Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“Leave Your Problems Outside”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 25, 2013

Leddick ballet

David Leddick in Met Opera days

I studied ballet at the old Metropolitan Opera when Antony Tudor, the famous choreographer, was the head of the ballet school. In fact, Margaret Craske was the teacher most students considered to be more important. She had danced with Pavlova in the ’20s.

Miss Craske instructed us: “Leave your problems outside the classroom.”

This excerpt comes from an upcoming book by my mentor, David Leddick. David continues:

Such good advice. And in that hour and a half of intense concentration on every part of your body, the music, the coordinating with other dancers you really couldn’t think about your troubles and it was great escaping them. You emerged much more relaxed and self-confident.

We worked hard. We never had a sick day. You went on even if you had to lie down in the wings until you were needed. No one thought this was unusual.

At the Met, the powers that be were only interested in two things: how well you sang and how well you danced. Your race didn’t count, your background, sexual preferences, family, none of that mattered. You had to deliver. That was the sole standard. It was great.

In later careers all of this has stood me in good stead. I never had to work that hard in any of the various worlds I entered. I knew the quality of the work I was doing. Dancing at the Met was a wonderful experience and a wonderful preparation for the rest of my life.

2013 is almost over. How will you and I handle our work in 2014? What’s so great about “Leave your problems outside” is it’s applicable even if we’re only going to have one hour a day to pursue our artistic dreams.

One hour is plenty if we banish all distractions at the doorstep. We enter our workspace, which is sacred space even if it’s only a cubby at the end of our double-wide with a hand-scrawled sign:


One hour is plenty if we focus. It’s plenty if we block out the self-censor and the inner critic. It’s plenty if we play. It’s plenty if we give it our all.

It doesn’t have to be hell in our “classroom.” It can be like it is for me or it was for David: the one time of the day when we are really ourselves, really working from our belly, really laying it on the line.

David has another axiom (actually he has many): “You can only feel for an hour and a half a day.”

You can only muster your emotions and really focus on life for about an hour and a half a day. I used to go to ballet class every day for that fated hour and a half. I loved it. I concentrated on it. I was living fully and emotionally every minute I was there.

We can’t do much better, all of us in this coming year, than to keep in mind these two maxims of David’s.

Inside the walls of our workspace, our job is not to compete with others. It’s not to shoot the moon, or prove something to those who doubt us. It’s not to get rich or win an Oscar or get bought by Google.

Our job is to speak with our own voice and do the best we can. Enter with intention. Enter with humility. Enter with focus.

Leave your problems outside.

And have a Merry Christmas!

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

26 Responses to ““Leave Your Problems Outside””

  1. December 25, 2013 at 4:16 am

    Yes, when we work we realize that we are not our problems. Also, since I read The War of Art I realized that many of my “problems” were constructions formed by Resistance.

    • December 25, 2013 at 6:50 am

      Merry Christmas to you as well Steve, and all of your team at Black Irish. Thanks for the abundant blessings you have shared throughout the year and may every good thing you and your team out-flowed to us return to all of you ten fold. Peace and Blessings Always.

      • elena
        December 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm

        Merry Christmas Steve!! Thank you sooo much for all your wonderful and full of creativity posts.
        You help our Wednesdays to be more meaningful 😉

  2. December 25, 2013 at 4:48 am

    Simply wonderful. This was the most perfect thing to read on a Christmas morning, when the kids are still asleep. I’m up early trying to get a bit of writing done in the quiet of the house, before the festive day begins. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  3. Basilis
    December 25, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Mary
    December 25, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Thanks Steve – for this and everything else you share with us week after week. Merry Christmas to you too!

  5. December 25, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Merry Christmas to you, too, Steve.

  6. December 25, 2013 at 6:09 am

    Merry Christmas, Steven, Callie, and Shawn!

  7. December 25, 2013 at 6:20 am

    Thank you for the present.

  8. December 25, 2013 at 6:38 am

    GREAT WORDS to share and live by this Christmas Day, 2013, and ALL the days to follow into the New Year, 2014. Merry Christmas SP Team!!!!

  9. December 25, 2013 at 7:20 am

    Bravo,Steve! You’ve hit the mark yet again.

    • December 25, 2013 at 8:48 am

      Oh how I love the writings Posted on Facebook by Steve and the Reply – Being a seeker I happened to click on your name and the link that brought me to your bio – and the book WALKING THE TRAIL. I am not Native American; but grew up on a farm in North Dakota within the Fort Berthold Reservation where some of the land “was taken” from the Native American Tribes in that area. I too ran away from the “witchery” I experienced in ND to NY. I now live near Hilton Head, SC.

  10. Caron Harris
    December 25, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I loved this. What a lovely gift for everyone. Thanks so much, and happy holidays.

  11. December 25, 2013 at 8:23 am

    Merry Christmas to you as well!

  12. December 25, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Merry Christmas, Steven.
    Thank you for all your guidance and inspiration!

  13. Patrick
    December 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

    This just kicks ass! Why I do I think I need 4-5 hours a day to write? Why don’t I just take one good hour and let loose? Thanks for a perfect Christmas present.

  14. kp
    December 25, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mr Pressfield and co! I love that you even manage to keep us inspired when you could be drowning in eggnog instead. The muse never sleeps.

  15. Emily
    December 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thanks steve. Perfect Christmas present. Bring on 2014!

  16. December 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Merry Christmas Steve and all my friends. Happy holidays.

  17. December 26, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Your work is beautiful and it can change a life. Thank you very much.

  18. Heidi
    December 26, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Thank you so much. I’m very grateful for these posts. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

  19. December 26, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Wonderful post reinforcing what our top producer ($138,000 one month…)spoke about when he was here. HYPER-focus, he calls it: being on that particular thing at that particular time. Mike Singletary’s face came to mind, as he lined up for the next play…

    Working on 2014 and this was a gray reminder.


  20. December 28, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Love it, Steven! This is very much like what I’d learned from martial arts. When we bow into our dojo, we enter a sacred space and need to leave anything that distracts from our practice outside.

    Our master told us, “Imagine that you put all your stress and worries in a bag and left it outside the dojo door. If you really want it, it’ll still be there when you leave.”

    Merry 2014 to you!

  21. December 29, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Exactly what I needed to read right now, thank you!

  22. January 1, 2014 at 6:58 am

    This is incredibly important advice. When we create, we can either create for the world or create for that one person who we are most angry about (and we all have that person). Better to leave that person outside while we create. Our best audience is the people we love, not the people we hate.

  23. MarkF
    January 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm


    Merry Christmas (late) and a great 2014 to you.

    thanks for your work & your newsletter.

    this email is very on-point because i recently shared with my nephew how much one can get done(whether it’s sacred space or just plain old chores) by the simple act of turning off the phone and generally unplugging for a couple of hours.

    his generation has really been indoctrinated with the idea that one must always be connected & multi-tasking. so going off-grid was strange to him at first, but he likes it. a lot.

    so thank you again.