Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

3 Things I Learned from Oprah

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 25, 2013

[Before we get to this actual blog post, lemme say again thanks to everyone who signed up for First Look Access, and received an early look at the Foolscap videos and The Authentic Swing. Thank you for your comments, for taking part in the bundle offer and for your “ask me anything” questions. The Authentic Swing is up on the Black Irish Books store and Shawn and I are at work answering your questions. I'll get the hour-long audio to your inbox ASAP. We had a great time on this one, despite the odd glitch here and there. Next time the gears will mesh much more smoothly. Now to today's post:]

Together at last: SP and OW

I got invited to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, for her Super Soul Sunday series. We actually taped the interview a few months ago at her ranch in Maui. It’s an hour long, one-on-one piece that will air on the OWN Network, Sunday, Sept. 29, at 11 AM ET/PT (with a world-wide simulcast, accessible via the Super Soul Sunday Facebook page, the OWN TV Facebook page, and Oprah.com).

I must say it was an eye-opening experience, from which I came away with three nuggets of wisdom:

1. People are impressed when they hear you’re on Oprah’s show.

You can see it in their eyes. Your stock rises.

2. Your friends are definitely NOT impressed.

I told a few of my pals, both male and female, “Hey, Oprah Winfrey invited me to appear on her TV show.” My friends blinked once, looked at me and said, “Why?”

I flashed immediately on a moment from that great PBS documentary, Inventing David Geffen. In the film, Geffen recounts the story of a Joni Mitchell/Crosby, Stills & Nash concert at the Hollywood Bowl in the 70s, for which he and his partner Elliot Roberts were the producers. Geffen’s and Roberts’ names were displayed prominently above the names of the artists.

David Geffen:

I flew my mother out from Brooklyn and showed her my name at the top of the concert program. She said, “I don’t get it. What exactly do you do for these people?” I told her, “I’m their manager. I advise them on their careers.” She looked at me and said, “You?”

To the people closest to us, we will always be eleven years old.

3. Oprah did not get to be Oprah by accident.

When I understood that Oprah was going to be interviewing me, my first thought was, “I’d rather be interviewing her.” Seriously. Here is a woman who came from a childhood of unbelievable poverty and abuse and has risen, by dint of her own exertions, to become virtually the Queen and Female Inspiration of America—and she’s not done yet.

I figured I might get a few moments alone with her when the cameras weren’t rolling, but no more. So I boiled my curiosity down to one question that could be answered quickly and concisely. Sure enough that moment came, outdoors under a pepper tree while the lighting was being set up.

Oprah, you must have done thousands of interviews over your career and you’re obviously great at it. Do you have a concept for interviewing people? Is there some guiding principle that you use?

Oprah answered without hesitation:

I have an intention. For you, for instance, my intention is to talk about Resistance.

I could see she had a marked-up copy of The War of Art and a number of 3X5 cards with questions on them. She told me that this intention gives her what Victoria Labalme calls a “Through Line,” meaning a unifying trajectory that tracks though a subject from beginning to end.

I can start by asking, ‘What exactly is Resistance?’ Then ‘How did you come to identify it? What has it meant in your life? How can the concept help me and help my audience?’ I have that intention. I’ll deviate from it if you and I get on a roll on some other subject, but I’ll always bring the interview back to that original intention.

And that’s exactly what happened. I haven’t seen the finished interview; I have no idea how they edited it together. But it seems certain that the final product will be like any good narrative. It’ll have a beginning, middle, and end. It will hew to a theme (or, as Shawn would say, a controlling idea.) It will explore the theme through variations. And it will finish with a coherent wrap-up.

We’ll find out on September 29. Be there or be square!

Episode Preview

Episode Preview: Put Your A** Where Your Heart Wants to Be

Episode Preview: 4 Questions to Help You Find Your Calling

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

67 Responses to “3 Things I Learned from Oprah”

  1. September 25, 2013 at 2:50 am

    Congratulations! Richly deserved.

  2. September 25, 2013 at 3:42 am

    You are so right, we are always eleven years old to those closest to us! How funny.

