Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Traction

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 10, 2012

The last two weeks we’ve been talking in these posts about buckling down and hitting a groove. By that I mean finding and achieving a steady, productive, working rhythm.

Traction.

Traction

Traction. It beats brilliance every day.

Nothing gets stuff done like traction. When the rubber grips the road, we can deliver any payload. Long-range. Cross-country. Anywhere.

The opposite of traction is slippage. Spinning our wheels. Starting and stopping. Sputtering.

When we achieve traction, we’re actually accomplishing something.

We’re shooting film, we’re filling blank pages, we’re structuring our new start-up.

For the past two weeks we’ve talked about thinking in blocks of time and saying no. Thinking in blocks of time gives us patience. It sets up the long view. We can say, “It’ll take twelve weeks for pre-production, 39 days of filming, and nineteen weeks of post-production.” We can say that and not freak out. We’re thinking in blocks of time.

Saying no means adopting a No More Mister Nice Guy attitude toward all activities that will pull us away from our objective. Including good things, fun things. We make the decision that our priority is X. Everything that is not-X, unless it’s life and death (or at least really big fun), has to take a number.

The third element is consistency. Habit.

They say at the gym that you have to train in order to train. That’s how traction is achieved. A solid day’s work on Monday makes it easier to do the same Tuesday. A strong week leads to a stronger following week.

You can’t generate traction out of the box. You have to make it the old-fashioned way. You have to earn it.

You earn it by day-after-day consistency of effort.

That’s what my goal is now.

Thinking in blocks of time and saying no to distractions lets me sink the lugs of my tires into the mud and really dig in.

Once I achieve traction, I focus on nothing except maintaining it. I don’t overthink. I don’t second-guess. I don’t tinker.

I don’t read pages over and drive myself crazy wondering if they’re “good.” The point is not brilliance, the point is movement. The object is to gain ground.

Later, I will switch to left-brain and beat myself to a pulp striving for quality. Later. Not now.

I once read a great definition of work. This came from Frederic Raphael, who wrote the screenplays for Darling (for which he won an Oscar), Two for the Road, Far From the Madding Crowd and Eyes Wide Shut.

Work is when you have pages at the end of the day that you didn’t have at the beginning.

What produces those pages is traction.

That’s what I want now.

My mantra: I will think in blocks of time, I’ll say no to distractions, and I’ll dig my heavy-duty off-road tires into the mud day-after-day until I can feel them gripping good and solid.

Then I’ll shut off my chattering brain and keep rolling.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

12 Responses to “Traction”

  1. Basilis
    October 10, 2012 at 4:13 am

    It came right on time!
    I’m in a new beginning.
    The traction is not so effective right now.

  2. October 10, 2012 at 4:33 am

    thanks so much, steve. you are a true bro. keep it going!

  3. October 10, 2012 at 5:36 am

    I’m not a writer. I practice martial arts. Yet, I find nearly everything written here speaking directly to me.

  4. John Thomas
    October 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    The Finns call it Sisu. The word in Arabic is Azeema.

  5. October 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    A great piece, Steven! In my Cherokee world we have 7 directions: East, West, North, South, Up, Down and Where We Are At The Moment. The last one is Traction for us.

  6. October 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Steven, Love your post as always. I find this feeling of traction is also like putting on blinders and focusing on the doing of that ONE THING.

    Jerry Ellis: Love those 7 directions, especially the Where We Are At The Moment. Beautiful!

    • October 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you, Beth. How is your writing coming along? I just returned last night from Rome, where I live part of every year.

  7. October 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    It may be partially seasonal. October feels like digging in, bearing down and keeping the home fires burning. At least at these Northern Latitudes.

  8. October 11, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Great article and perfect timing. I’m wrapping up several projects that have been intense for me and in the process of finishing, I feel like I’ve been losing traction. Time to dig in and get to work on the next things. Thank you.

  9. Jareth
    October 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

    These posts come at an ideal time for me, as I recently finished my first screenplay and sent it off to the group of producers I have been working with. I’m now faced with the daunting task of embarking on the next journey (writing another screenplay) and have found myself completely out of the groove I had only a few short weeks ago. So, I will take the advice of these past 3 posts to heart. Think in blocks of time, say no to the distractions (which admittedly is my weakest spot), and get some traction going. I’m fortunate to work with a writing partner that tends to be a bull in a china shop. With his energy and enthusiasm, we’ve already developed a new concept, so now it’s research, character outlines, and beat sheeting. Thanks for the continued sharing of wisdom and experiences, Steve.

  10. Scott
    October 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Your columns are so good, and so affecting, that I feel like there’s a strong possibility that you write your novels so you can write these columns and your books.

    • Scott
      October 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Your non-fiction books like “The War of Art” I mean.