Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Writing “As If”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 12, 2016

Jerry Garcia. "Dude, 'as if' works!"

Jerry Garcia. “Dude, ‘as if’ works!”

 

The hippie version of behavioral therapy (I remember it well) was “acting as if.”

Are you scared? Are you anxious? Act as if you’re not.

Shawn has a principle for Black Irish Books: publish as if. In other words, bring out a book/promote it etc. as if we were Knopf, as if we were Random House.

What about writing as if?

(Remember, the theme of this series is “Why I Write.” It’s my own admittedly personal, idiosyncratic, possibly demented view of why I do what I do.)

I definitely write as if.

I write as if I’m being published by Penguin Random House/Simon&Schuster/Hachette/HarperCollins.

I write as if my stuff is gonna be reviewed by the NY Times, the New Yorker, the Times of London.

I write as if the Nobel Prize committee will check every comma.

I write as if Steven Spielberg will be personally eyeballing an advance reading copy.

I write as if people will be reading my work five hundred years from now (assuming of course that planet Earth is still habitable by humans at that time.)

More critical than all the above, I write as if the Muse herself will be going over my stuff. I don’t want her saying, “I gave you this?”

But let’s take this line of thinking to a deeper level.

You and I as writers must write as if we were highly paid, even though we may not be.

We must write as if we were top-shelf literary professionals, even though we may not (yet) be.

We must write as if we were being held to the highest standards of truth, of vision, of scale, of imagination, even though we may not be.

We must write as if our works mattered, even though they may not.

As if they will make a difference, even though they may not.

As if our lives and sanity depend on it. Because, believe me, they do.

To say that we write (or live) “as if” is another way of saying we have turned pro.

We are operating as professionals.

We are in this for keeps.

We are in it for the long haul.

We are committed.

We are warriors.

We are for real.

 

Therefore … take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.

 

There is great wisdom in acting as if and writing as if.

Is life without meaning? Are you and I marooned on an atom of dust hurtling in the dark through a pointless cosmos?

Maybe.

But we can’t act as if we believed that.

Art Carney and Lily Tomlin in "The Late Show"

Art Carney and Lily Tomlin in “The Late Show”

We must act as if there were meaning, as if our lives and actions did have significance, as if love is real and death is an illusion, as if the future will be better than the past, whatever that means.

One of Seth Godin’s great contributions is the idea of “picking yourself.” Don’t sit on a stool at Schwab’s like Lana Turner waiting for someone else to pick you to be the next star.

Pick yourself.

Act as if you were a pro, a fastball hitter, the real thing,

And there’s additional magic to the practice of acting as if and writing as if. In some crazy way, acting and writing as if makes our beliefs about ourselves come true.

What we had only projected takes on its own reality. That’s a law.

“You’re an actress,” Art Carney tells Lily Tomlin at a scary moment in Robert Benton’s great private eye flick The Late Show. “Act brave.”

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

17 Responses to “Writing “As If””

  1. Mary Doyle
    October 12, 2016 at 6:07 am

    This series crackles with energy and is just what I need to hear right now – thanks so much! (Also, if anyone out there hasn’t yet read Seth Godin’s “What To Do When It’s Your Turn,” do yourself a favor and get hold of a copy.)

  2. October 12, 2016 at 6:24 am

    I love this!!

  3. October 12, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Brilliant book: The As If Principle by Dr. Richard Wiseman. I wrote about it for my friends at Actionable Books:

    http://www.actionablebooks.com/en-ca/summaries/the-as-if-principle/

    It’s solid brain science. Love reading the same thing here.

    • Kent Faver
      October 12, 2016 at 2:29 pm

      Awesome stuff Joel and Steve. The best case for “acting as if” to me seems to be the incredible Mr. Robert Osborne. He has said this numerous times. He acted as if his dream position would appear – and it did, after a roundabout journey.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/movies/robert-osborne-is-the-face-of-tcm.html?_r=0

      • October 12, 2016 at 3:04 pm

        Wow. That article gave me chills near the end. This is my favorite quote:

        “One night he found himself dining with (Lucille) Ball, Kay Thompson and Joseph Cotten, among others, and began to think, “Never in my wildest dreams did I …?”

        But then he stopped himself. “Don’t try to kid yourself, Osborne,” he remembers thinking. “You always knew that you’d be in movie stars’ houses, knowing them, being friends with them.”