    I am so grateful, Steven, that you are able to share your books with such a wider audience via Oprah. You have named the wordless monster for me and have changed my life as an artist. I am surging ahead so quickly that I am almost unrecognizable to myself!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you and you deserve all the accolades and recognition you can possibly garner from this interview. Oh and more Youtube gold please!!!

  3. Mary
    September 25, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Congratulations! No one deserves the bounty of The Oprah Effect more than you do! I’ve got the DVR set for Sunday and can’t wait to see the interview. I finished reading The Authentic Swing last night. All I can say is thanks for being our champion, our Bagger, and for taking the time to caddy for us through this book and the three that preceded it. And Steve, if you’re reading this, here is that pat on the back for you. If our paths ever cross on this planet, I’ll happily buy you that drink. Good job, Steve. Good job!

  4. September 25, 2013 at 4:45 am

    Hey, Steve … I am your friend and I AM IMPRESSED. Oprah knows her stuff if she selected you for her show. Bravo to both of you.

  5. September 25, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Oh wow, I really want to see this. Just went through my TV guide though and it looks like we won’t be getting it on OWN Canada. Dangit!

  6. September 25, 2013 at 5:03 am

    That is so terrific, Steve. Congratulations!

  7. September 25, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Congratulations Steve,
    I promise not to be square this Sunday.

  8. September 25, 2013 at 6:04 am

    You’re so right about #3, you can see what makes Oprah- Oprah in the video, she’s looking at you in marvel at what she can learn from you, all the great ones know there’s a lesson to be learned from each and every encounter.

  9. September 25, 2013 at 6:16 am

    I am so looking forward to watching the entire interview this Saturday!

  10. September 25, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Make that Sunday!

  11. Jamie
    September 25, 2013 at 6:20 am

    Every dream has resistance. Duh. Every Christian knows that. It’s in the first book of the Bible. Read Joseph’s story or history. But I forget. We’re into Aha moments here — not the word of God.

    • Eric P
      September 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

      Jamie, your sarcasm and condescending tone reminds me of me, as an amateur Christian…wielding broad judgement like a machete in an effort to do what? Win hearts and minds?

      Consider these Words:

      Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

      — 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

      The hardest thing in life, I have found, is to shut my mouth, stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, and do my work. And this is something that reading The War of Art has helped me to put into practice.

      • Sonja
        September 25, 2013 at 8:47 am

        I totally agree with Eric. This comment is not necessary here. After all, this is not a religious site. I’ve gotten more from these straight-up posts about Resistance here than from the Bible thumpers of my youth.
        Keep up the good work, Steven.

    • P.L. Bowler
      September 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Where do you think our “Aha moments” come from? From God, of course, where everything else comes from in one way or another. God isn’t something or somewhere else. God is everywhere all the time. Turning God into your own image is a move in the opposite direction.

  12. September 25, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Congrats Steven I’m so thrilled for you! I’ve listened and read “The War of Art” and “Do the Work” over again just to take hold of the concepts firmly in my determination. Thanks for putting a name to “resistance” so that we can look it squarely in the face and call it out for what it is. Now I’m more determined to forge my path through resistance toward my calling by starting now. Can’t wait to see the full episode!
    Cheerio
    Mimika

  13. ByHIsGrae
    September 25, 2013 at 6:36 am

    Get ready for your book sales to SKYROCKET:) The PD crowd will love it. Was thinking about this as I visited the new Success.com website just yesterday- Get it on there?!!?!?!

    My Dad said “Why you?” long ago, RIP, dear Pop – I would do anything to dance with him one more time, and have him move us deftly through the crowd- when I was promoted to SVP.

    Congratulations! Looking forward tot he interview.

  14. Barbara
    September 25, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Steven,
    It’s always wonderful to hear what you have to say, read what you have written, so I’m delighted thar so many more will have that opportunity now. You are a natural choice for Oprah!

  15. Susan Colket
    September 25, 2013 at 6:48 am

    Steve,
    Your authenticity and creativity – shared with us and encouraged in us – seems like a natural thing for Oprah to explore and share on the SSS series!

  16. Eric P
    September 25, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Numbers change everything. Steven, now that your numbers (readers, buyers, fans) will likely change dramatically because of this exposure (and deservedly so!), do you think that Resistance will be sending out a special regiment just for you?

