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

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ARCHIVES OF April, 2014

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

What Paul Learned from his First Novel

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 30, 2014

My friend Paul just finished his first novel. He has no publisher yet. He’s still got a long way to go. But he finished that sucker. He’s done. He did it.

It takes times to make a great whisky

It’s been really interesting for me to watch Paul walk through the fire. Because it is true that, for a grizzled old vet like me, the ordeal of writing does get easier over time. You forget what hell it is in the beginning.

Now here’s Paul struggling through sieges of despair and self-loathing; enduring bouts of mental and emotional paralysis; undergoing his seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth nervous breakdowns, not to mention suffering through every other conceivable form of Resistance—and yet somehow he has stumbled and bumbled his way through.

I’m immensely proud of him. He has done what millions of people talk about, but damn few actually do. And it has changed him. It’s changed who he is and how he sees himself. It’s changed how friends and family react to him. It has changed how he views his past and how he imagines his future.

Paul is not the same person that he was eighteen months ago. On the one hand, he’s grounded as he has never been before. He’s no longer dependent emotionally on the externals (women, friends, money) that had held him in thrall before. He has found his center. He has a little nuclear reactor in his pocket that only he has access to, and it feels great to him.

On the other hand, he has now become a conscript to a sterner and more demanding way of life. His eyes are open. He knows he can’t fake it any more. The old dodges will not work for him. He sees through them and he sees through himself.

He’s screwed really, just like you and just like me. He’s gotta do it now. There’s no going back to the way it was before.

I asked him a couple of days ago, “Paul, now that you’ve got one book under your belt, what will you do differently when you tackle the second one? What’s the primary takeaway from this tunnel you’ve just emerged from?”

Paul answered without hesitation:

I won’t beat myself up like I did before. You know how I’d have those days, weeks even, months when I’d read over what I’d done and I’d hate it so much, and hate myself so much because what I’d written was so bad, that I absolutely paralyzed myself? I won’t do that the next time. It’s Resistance. You’re driving yourself crazy. The shit is gonna be ugly the first time through. That’s all there is to it.

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
30 Comments

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

Tzuk Beach

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 28, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

The Tzuk Beach Cafe is probably the hippest beach joint in Israel. I’m guessing of course; I’ve only been in the country for three days. But it’s hard to believe there could be any place cooler.

Lunch at Tzuk Beach

The cafe is outdoors, under umbrellas, just a few feet above the strand, with sand on the deck, great salads, beautiful people in trunks and bikinis, and barefoot, mahogany-tanned waitresses who all look like a cross between Natalie Portman and Gina Gershon.

There is nobody but Jews on this beach.

When you walk along the sand, you pass Jewish women, Jewish men, Jewish children.

I cannot overstate how unsettling this is to me.

Steve, buddy, there is nobody but Jews in this entire country.

This reality sinks in slowly, but it goes deep. What are its emotional manifestations?

1. I find myself relaxing. I can breathe. In a way, I feel like I’m breathing for the first time.

2. At the same time it’s terribly disquieting. My American bones are used to the melting pot. It’s weird to peer into face after face and feel like you’re looking in a mirror.

Where are the Irish, the Italians, the African-Americans?

My newest friend is Eli Rikovitz. He was a platoon commander in the Sinai desert in ’67.

I’m driving with Eli and Danny now to meet two of Eli’s friends from his outfit, the Recon Company of the 7th Armored Brigade. In the Six Day war, Eli’s company was the first Israeli formation to reach the Suez Canal, having suffered more casualties and winning more decorations for valor than any other outfit of comparable size.

I’m going to interview them for The Lion’s Gate.

I ask Eli about the length and difficulty of the process of becoming an Israeli citizen. How soon could someone from overseas get his papers?

“If you’re a Jew, tomorrow.”

“Really?”

“Israel is the home for all Jews. That’s why the country exists.”

“When you travel out of Israel, Eli, do you ever feel unwelcome or prejudiced against?”

“Never.” (more…)

Posted in The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing
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The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

Pre-’67 Borders

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 25, 2014

[“The Book I’ve Been Avoiding Writing” (a.k.a. “Three Years of Writing and 40+ Years of Thinking About The Lion’s Gate“) is a mini-series about the writing of my new book, The Lion’s Gate. Thanks for tuning in as it runs Mondays and Fridays over the next few weeks.]

I’m here.

Israel.

Starting research for The Lion’s Gate.

Danny Grossman—Lou’s friend, a retired Israel Air Force lieutenant-colonel—has picked me up at Ben-Gurion Airport, gotten me checked in to my hotel. Danny’s going to be my guide and mentor. I’ve got my rental Toyota, had time to catch up on a little sleep, as well as wolf down some hummus, a couple of eggs and a salad.

We’re driving north on the freeway out of Tel Aviv. Tonight is my first interview. Danny has arranged an hour with Uzi Dayan, who is a neighbor from his community of Kochav Yair, about twenty minutes north of the city.

Uzi Dayan is Moshe Dayan’s nephew. He’s the son of Zorik Dayan, Moshe’s younger brother, who was killed fighting the Syrian Druze during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

Among many other posts, Uzi has commanded the Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s Special Forces.

As we drive, Danny points out several Arab towns visible a mile or so to the side of the highway. The villages are sprawling, prosperous-looking communities climbing rounded hillsides. You see domed roofs, satellite dishes, towers. “How can you tell an Arab village from an Israeli village?” Danny begins my education. “By the minarets.”

The city of Kalkiliya

I had imagined that Arab villages would be off somewhere in the boonies or hundreds of miles away, beyond a border. Here they are within a few miles of Tel Aviv. Danny points ahead to a handsome, picturesque town on rising ground about a mile to the right of the highway.

“Kalkilya.”

That’s Kalkilya?”

In my reading, I have studied the notorious reprisal raid from the ’50s overseen personally by Moshe Dayan. A force of several thousand Israeli troops had crossed the border at night to assault and destroy a police fort in the Jordanian town of Kalkilya. The attack went awry. Arab Legion reinforcements flooded in. The action required desperate measures (and cost the reprisal force 18 killed and 68 wounded) before the Israelis got back across the border, barely beating the dawn.

The raid became famous because of how close it came to starting a war. Dayan had been minutes from calling in fighter planes and tanks to cover his troops’ withdrawal. If he had done so and the Jordanians had responded in kind, it could have touched off a conflagration.

“Wow, I had no idea Kalkilya was so close. I thought it would be a hundred miles away, somewhere in Jordan.”

“This was Jordan in ’67.”

We exit the highway at a place called Eyal, passing a kibbutz of well-ordered orange groves and irrigated fields. Danny points ahead. “That’s where I live. Kochav Yair.”

I’m dumbstruck.

Kochav Yair is the absolute next town to Kalkilya. You can practically throw a stone from one to the other.

I’m thinking, Americans (including me) have no idea of the crazy-quilt geography of Israel.

Kalkiliya is 25 miles from Tel Aviv. It’s like coming upon the site of the battle of Little Big Horn—and discovering it’s in Scarsdale.

We drive into the upper middle-class community of Kochav Yair. A tree-lined entry leads into an American-style development with traffic circles and attractive colonies of contemporary houses.

“Before we go to Uzi’s,” Danny says, “I want to show you something.” (more…)

Posted in The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing
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