Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Universe is Self-Ordering

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 21, 2014

[Today's post is an updated version of one of the first to run on this blog. It's one I've always wanted to bring back.]

Chaos. The Big Bang. Crap flying everywhere.

A supernova evolving into a star (or maybe a black hole).

Imagine yourself back at the beginning of time. The universe is raw energy, blasting faster than light-speed in all directions. (Stay with me, this is going somewhere). What happens? As time passes—maybe only nanoseconds—electrons coalesce around nuclei. Molten matter cools; stars and planets form themselves into spheres; celestial objects find paths and settle into orbits. Order emerges.

Gravity exerts its pull. Rivers form and run downhill. Seas arise. Atmospheres stabilize. Before you know it, we’ve got adventurous fish crawling out onto dry land, hominids beating each other’s brains out with sticks and clubs, and guys with pocket protectors doing IPOs for social networking startups.

What about your novel? Is Resistance telling you your material is too big, too sprawling, too out of control?

Consider the universe. The universe is self-organizing. That’s a law. We as artists and entrepreneurs must not forget that this law is on our side. It’s as infallible as gravity and it’s our friend.

Books wanna be what they wanna be. So do albums, entrepreneurial ventures, and statues of David. The process unfolds infallibly. Our symphony evolves into four movements, our screenplay into three acts. If we just keep plugging away at it, the Law of Self-Ordering comes to our aid.

How, specifically, does this process manifest itself?

Ideas come to us in the shower. We achieve a breakthrough driving on the freeway. Suddenly musical themes that had seemed to bear no relation to one other discover a common harmonic and come together. Our sprawling epic finds its theme; now we can cut three hundred not-on-theme pages and voila! The damn thing coheres. It works.

The artist’s role is not to command her creative universe like some all-powerful Ur-goddess, uprooting continents and jamming them into new spaces according to her whim and will. The artist’s job is to midwife her creation, which is at bottom not hers at all but a force of its own and on its own. Our role is to let it come forth, like a mother bearing new life. Yeah, maybe we have to push a little, and maybe we’ll be sweating and screaming and cursing our husband (male creative principle) for getting us into this mess in the first place. But that new life is just that: new life. Life on its own, following its own imperatives.

This is good news. This is tailwind news. When we’re stuck, when we’re freaking out, when it all seems too much too soon too crazy, remember: that’s only how it seems to us, confined within our limited point of view. From the universe’s perspective, all is as it should be. Sooner or later, you and I will stop fighting and let the symphony/supernova/baby be born. And you know what? If we’re lucky it’ll have ten fingers and ten toes and its own ideas about who it is and what it wants to be.

Chaos (including the chaos of our businesses and works of art) is self-organizing. All we have to do is keep working and give it a chance.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

24 Responses to “The Universe is Self-Ordering”

  1. Sonja
    May 21, 2014 at 5:35 am

    Powerful and timely again. I’m still struggling, and this reminds me why…

    I’m so glad you brought this post back. Thanks Steven.

    • walt
      May 21, 2014 at 6:22 am

      I get it. Been there. Am There. But I don’t think it’s struggling, though I’ve called it that. It’s just marking time. I can struggle in the dark all I want but it doesn’t make the sun come up one second earlier. Too bad I can’t remember that all the time. Ride ‘em, cowgirl.

  2. Mary Doyle
    May 21, 2014 at 5:43 am

    I really, really needed this reminder today Steve – thanks very much!

  3. May 21, 2014 at 6:13 am

    Dude. Thank you. When am I going to fully realize that it’s not about being perfect it’s about letting what wants to flow come out. Your posts help.
    I’m reminded of a quote I re-read yesterday, by River Phoenix:

    “One of the things that was introduced to me early on in life was to try to make stuff happen,” he says, “but nothing ever worked that way for me. What I learned on my own was that to try and play God with your life will wreck your brain and your nervous system. It’ll mess up your natural direction in the course that’s already there. I just don’t want to read about me being made into a basket-case because of my work.”

    okay back to writing.