  17. September 25, 2013 at 6:58 am

    In my writing time this a.m., I was on the internet doing Google searches for interview formats for my Blog. Decided to check my Email and there you were with this question you posed to Oprah ! I receive something every day from you, what an inspiration & source of learning you are for me. Thank You so much.

  18. September 25, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Bingo, Steven! That’s great you’ve been interviewed by Oprah and you sure deserve it. I’ll be watching. BTW, my wife, an author, was a guest on Oprah via a show my wife pitched to the producers. I’m half serious: If your friends asked WHY you were being interviewed, I have to ask WHAT kind of friends are they?

    • Basilis
      September 25, 2013 at 9:29 am

      Well, that’s a good question!
      Perhaps a little bit jealous friends?
      Anyway, an interview from Oprah must be quite
      an experience for an eleven year old author!

  19. Gary
    September 25, 2013 at 7:18 am

    My career dreams will come true one day and I will have you to thank. My dream is to live and teach the principles in your books. Keep up the good fight. Thank You.

  20. Pat
    September 25, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Can’t wait to hear your interview with Oprah. From the previews, it’s going to be instructive.

  21. September 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Wonderful! Kudos to you, and many, many congratulations! I first discovered you via Gates of Fire, and I admit to a certain regretful pang a few years later reading an Esquire review that you’d written a ’self help book’. I thought “Why doesn’t he just record an album and get it over with?” :)

    A week or two later I picked up one of the rare first editions at Chapters and opened it at the Quiznos next door. By page 11 I had to fight both tears and the urge to leap on my chair and shout to the other patrons – no doubt spraying crumbs everywhere – that you’d Figured It Out!

    Hopefully this Sunday many tens of thousands more people will have similar ‘inciting incidents’ in their lives…

    As I’ve said before – You da man!

  22. Sonja
    September 25, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Check you out!! This is awesome! I love that your voice will reach a larger audience.
    Congrats! All the best to you, Steven.

  23. Julio
    September 25, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Steven – I’m really happy for you! I can’t wait to see you on television. I’ve recommended your books to so many friends. I listen to various pieces while I’m on my training runs lately. I need it, so I don’t “pull the pin”, yet again. Thank you!

  24. September 25, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Steven, I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud that my writing hero continues to succeed and prosper, while at the same time helping so many writers overcome their resistance and fear. Big, well deserved congratulations to you!

  25. September 25, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Just posted my review on Amazon for The Authentic Swing, really got a lot out of it.
    Thank you.

  26. Basilis
    September 25, 2013 at 10:03 am

    What I like most from your experience is that you completely left out from the equation your point of view and
    found the chance to ask Oprah a question, as if you interviewed her.
    A humble act.
    If your friends say that they wonder why Oprah interviewed you, and actually say it
    to keep you down on earth,
    perhaps they shouldn’t worry so much!

  27. gs
    September 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I’ve been wondering about the same question that Oprah had: Steven, how did you come up with the idea of Resistance? Your War of Art anecdote about living in the dumpy NYC sublet and suddenly typing, washing dishes and whistling is not a complete adequate explanation afaic.

    Your literary output has enduring value, but the concept of Resistance is the thing you’ll be remembered for. In the past, Resistance has been given names like the Tamas Guna, the Tempter, the Shadow, the Death Wish, etc but you’ve described it in terms that people use today.

    This reader, who is not a writer, wishes you’d talk more about Resistance in this blog. The tricks of the writing trade are interesting, but tricks of the trade for combating Resistance would be invaluable. You decide to Turn Pro and magic happens is tantalizing but incomplete.

    Here’s hoping that the Oprah interview elevates your reputation to guru status. If so, enjoy the prosperity and fame—you deserve it!—, but don’t get a swelled head!

  28. September 25, 2013 at 10:08 am

    High-five Pressfield!

    Got turned on to you via Marie Forleo.

    Listened to War of Art on Audible.com this month and just now finishing up Gates of Fire … slowly though b/c I don’t want all those cool Trojans to die!

    Congrats again!

  29. September 25, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Fantastic. Looking forward to watching the full interview.

