Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

An American Jew for Christmas

By Shawn Coyne | Published: December 2, 2015

How do you sell your soul? AAJ Front Cover

Isn’t this a strange question?

I mean we’ve been taught that Artists don’t sell their souls. They keep their inner self-actualization struggles to themselves and let their work speak for them.

Faust sold his soul and that didn’t turn out so well (at least until Goethe made that evergreen Story/Myth his own).

So an artist should avoid putting his/her innermost thoughts up for sale at all cost.  Or their blasphemous opening of their internal kimono will lead as Joe Strummer of The Clash so succinctly sang, “straight to Hell.”

Instead, it’s best to write around what you think and feel about your life’s work and why you’ve been compelled to do it.  Don’t explicitly express those thoughts and emotions. And God forbid, whatever you do, don’t be so arrogant as to put a retail cover price on them.

Am I right?

This dilemma–to report or not report the internal war–is the seasoned artist’s primary bugaboo.

And it’s the reason why, for the first time, Steve Pressfield is not the author of today’s Writing Wednesdays column.

When we first start out as “creatives,” all we want is to be chosen and embraced by a wide audience. We don’t worry so much about our artistic soul. Hell, we just want to get in the game. We just want Random House to pick us out of the soup and then see how many units our crazy-made-up-fictional-world-we-concocted-for-fun can move.

But as the years and projects go by, our work and the way we think about our work starts to shape shift. It starts to be less than about getting higher on The New York Times Bestseller List and more about “Gee…I wonder why I was compelled to burn five years of my life on that project instead of something else?”

It is from this place of “why” that Steve Pressfield wrote his latest book, An American Jew: A Writer Confronts His Own Exile and Identity.

What began as a “notes to myself” kind of side diary he used to talk himself off of the ledge while in medias res of the incredibly intimidating task of learning a completely new genre (journalism based narrative nonfiction) while writing The Lion’s Gate, turned into something far deeper than he’d imagined.

An American Jew is the story of a writer confronting eternal questions…Who am I? Where do I belong? Why am I compelled to do what I do?

Obviously, this stuff isn’t for everyone. No easy sell either.

You’ve got to be pretty high up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to understand the necessity of confronting these unanswerable questions in the first place. And even that small subset of writers/artists beginning to think about these issues won’t necessarily be running to a bookstore to read about how someone else muddled around this ephemeral terrain.

In Marketing-speak, the target audience for this book is a tiny niche (existentially inquisitive artists) of a small niche (writers and artists). A nonstarter project if there every was one. Definitely not something that can be relied upon financially.

And truth be told, Steve wasn’t really so keen about taking his raw stuff, remolding it, and then letting me edit it to shreds, sending it back to him for a almost complete re-write, and then going through his usual two or three rounds of polish…all so that he’d be confronted with trying to shill it to our little tribe of followers.  Hence my penning today’s column.

He kept saying…

“Pard, I just don’t know who would care about this? Isn’t this too personal?”

Check out this video where he talks about the book in almost apologetic terms.

Obviously I disagree. I think this book is exactly why Black Irish Books exists.

Here’s why.

An American Jew is a perfect example of what I call “specificity as universality.” The more personally and deeply you drill as a writer…the more reluctant you’ll be to share your terrors and uncertainties…the more likely your work will touch the most unlikely of audiences.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Steve’s book isn’t really about being an American or a Jew.  You needn’t be either to be entertained (and profoundly moved) by it.  Just like you didn’t need to be a Spartan to enjoy Gates of Fire or a writer to get something out of The War of Art.

When explaining the power of specificity, I often talk about Eugene O’Neill and his absolute horror of his play Long Day’s Journey Into Night being published (let alone produced), not just within his lifetime, but for twenty-five years after his death! He wrote it in tears and blood and could not imagine anyone really “getting it,” beyond the five tragic members of his immediate family.

I think O’Neill probably felt about Long Day’s in much the same way that Steve thinks of An American Jew…too personal, not for everyone…too raw…too, for lack of a better word, “embarrassing.” But both of these guys were compelled to write these works anyway…even if, especially if, no one cares. I find that fascinating.

And I think you will too.

