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




Subscribe RSS

Subscribe to SPO.

ARCHIVES OF July, 2013

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Suing Neil Young

By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 31, 2013

Do you remember the infamous incident from the 80s when David Geffen sued Neil Young for recording music that was “not representative” of Neil Young?


Suing Neil: Everyone knows this is nowhere

I’m thinking of this in connection with recent posts by me and Shawn about commercial-versus-artistic, publishable-versus-unpublishable. Specifically this comment sent in by Susanna Plotnick:

If we are working on our own, creating new forms, breaking rules, aren’t we courting ‘unpublishability’? Where do we draw the line between courting publishability and being a hack?

An excellent question. But first back to Neil Young:

When David Geffen launched Geffen Records in 1980, he paid big bucks to put under contract a stable of major stars–John Lennon, Donna Summer, Elton John. And Neil.

Geffen wanted his new company to take off like a rocket, matching his earlier success with Asylum Records (Joni Mitchell; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Jackson Browne—and Neil.)

Instead everything started bombing.

Albums came out on the Geffen label and sank without a trace.

Including Neil’s. (Does anyone remember Trans or Everybody’s Rockin’?)


Neil was experimenting. I was paying a huge amount of money and these records were selling nothing.

David Geffen was not used to failure. He didn’t like it. He snapped.


They sued me for playing music that was “non-characteristic of Neil Young.” Now that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. But they did it. They sued me for millions of dollars.

Even Geffen’s former partner Elliot Roberts called the lawsuit “unconscionable.”


I was sued for being myself. [I was] sued for being an artist.

But doesn’t David Geffen have a point? He’s paying Neil a lot of money. Isn’t it Neil’s job to step up to the plate? Deliver some hits, dude! (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Genre Management

By Shawn Coyne | Published: July 26, 2013

This isn't the map to use if you want to go to Frankfurt.

Like you, I look forward to Steve’s “Writing Wednesday” posts. I don’t ask to see anything early or cheat and read his stuff before it goes live.  I like to read them at the same time as the rest of the tribe. The truth is that if I didn’t know Steve, I’d still be on this site every Wednesday.

And I especially liked his most recent one about Seth Godin’s wonderful reminder about the importance of leading, “This Might Not Work.”

I read the comments too and there was a great question this week from Susanna Plotnick.

Here it is:

Steve, I’m having a hard time reconciling what you’re saying today with what you’ve been saying in recent weeks about ‘going from unpublishable to publishable.’

If we are working on our own, creating new forms, breaking rules, aren’t we courting ‘unpublishability’? Where do we draw the line between courting publishability and being a hack?

Could you elaborate on this, please?

I know Steve has great insights about this seeming paradox and I know he’s going to address it next week, but I thought I’d throw out my point of view in here. I make a chunk of my living sorting ‘publishable’ from ‘unpublishable’ work and I have some ideas about the notion of the “hack.”


Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“This Might Not Work”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 24, 2013

The phrase above is one of Seth Godin’s trademarks. I love it because, like all of Seth’s stuff, it crams a ton of wisdom into very few words.


Does anyone lead from the front more than Seth?

What does Seth mean by “This might not work”?

Here’s what I think:

There’s a concept in marketing called “the Avatar.” Are you familiar with this? An avatar is the archetype of Your Customer.

The idea, if you’re a marketer, is to keep this avatar in the front of your mind, particularly when you’re developing a new product, writing a new book, organizing a new enterprise. You want to ask yourself questions like, “Am I serving my avatar properly? Am I giving her what she needs? Is there something more I can do for her?”

Apple, for example, knows its avatars down to the minutest detail. You can bet that BMW does too, as do McDonald’s, the NRA, and the Democratic and Republican parties.

Focus groups and customer surveys are tools used by marketers to communicate with their avatars and to learn from them. Questions can be asked. “Do you want cup holders in the backseat? Which is more important to you in a baby stroller—comfort for your child or ease of packing and unpacking? Should Catwoman return in The Dark Knight Takes a Vacation?”

The avatar concept makes a lot of sense. I see how it works. I would even implement it myself in certain cases.

But a writer can’t work like this. An artist can’t. If you do, you’re a hack.

Did Picasso ask his buyers if they were ready for Cubism? Did Quention Tarantino focus-group Reservoir Dogs?  Did Springsteen workshop Darkness at the Edge of Town?

Sometimes you gotta lead.

You gotta get out front. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
Sign up for first look access.

Enter your email to get free access to every new thing I do.

No spam, I promise!

Gates of Fire
The War of Art
The Knowledge
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t
The Authentic Swing
The Lion's Gate
Turning Pro
The Profession
The Warrior Ethos
Do The Work
Tides of War
The Afghan Campaign
The Virtues of War
Killing Rommel
Last of the Amazons
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Additional Reading
Video Blog