  30. September 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    My first thought was, “Worlds colliding!”

    After reading the post and watching the previews? “Worlds dissolving into one.”

  31. September 25, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Color me impressed — Oprah and a big voice announcer, too!

    I hope this gets the concept of Resistance into wider circulation. You’ve ripped the mask of this menace and it’s time for a lot more people to understand what it is they are fighting.

  32. September 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Congratulations, and so well deserved! We’ve had you for a while now in the writing venue, but the world can benefit from your work.

    I hope it’ll be available at some point to Canadians. I feel like I’m missing out on a great party, and if you knew what an introvert I am, that’s saying something.

  33. September 25, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    What a great match–meant to be, Oprah always knows, that’s for sure. ;-)

    I’m so happy she mentioned her guiding premise is intention. It’s mine too, and i just started my little writing and journaling blog. I feel this is a new movement that I’m in on that is now exploding and I must say, it feels tipping point special. Yay you and yay us!

  34. September 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Congratulations Steve! This is awesome new and a so well deserved opportunity/
    achievement. Now the war of art will reach millions of people :-)

    Awesome…

  35. September 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    So nice to see these interview clips and I look forward to seeing the whole program. You know how much I appreciate your interest in my novel that was recently accepted for publication, and I thank you for so many words of encouragement that you’ve given me. Bravo, Steve!

  36. September 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Y’know what I learned from these clips and from the Authentic Swing clips?

    You’re even more fun to watch than to read.

    Whoulda thunk it?

    Maybe you should play James Salter in the movie of The Profession.

  37. September 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    So enjoyed the Authentic Swing foolscap and now you’re on Oprah. Look what happens when you’re in your own publicity flow! Looking forward to it, Wendy

  38. Ellen
    September 25, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Congrats, Steven. Definitely well deserved. I look forward to watching the interview.

  39. September 26, 2013 at 2:57 am

    Congratulations Steven! I am so happy for you! A well deserved honor indeed!

  40. Jason K.
    September 26, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Cool, man. Looking forward to this.

  41. September 26, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I’m such an admirer, but I live in Belgium. I’ll have to wait until someone posts the highlights on YouTube.
    Unless you’ll be posting them here yourself.
    Please, do.

  42. September 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I will say “Congratulations” because you are obviously very happy with this interview.
    However, to me you will always be the bigger star. I read your books “The War Of Art” and “Do the Work” after Michael Hyatt referred to them ad nauseum in his podcasts and now I realize why he was such a big fan.
    I was doing my work even before reading your books, but after reading them I realized why I was struggling so much, and that I wasn’t alone. Now I understand resistance. Now, everytime a new project scares me I just listen to the “War of Art”. It doesn’t make it easy but it just makes me understand the resistance behind my fear and makes me put one foot in front of the other and keep working.

  43. GCNYC
    September 29, 2013 at 6:08 am

    I laughed so hard!!!! What a fabulous way to start the day!

    When you said your friends asked you “Why?” when you told them about being invtid on Oprah I couldn’t stop laughing….

    As a writer who is always got a an interest for the psychology of my characters, fiction or non, I thought that was the sentence you were using to help roll out a discussion about this and what to do about it! ;) . It is true, people still think one is still the child they grew up with or even the person that putzes around their neighborhood. Look, he can do more than walk the dog! He’s on TV.

    Well congrats for opening their eyes!

    Thank you so much, and I can’t wait to read your books and see the Oprah interview.

  44. Jim Payne
    September 29, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Steven, I just finished watching you on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah. I am 63 and have had several creative needs running through me all my life. I fight the Resistance dragon daily on all these fronts, only defeating it occasionally to get a taste of the things I am meant to do and always successfully. But then, somehow, I take my eyes off the prize and I find myself trapped behind the smoke and fire of the dragon yet again. Listening to you this morning, I experienced both revelation and relief.

    I spoke with my mother yesterday through a medium. She passed in 2012. We never talked about all the things I wanted to do and be when she was here. But the moment that I reconnected with her through the medium, she said I had to “jump in, get on it, get my creativity down on paper!” Yesterday, she told me that Sunday morning would be “eye opening” for me. Obviously, watching you was what she meant.
    She also told me to pray to be open, to be able to hear the voices of my guardian angel and those who love me who have passed. They are constantly trying to help me but I don’t let them in. Be open. Be aware. Do it.

