Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE




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ARCHIVES OF February, 2013

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Jackson Browne’s Piano coming through the Floor

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 27, 2013

Did you see that docu on TV the other night about the history of the Eagles?


Glenn Frey of the Eagles. "So that's how you write a song!"

I was watching it (enjoying it tremendously) when one moment leapt out at me. I’m paraphrasing from memory now, so forgive me if I get some of this wrong:

Glenn Frey was telling the story. He was talking about the early 70s in L.A., before the Eagles were even a band, or maybe just after they had gotten started. He and Don Henley were playing gigs (they had backed up Linda Ronstadt for a while) but they were not writing their own material. They were covering other musicians’ songs. They knew they had to start writing their own—and they wanted to desperately—but they couldn’t figure out how.

How do you write a song? Really.

What’s the process? Where do you start?

It turned out that they were living in a little cheap apartment in Echo Park directly above an even littler, cheaper apartment that was being rented by Jackson Browne. Jackson Browne was at the very start of his career too. He was starving just like Glenn and Don.

Jackson Browne, sometime around Echo Park days

Glenn Frey, telling the story, says something like this:

“Every morning we’d wake up and we’d hear Jackson’s piano coming through the floor from the apartment below. He would play one verse, then play it again, and again and again. Twenty times in a row, till he had it exactly the way he wanted.

“Then he’d move to the next verse. Again, twenty times. It went on for hours. I don’t know how many days we listened to this same process before it suddenly hit us: This is how you write a song. This is how it’s done.

“That changed everything for us.”

I love that story. I love the demystification of the process. Yeah, the Muse is present. Yes, inspiration is key. But the ethic is workaday. It’s sit down, shut up, do what you have to.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Ron Popeil Promise

By Shawn Coyne | Published: February 22, 2013

If your story was a car, what kind would it be?

I went to Los Angeles for a couple of days.  Steve and I try to meet every three months or so face to face and it was my turn to schlep the 3000 miles.

While we have a standing Monday afternoon phone conference, we’ve found that we get exponentially more done when we can read each other’s faces, interrupt one another’s thoughts and monologues. And it’s just a lot of nerdy fun.

We tell ourselves that we’re getting together to go over “business” stuff.  And we do. We balance our little bank account and plan when to publish stuff we have in the pipeline. We talk about dealing with “key man” insurance, rejiggering the Black Irish operating agreement, signing contracts, and hiring far more savvy consultants to do the important things that we just don’t know how to do.

The business stuff takes about an hour.  We have an unspoken pact that when it starts to take longer than that, we’ll pull back on the entrepreneurship and remember why we’re doing this in the first place.

Then the real fun begins.  We go into the garage to talk shop…Steve’s office. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Principal and the Profile

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 20, 2013

My friend Jane worked for years for a legendary personality of the 20th century. I’m respecting her wishes by not using the gentleman’s name. Let’s call him Michael.


Fans even came after Michael by sea

Michael was a target for the tabloids and the paparazzi. He was besieged relentlessly by fans and admirers, cranks, crazies, and outright stalkers. He lived on an estate. The place became a fortress. It got so bad that Michael had to employ bodyguards and a professional “threat assessor.”

The threat assessor wound up teaching everyone on Michael’s staff how to respond to a certain type of persistent assailant. The dynamic was so universally-encountered in the security field, he said, that it even had a name.

It was called the Principle and the Profile.

In this case the “principal” was Michael. The “profile” was the assailant.

The profile was anyone who sent repeated notes or letters or packages, who left phone messages and e-mails, who used the web and social media to bombard Michael with requests for favors and meetings, samples of writing or music, diatribes, harangues, manifestoes, sob stories, etc.  Sometimes the profile showed up in person. Jane told me that Michael’s security men had to chase people off Michael’s roof; they repelled invaders climbing over Michael’s walls, even using boats to reach him by sea.

I suspect you know where I’m going with this.


The phenomenon of the Principal and the Profile is fascinating to me because I have found myself in different eras playing both roles. I’m ashamed to confess I have been a profile. With me it’s not with famous people; it’s in relationships.

I’ve been a principal too.

Both roles really suck.

What exactly does a profile do when he assaults a principal? What is he after? What does he want?

The profile can be charming or the profile can be snarky. Either way, he puts out what psychologists call a “hook.” The aim of the hook is to engage the principal. One type of hook is a guilt trip. “You have marched against poverty but you won’t help out your fellow starving artists.” The profile is trying to get the principal to respond by defending himself. Often the profile will accuse the principal of something. “You’re a hypocrite, you don’t live up to what you preach.”

Sometimes the profile attacks the principal’s work or family or reputation.

The profile is like the Nigerian prince we all find in our inboxes. He’s trying to elicit a reaction. He’s seeking to suck us in.

Here’s my character assessment of the profile (remember, I’m speaking from having been there myself): (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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