That’s all well and good, but how do we “sell this thing?” If the book is important enough to publish, it’s important that you sell it too.  Let’s not be so precious about our work that we can’t do a little song and dance for it.  But it’s got to be the right kind of dance or as Robert DeNiro said playing Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull,  “It defeats its own purpose.”

Steve, Callie, Jeff and I went back and forth on this and we decided the best way was not to “sell it.” Instead, we decided to put An American Jew in Black Irish context.

We all see this book as an indispensable addition to our little “writers library.”

So we’ve put together the Black Irish MegaBundle for Writers to keep it company. Our library includes the following:

An American Jew

The Lion’s Gate

The War of Art

Do The Work

Turning Pro

The Authentic Swing

The Story Grid

And The FIRST 500 bundle buyers will get editions (including eBooks with the exception of The Lion’s Gate, and select Black Irish Produced Audios) of these seven books for just $35.00 (a $234.25 value).  Click here to take advantage.

Thereafter, we’ll offer the bundle for $50.00 until supplies run out.

And for our friends abroad where shipping charges are unconscionable, we’ll offer the Digital MegaBundle for Writers for six of these titles (we don’t control eBook rights to The Lion’s Gate) for the Crazy Eddie price of $15.00 (a $102.55 value). Click here.

We’ll run the Digital Bundle promotion until Midnight December 31, 2015.

Happy New Year! And thanks for being a part of our little Niche!

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

21 Responses to “An American Jew for Christmas”

  1. Mary Doyle
    December 2, 2015 at 5:13 am

    Thanks for providing the Niche! Ordered the bundle yesterday and am eager to read Steve’s new book! Thanks to you, Steve, Callie and Jeff for all that you do!

  2. December 2, 2015 at 6:41 am

    I ordered – and am wondering how anyone could turn this deal down. Thank you thank you! I am in the middle of finishing a book I have been afraid to publish for much the same reason, so it was with delight that I read I am not alone. I know Steve’s new book will add to my determination to finish it and get it out there! Thanks again!

  3. December 2, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Yay!! A new book!!

    I am totally saving it for Christmas day, as I love to have a book to crack open (and a puzzle to do) during the break.

    I am also going to grab a bundle and give the books away as gifts, maybe to my art teachers after grades are posted.

    I keep a journal too about whatever I’m writing to help me get through plot points and the like. I am glad to see that you do the same.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. December 2, 2015 at 7:50 am

    And just this morning I told my fiancee I didn’t want anything for Christmas.

    I take it back.

  5. Elizabeth
    December 2, 2015 at 7:50 am

    But I already own all the others. Can I just buy American Jew? Pretty please?

  6. Jeff
    December 2, 2015 at 8:20 am

    Great bundle!

    I already own a few of the titles but I ordered it anyway. To support you. To keep supporting us.

    Thanks.

  7. December 2, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Wow. That video sold me. I rarely respond to Internet sales/bundles/packages, yet “The War of Art” is my Bible and the Writing Wednesdays e-newsletter is one of the few e-newsetters I actually read. I also rarely take the time to post a comment on blogs because of Steven’s firm directives to stay “focused on the doughnut and not on the hole.” Yet I want to take a moment to thank all of you at Black Irish. You provide great insipration and invaluable writing tips. After watching that promo video, I knew “An American Jew” might help me figure out some structural problems I’m having with a book that needs clean up and to finally get out the door. I’ll be ending 2015 and starting 2016 with this goal and your helpful book(s) at my side. Thank you. PS – the free copy of “The Return” that someone graciously sent me was also greatly appreciated. Beautiful generosity….

  8. Mike Henderson
    December 2, 2015 at 9:58 am

    I have multiple copies of all Steve’s books and just ordered the bundle. I am even working (emphasis added) through The Grid. Over the total landscape of writing I was interested about Steinbeck writing about Steinbeck, but there can be no comparison to Steve writing about Steve.Here is an Black Irish guy (genetically) who cant wait to read The Amercian Jew…Thanks for having the guts to write it Marine One.

  9. December 2, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I like my food, music, books, and friends as personal and esoteric as I can get ’em.

    “For the masses” = “not for me” almost every time.