    I ordered your books during commercial breaks. This time, I will fight to the death to get the authentic me out there. Thank you for the insight and the inspiration, Steven. Isn’t it amazing how accomplishing that which you are meant to do, leads to even greater things? It’s led to you becoming a guide, helping others to create what you have created for your life. Continued blessings to you!
    Jim

    • Bren
      September 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      Hi Jim,
      I just wanted to say I am touched by what you shared here….and hope that you conquer the resistance fully and completely and do what you are meant to do. Your mom is clearly cheering for you beyond the veil, and no doubt, Steven will be (how wonderful that you purchased his books at the commercial break…momentum in full swing!)and even a person that has never commented here before is sending shimmering light to you as you step into the realization of your dreams.

      • Brian Ragsdale
        October 1, 2013 at 10:57 am

        Dear Jim and Bren,

        I am drawn to what both of you wrote…and wish you both well on your journey. It was reassuring to hear that my loved ones are watching over me too, and wanting me to open myself to their help. I know that this is true. Thank you for reminding me of their presence and reminding me of the light.

        Steve, thank you for your example of the dream/resistance connection…I got it. The oak tree has a shadow and both are inter-related. Thanks for accepting the invitation from Oprah.

        Peace and blessings,
        Brian

  45. Mary
    September 29, 2013 at 9:23 am

    I just watched the Oprah interview. First, Kudos to Oprah for bringing Steven’s work to her viewers. Had I been unfamiliar with The War of Art, this interview would have prompted me to read it as I’m sure it will for many people who watched. That said, within the first ten minutes of the interview I was reminded as to why I stopped watching Oprah years ago; she has the unfortunate habit of asking her interview subject a question and then continually interrupting without giving the person time to respond. I guess she is enthused, which is understandable, but I found myself yelling at her to “shut up and let the man answer” throughout the hour. Still, well-deserved exposure for Steven!

    • Sheilia
      September 29, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      You said it for me, Mary. This was the first time I’d seen Steven Pressfield, and I so wanted to hear his detailed answers to her questions, but as usual, we heard much more from Oprah than her guest. Yes, she’s an inspiration and Super Soul Sunday is a wonderful gift, but how is it her producers let this happen? It’s so unbecoming to her, and a disservice to her guests and viewers — perhaps her “intention” should be to let her guests speak for themselves, and allow them to pass on their unique wisdom with their own words and voice.

  46. Ginger
    September 29, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I’ve read most of your books and enjoyed them. I’m working on my Resistance. The Greek government were correct when they placed a laurel wreath on your head for writing all your books on Greece as you are a true leader!

  47. D'Arcy
    September 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I saw your interview with Oprah today and it was exactly what I needed to hear as I embark upon starting a non-profit after having this vision for 25 years! However, I keep running into “resistance”, which has been why it’s taking me so long. Just last night, I felt that same old familiar thought and felt like just giving up. Your words inspired me. The only thing is, I wish Oprah (and I love her, don’t get me wrong) wouldn’t have interrupted you so much! I really wanted to hear every word you said……You have a new fan here! Much success

  48. Delores N.
    September 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I realized I was a musical artist while in elementary school. Because of bullying me due to my frail size that sabataged my purpose. I played five different instruments. My favorite was the violin.
    I also begin writing my autobiography when I was 36 and resistance has held me up til this now to complete it 22 years later. I am now 58 with 22 years of living experience I have been putting into my story. I am working on completing it at this time.
    I learned so much from this interview about myself and my roomates. I must move forward to my Intention.
    Thank you for your Intention.

  49. September 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I just watched your interview with Oprah- so grateful to you for your work and message. I’m an aspiring screenwriter that had an amazing Spiritual connection, experience while writing. I strive to create transformational work that heals, inspires and empowers and of course entertains. I’ve learned we are not here to play it safe. God wants us to go for it, yet still knowing that I have self sabatoged myself more than I like to think about or say. Thank you for giving me the tools to stop that and march on!

  50. Nancy
    September 30, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I love your comment, “To the people closest to us, you will always be eleven years old.”