Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

All Storytelling is About Metaphor

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 30, 2015

A boxer takes a haymaker to the jaw. He falls. He struggles to one knee as the ref stands over him, counting, ” … two, three, four … ” Watch the faces in the arena. They have become that fighter. He is living their life, their struggle.

You are that fighter

That’s metaphor. That’s art.

You, the artist, are that fighter. You enact via your struggle (and the struggle of the characters you create), the life drama of those who look on as you fight. When we speak of “finding our own voice,” we’re not talking about finding our petty, selfish voice, mewling and sniveling about our own selfish shit. The voice we’re seeking is much bigger. It’s noble. It’s generous. It’s universal. It does not inflict itself upon the reader for its own self-interested reasons. Instead it seduces, intoxicates and incorporates the reader into a tale told of the reader and for the reader.

Your protagonist is not you. Your protagonist is the reader. You are not telling your story for yourself. You’re telling it for her. You’re telling her life story. You’re expressing her pain, her longing, her struggle.

Can you be that artist? Can you become that boxer? Can you train yourself and discipline yourself and motivate yourself to be good enough to merit a fight in an arena, a contest that people will buy tickets to see? Have you got the speed, the strength, the mental toughness?

Are you that fighter?

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

16 Responses to “All Storytelling is About Metaphor”

  1. September 30, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Damn well believe I am “that fighter”!!!!

  2. Mary Doyle
    September 30, 2015 at 6:29 am

    Fighting the good fight every day!!!

  3. September 30, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Not me. I feel glum.
    I won’t mouth off what “I’m gonna do” but I will quietly get my act together, and only then tell someone…

  4. r. ganas
    September 30, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Damn right I’m that fighter and hell’s bells- I’d even bite a guy’s ear off if that’s what it takes!

  5. Tine
    September 30, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Beautiful, Steve. Thank you.

  6. Daniel
    September 30, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Steve — This is one of your BEST posts, ever. Pithy and full of beautiful TRUTH.
    Thank you!

  7. September 30, 2015 at 10:58 am

    As we all know, the measure of a man or woman isn’t did you get knocked down, but rather, did you get back up.

  8. September 30, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    The take away for this post….”Your protagonist is not you.”…..That takes writing out of the catagory of writing as therapy and frees the author to be, well, the writer. What a novel idea.

  9. September 30, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Many years ago George Lakoff wrote a book called “Metaphors We Live By,” in which he explored the concept that, in fact, all storytelling, indeed, almost all communication, is metaphoric. It’s an interesting idea. Life as struggle is as good a metaphor as any. The stories we tell are metaphors for other people’s lives.

  10. Sonja
    September 30, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Yes, usual, I took my own take-away from this. So many lessons distilled in this one piece…let’s all hope we have what it takes to GET BACK UP and keep fighting. Some days are better than others.

    As always, thank you Steven!

  11. Bane
    September 30, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I dreamed a dream in time gone by…

  12. C Monday
    September 30, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    Thank you Steven, Callie & Shawn for ALLLLL the amazing writing WORK you do again & again & again. It ‘s not just inspiring & enriching but enmpowering. Thank you again from Lonon, UK.

  13. C Monday
    September 30, 2015 at 7:06 pm


  14. Joan Simon
    October 1, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Hello, and thank you for this post. I was struck with the idea that I’m to give to my reader and for my reader. It seems my fight is to receive, first. Then, I actually have something to give.

  15. October 5, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Bravo Steven, and I sincerely mean that.

    What I’d like to point out however, is that in this particular case the fighter has entered the ring voluntarily. In other words, he’s there because he wants to be.

    And not that we can always have what we want or do what we want, but if we’re gonna step into the ring it sure helps to be fighting for something we enjoy or care deeply about, so much so that it could potentially mean the difference between winning and losing.

    Just saying,


    • Maggie Butler
      October 7, 2015 at 2:34 am

      Pat, always did love that Name!
      Associated with poetry,family, Patrick Kennedy