo, you are the epicenter of a powerful field of attraction. Things are drawn to you. Ideas. People. Money.

When you have mojo as a writer, lines of dialogue come to you. New characters and plot twists pop out of the ether. A filmmaker with mojo sees new sequences in his dreams, hears monologues in the shower, gets new funding-source ideas while driving on the freeway. If you’re an entrepreneur, mojo draws new investors to you, presents you with production ideas, assists you in team organization and motivation.

Can mojo be manufactured? Absolutely.

Mojo is acquired by the application of work, passion, and commitment over time.

About a month ago, when I returned from two weeks off, I said to myself, “I need mojo.” Hence: thinking in blocks of time, saying no to distractions, digging in for traction.

What is the opposite of mojo?

The opposite of mojo is slippage. Spinning our wheels. Working by fits and starts.

The Muse hates that. When she makes her rounds each morning, she wants to see us at the easel, in the studio, hunched over the movieola. She is sniffing for mojo. She responds to mojo.

How about this for a crappy week? Monday we work, but only half-assed and without courage. Tuesday: the in-laws. Taxes all day Wednesday. A crisis at our day job devours Thursday. Friday we get in a couple of hours but our brains are so fogged we get nowhere. The weekend? Forget it.

That is not mojo. It’s lo-jo. It’s Nojo.

Can we blame the Muse for not giving us anything? Why should she?

Ah, but when he have mojo!

We sit down to write 500 words and when we’re done and hit “Word Count,” the box says 2754. The brilliant young chef we’ve wanted for our new restaurant storms off his current gig and phones us: “Have you got something for me?”  We find the key we’ve lost, remember the number we’d forgotten. We wake an hour before dawn with the solution to the second act.

Mojo is indeed a magic charm bag. It’s knucklebones and kestrel feathers, Buffalo nickels and railroadman’s watches, marbles (cat’s eyes and clearies, ducks and shooters), amulets and talismans and half-moons made of silver. Mojo is the cigar box that Scout had in the titles sequence of To Kill A Mockingbird.

In other words, we don’t know what the hell mojo is. All we know is we gotta have it.

We can’t summon it, we can’t order it, we can’t even invoke it. We draw mojo to us with a gift, and that gift is ourselves and our love and work and commitment.

Thinking in blocks of time, saying no to distractions, digging in for traction.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

23 Responses to “Mojo”

  1. October 17, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Yes. There’s magic in doing the work. For all sorts of reasons. Good stuff here every Wednesday.

  2. October 17, 2012 at 5:31 am

    May the Mojo be with you.

    “Writing Wednesdays” is required reading for me upon arising from the dreamscape every Wednesday morning.

    It never fails to inspire and enlighten.

    Thanks, Steven. You delivered the goods once again.

  3. October 17, 2012 at 5:33 am

    How long can mojo be maintained? I do find that when I’m busiest, I get the most done, but it’s usuallly followed by a “crash,” a period when I get extremely tired, lazy, and unproductive. Is this just because i haven’t built up enough discipline or are there limits to the power of mojo?

  4. October 17, 2012 at 6:19 am

    Great post once again.

    Is there a danger in investing your mojo in something unworthy?

    Or to clearly go past the point of diminishing returns on a given endeavour?

    If you aren’t careful in picking your battles – in the selection and maintenance of the aim – then perhaps you risk overextending your mojo. AKA burnout.

    And once this happens, it can take a long time for your mojo reserves to regenerate.

  5. October 17, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Rebecca – try scheduling in renewal time. Recharging is fundamental to success. Go to the well – drink, relax and celebrate your wins for the week.

  6. October 17, 2012 at 7:13 am

    thank you for this!!! I totally call it “zoning” or “in the zone” that means door is locked, keyboard is pressed, water on deck, hair ties back…. I’m goin in!!!! love your books thank you thank you!!!

  7. Basilis
    October 17, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I wonder if a majority of a group of people that happen to have mojo can be called “a mojority”.