    I’ll add my thanks to everyone else’s for sharing this.

  10. Carl Blackburn
    December 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I ordered the bundle yesterday. When the opportunity to read “An American Jew” was available on-line, I started reading this morning…couldn’t stop…a very moving story that captures the reality and emotions of two great events…the six-day war and Steve’s writing and publishing a book about that war…and much much more…thank you.

  11. Catherine Mersereau
    December 2, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks for offering this wonderful bundle. You can’t have too many books ! I recently did a DNA test and it turns out I am 17% Jewish… I asked my mother who was Jewish and she never heard we had any Jewish blood. So I am hoping “An American Jew ” can help with this disconnect. Can’t imagine someone moves across the pond and forgets one’s heritage. Thank the Lord I had a course in Maslow !

  12. December 2, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Last time you had an offer (for Story Grid) I was too modest or too low self-esteem or something. This time I acted. So I’m happy about that.

    To anyone else: As I write this, the cheapest one is still available. Because I like these guys I feel safe as I’m typing my business on-line with them, and I’m happy to support their business.

  13. December 3, 2015 at 6:26 am

    This feels like Rembrandt and his self-portraits. What if he hadn’t been brave enough to do them, what a treasury into our own humanity we would have lost! When one looks upon these masterpieces his unashamed directness, his naked vulnerability is truly humbling. His humanity reaches through space and time and on such deep and universal levels that it raises us, not above but forward, giving us the strength of spirit to continue through the unavoidable quagmire of every day life; reconnecting us to our purpose, gifting undeniable reflection and resonance into the Self.
    I have read most of your work, it continues to assist me daily. You, like Rembrandt are a warrior, an ambassador for the humanity of the soul and I am both humbled and transported closer to my Self each time I pick up ‘Turning Pro, Do the work’, or War of Art.
    Thank you for your bravery, it ignites mine.

    • Joy Wood
      December 10, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      Ruth, your comments are inspiring me to learn more about this seemingly marvelous man. Not sure how I even got to the article about his latest book, but your writing may be the extra push I need. Thank you!

  14. December 3, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Dear Steve,

    Well the biggest hugs and thankful cheers to you for opening your soul and technique in An American Jew. I’ve already read the first few pages after a seamless ordering (thanks Black Irish Books), and had to stop back and tell you.

    I don’t know if I’m a Jew; no proof but a ranting Russian grandfather on my mother’s side; grandmother, we don’t know. Declared as Lutheran through Ellis Island.

    Gratitude also for the video. Everything you and the Black Irish team does shines.

    Blessed be you and yours, all the way.
    Shalom, Sharon

  15. December 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    I bought ’em. The deal is rid-donk-ulous (RIP Stuart Scott), and I already own most of the books.

    Steve’s blogs about writing “The Lion’s Gate” were phenomenal. I miss the Monday posts. I am confident the book will be even better.

    Steven’s willingness to open the Kimono is truly remarkable, and has touched me deeper than his outstanding works of fiction.

    Hmmm. That maybe a stretch when I think back to how I have sobbed during many of these reads.

    It is a different kind of impact.

    Black Irish Books is what greatness looks like.
    bsn

  16. Tina Goodman
    December 3, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Sold! I’m going to get a paperback of this new book.

  17. Ken Friedman
    December 5, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I am halfway through the new book already – some if it is familiar from reading Steve’s blog posts, but the whole thing is fantastic (I will be reading some more tonight). I printed out a lot of these old posts on kavanah, en brera and the death burst, and carry them with me in my notebook. I have read all of the books more than once – so therefore one question: I would like to buy a few copies of the digital bundle for my children and one for my granddaughter. They like to read EVERYTHING on their iPads. How can I order the digital bundle for delivery to other people? Thank you. You guys are great.

  18. Maggie Butler
    December 11, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Out of work these last two months due to health and hospitalizations.
    Will order bundle when next job comes in. Thanks, Maggie

  19. Eddie Drury
    December 28, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    You may be selling yourself short Steve by saying that American Jew is just for writers and won’t sell many copies.

    I loved it! I learned a lot and was entertained from beginning to end. Now it’s time to dive into the other books in this great bundle! Many thanks.