  4. May 21, 2014 at 6:35 am

    This is absolutely been true for me. Sometimes I look at a big project grinning before me and it seems like the disorganized piece of junk but I know that if I keep chipping away at it eventually it starts to take shape and then works its way to completion. I really like the idea that this is a universal principle. I always thought entropy was stronger but that might not be the case when there is a will to work.

    I will be thinking about the today.

  5. Redheadboss
    May 21, 2014 at 6:51 am

    Thank you amazing information, it really helps.

  6. Basilis
    May 21, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Just yesterday I’ve been talking with a friend-artist of mine about your posts, Steve, and I had mentioned that “you are something of a Master Yoda, that when he meditates, he can shake the planets”. I didn’t know that you could really read minds and deliver a post like this one, just the next day I said that! :lol:

  7. May 21, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Thank you Steve for bringing this one back. Absolutely beautiful. Perfect timing as is so often the case with your Writing Wednesday posts :)

  8. Kent Faver
    May 21, 2014 at 8:22 am

    In 2014 I have continued to write – with no direction. At times I feel the direction is coming. Thanks for this!

  9. May 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Great stuff, Steve! I can easily relate to it on several levels. I just returned to USA after spending the spring at my second home, Rome, Italy. While there I am planned to finish Part Two of my 9th book. But I found myself caught up in taking hundreds of photos instead and writing a bit about them. Know what? I now have a photo book, Rome, Up Close and Personal. The Big Bang seems to have hurled me there and I’m happy about it. BTW, when I held my annual all day writing/publishing seminar in March–it was full–I recommended only one blog: Yours.

  10. Erik
    May 21, 2014 at 8:41 am

    The bigger the baby the more back-breaking the birth!

  11. May 21, 2014 at 8:41 am

    I love this idea. And in my experience, this is in fact how it turns out.. as long we keep grinding.

    Awesome.

  12. May 21, 2014 at 9:08 am

    This helps. Resistance has had me struggling over how to organize and make sense of pages and pages of notes for a script. Must be time to just start writing. Thanks for bringing the post back with powerful images, and perfect timing, as always!

  13. Simon
    May 21, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Hi Steve

    I love reading your pearls of wisdom and as a writer starting out in my fledgling career this really resonated with me. Thank you

  14. May 21, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Another fabulous post, Steven. As a woman and birth mother of two, your insight about our ‘place’ in the creative process as one of being a midwife is right on. And yep, write on. :) Thanks!

  15. May 21, 2014 at 11:41 am

    May Hashem continue to increase your borders, dear Steve, as you certainly have increased mine.

    Shalom, Sharon

  16. Fawn
    May 21, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Fabulous and so true!

  17. May 21, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    When I’m in the midst of writing I feel like the project will never come together and then one day it seems to just fit together – almost like magic. This article describes the process perfectly!

  18. May 21, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    It seems very similar to meditation. You can’t force it. You just create the circumstances to allow it to unfold. That takes so much of the stress out of the picture!

  19. May 22, 2014 at 12:58 am

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  20. gs
    May 22, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Consider the universe. The universe is self-organizing. That’s a law.

    Really? I’d always thought that, except for unusual circumstances, entropy tends to increase. Anybody heard of the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

  21. May 22, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I keep reading this and reminding myself, over and over, that being in the Big Bang is not supposed to be comfortable. What a weird expectation I have. Thank you, Steven, I surrender.

  22. May 23, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Oh Lord! Am I happy to read this today. In fact I am going to read it again. I am in the messy, chaotic part of organizing a brand-new aspect of my business. WHEW…incredible surrender moment to read this and know that I am not alone.

  23. Rocco De Leo
    May 29, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Great article about letting go of control. The pressure is off to be perfect and to have the answers to everything. My role is to facilitate the universe around me and not to reinvent it. Thanks for the words of wisdom.