    :-)

  8. Jason Keough
    October 17, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I’ve found that I’ve done my best in sports at the same time I received my best grades in school. I make my best gains lifting during the same time I do my most business. I very much believe in being in “the zone” and tapping into whatever you want to title it as; univeral energy, mojo, zone, etc.

  9. October 17, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Well done, Mr. Mojo!

  10. October 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I suspect a vital component of Mojo is Momentum…

  11. October 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    So right on. It also makes me think about how to direct mojo appropriately. Thank you for writing.

  12. October 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I’ve been playing hide and seek with my Mojo. Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  13. October 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Love your “Writing Wednesdays”, Steven. About 4 weeks ago I read your books “Do the Work”, “The War of Art” and “Warrior Ethos”. They changed my life. I had been in a funk for two years not creating any artwork at all. But your books help put a fire under my ass and the Muses are blessing me with their help. Thank you for writing such books and for your blog here. They help more than you realize.

  14. Brian Durkin
    October 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you Captain, I needed this one today.

  15. October 18, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Hey Steve

    This is not a response to the article though was interesting.
    I have just finished reading 3 of your books about twice or thrice through especially Tides of War and Gates of Fire is obviously a brilliant story. I was wondering, I’ve studied a little about Classical Greece it’s Golden Age and it’s the one area in History where I don’t know nothing but a few things.
    Socrates’s trial after the Pelopenessian War. However I was thinking the brain child behind the victories at Marathon and Thermopylae besides the brave soldiers who stood until the very end, was that of the Athenian statesman and strategos Themistocles. He is a great character however this figure is in only a few persons memories and is not in the public psyche yet unlike the King of Sparta was in 480 B.C. I’ve noticed that Classical Greece the Golden Age and it’s twilight was more your starting material and afterwards the Hellenic World was focused upon more readily and more recently WW2 and then hypothetical post-WW3. However your Greek stories are gold. And I was wondering whether you would care to exchange some e-mails perhaps and get into contact, merely for the sake of exchanging stories and mutual interest in this certain field. But the Battle of Marathon is seldom mentioned, to emphasize my point, athletes who run 27 26 1/2 miles don’t know that’s the distance between Marathon and Athens. There is a world of richness awaiting to be unfurled and unleashed into the writing world which is pre-Hot-Gates.
    This character is an unsung hero, there is the film you may of watched the 300 Spartans which does include his role in the victory in 480 B.C. but the naval tale which you are adept at describing which you have done explicitly for instance in the Tides of War could be brought to light, and not just, the genius of Themistocles
    Awaiting your reply

    Marcus Rennie

    I’m contactable via g-mail its my name above @gmail.com

    cheers

    Take Care

  16. October 18, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I love this article! Yes momentum is key, yes distraction is a killer. I was inspired by this article to download a timer application to help me work in chunks of focused time. Progress, forward, always. \m/

  17. October 20, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I love this post! I’m completely fired up and ready to tear into my word count for the day. BRING IT! This girl’s got MOJO! 😉

  18. Denni
    October 21, 2012 at 12:13 am

    THANKS STEVEN for the dose of Mojo in your writing! Im so watching Austin Powers this week! I love your writings! Been reading Turning Pro and think its brilliant! THANKS A MILLION!

    NOJO was hilarious!

  19. October 21, 2012 at 9:13 am

    I’m wondering if a lack of mojo is something that people use to sidestep rolling their sleeves up and getting elbow deep into the muck? By which I mean, I get the feeling that people sometimes say to themselves, “I won’t do this just yet, I gotta wait ’til I get my mojo”.

    It becomes a mojo-free zone that secures an ongoing diminishing of the things that you define mojo as – “ourselves and our love and work and commitment”.

    You’ve got me thinking here Mr P.

  20. October 21, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Your last four posts couldn’t have come at a better time. Been hanging out in the land of “Nojo” lately. Nobody, nobody shines a light on the way out like you do.
    Thank you, Steven, for once again helping me get back on track!

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