        He totally acted “as if” and created a life worth living.

        He wished that TCM could have been a thing sooner so his friends could have seen that their work lived on.

        Great friggen stuff.

    • October 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Great read!

  4. Sonja
    October 12, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    Great stuff, as usual. This made me realize it’s both harder and easier to be a pro.

    Thank you for all you do, Steve.

  5. October 12, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Beautiful. Great stuff my man.

    Here’s my favorite part:

    “We must act as if there were meaning, as if our lives and actions did have significance, as if love is real and death is an illusion, as if the future will be better than the past, whatever that means.”

    My Niece had her Hebrew naming this weekend (she just turned 1) and my whole family was over to celebrate.

    My uncle (He reads all of my blog posts and listens to my podcasts…I would say he’s my biggest asset, and fan, because he always gives me great critical feedback) asked me how long it takes to write a post for publication on my website.

    I didn’t have a good answer.

    I go through, like, 10 drafts for each post.

    But, time dissipates while I work.

    It could be 1 hour, it could be 3, I don’t know.

    It doesn’t matter because after it’s done, and shared out to the world, the only thing that matters is I did it. I finished and released it to my network.

    I get scared on days I share things, because I want the world to read, but at the same time, I’m terrified of them seeing me for “who I am”.

    That’s how I know I need to keep pushing the envelope on myself; opening up as honest and transparent as I can be.

    It allows me to get better, and it’s forcing a five finger death punch at resistance on a bi-weekly basis.

    Like you, I don’t believe I have a choice.

    Because of this, I question the idea of “free-will”.

    It seems thrive in the crease of contradiction, and I’ve accepted my lack of choice.

    It’s allowed me to make better decisions because of it.

    I write “as if” everyone in the world will be reading my posts each time I press publish.

    Because in my mind, I like to imagine they are.

    All the best my man:

    Adam Abramowitz
    Writer/Creative Director/Founder
    U.I. Minds Eye
    “Exploring Within for the World Around Us”
    http://www.UIMindsEye.com

  6. Barbara Newton-Holmes
    October 12, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Bless you, Steve!! You save us all.

  7. Tricia
    October 13, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Thank you for the Matthew quote — a helpful reminder.

  8. Leo
    October 13, 2016 at 10:50 am

    “As if” has actually been the success principle of The Scorpions (https://youtu.be/vFbgHPjFYvQ).
    They used to be a weird no name group from quite a small town in Germany.
    In the 70s they simply pretended to be huge US-American or British Rock stars like Aerosmith or Led Zepplin.
    We’ll it worked out quite well. Even now many people do not know their background.

  9. October 14, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Another wonderful inspiring post! Thank you. God bless.

  10. October 15, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I remember the “as if” days, though probably not as well as you, Steve.
    Of course, the start of all writing is “what if” – that moment when we step out of the present into the immediate, or out of our self into the infinite. (SF may be the most obvious “what if” genre, but so are they all, all genres “what if.”)

    But perhaps we can say that the “what if” emerges from the “as if.” The “as if” (why am I thinking of Asimov?) is that sideways step of the imagination. It’s where we go before we start going (where we want to go). It’s said, for example, that a building is built four times: first in the mind, the imagining – the “as/what if,” then in the hand – the plans and architectural design, then in the stages of construction (creation), and then at completion, when the “as/what if” is realized, in whole or in part.

    Maybe the “as if” is for us and the “what if” is for what we do.

    Thanks.

  11. October 19, 2016 at 10:11 am

    I’ve been reading the posts for quite a while now, and have found them incredibly helpful. This one is great, and helps me get closer in attitude to myself and my work to the how I want to be. After a long time as a painter – forty years – without great external validation, it’s good to remind myself that maybe some of my work out there is quietly enriching the lives of other people, just as this blog has been enriching mine, and no doubt many others’, who just haven’t got round to thanking you. But most of all, it’s kept me sane and alive. Thank you!

  12. Geraldine Walters
    October 19, 2016 at 11:48 am

    I accept and believe in the As If principle because I think that’s how thousands of us get through our days anyway. But I’m not practicing it because I’m afraid that, although people might fall for the CURRENT persona I am projecting – using the As If, what happens when they ask about my history, my roots, my foundations and find that they are built on sand? Or should I just act As If that’s happened many times and it’s always turned out fine?