Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

You, Inc.

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 8, 2017

[This is Post #3 in our new series, “The Professional Mindset.”]

Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen in "Gunga Din."

Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen in “Gunga Din.”

 

I had a friend named Victoria when I was working in Hollywood. Victoria was a successful screenwriter, very much a role model for me. One day Victoria took me out to lunch and gave me some insight into how she handled herself as a professional in “this town.”

 

Steve, you and I are going up every day against Twentieth-Century Fox and Warner Bros. and Paramount. They’re our competition. We’ve got to be just as organized as they are, just as tough, and just as smart.

 

Victoria told me how she organized herself mentally to compete in this arena.

 

Fox has a slate of pictures in development, right? I’ve got one too. Warners has a five-year plan. I’ve got one too. Everything the studios do, I do. I’m not just as organized as they are, I’m more organized. And I can react ten times faster than they can.

 

I immediately adopted Victoria’s mental model.

Have you ever worked for a corporation? Then you know about Monday morning status meetings. [See pp. 97-98 in The War of Art.] The group assembles in the conference room or the boss’s office. Plans are discussed, assignments are given out. The boss’s secretary types up an Action List and distributes it. Now every team member knows where every ongoing project stands and what action is required of him or her for the coming week.

I adopted that plan exactly. I still work that way.

Every Monday morning I have a meeting with myself. I go over everything I’ve got to do in the coming week. I assign myself tasks and set myself goals and deadlines. I type up an Action List and distribute it to myself. If I succeed through the week, I reward myself. If I screw up, I kick myself in the ass.

The Professional Mindset begins with a radical reconceptualization of ourselves as artists and entrepreneurs.

When we adopt the Professional Mindset we stop thinking of ourselves as individuals.

We start thinking of ourselves as enterprises.

After I’d been in Hollywood for a few years, I realized that many screenwriters worked as one-man corporations. They provided their writing services not as themselves but as “loan-outs” from their businesses. Their writing contracts were f/s/o—“for services of”—themselves.

I formed my own corporation the minute I could afford to.

Why did this idea appeal to me? Not just for the tax benefits or the advantages involving medical insurance.

I loved the metaphor.

I loved the psychology.

If I think of myself as me-the-writer, I’m a fragile, isolated individual. I’m hesitant. I’m insecure. I’m vulnerable.

But if I reconceive myself as Me, Inc., I’m no longer so alone in the world.

I’m now an entity, like Apple or Fedex or General Dynamics.

I’m an operation.

I’m an enterprise.

As Sgt. Archibald Cutter (Cary Grant) declared to Sgt. ‘Mac’ MacChesney (Victor McLaglen) in Gunga Din, as he set out to find the Temple of Gold:

 

You’re not looking at a soldier, MacChesney, you’re looking at an expedition! Stand aside! Make way for the expedition!

 

Remember, our enemy as writers is not the marketplace or the competition.

The enemy is Resistance.

The enemy is our own internal self-sabotage.

Thinking of myself as a corporation gave me an invaluable weapon against Resistance.

I could no longer say to myself (or, more accurately, allow my own Resistance to say to me), “Steve, you’re a loser. That last piece of work was garbage, and you’re gonna follow it up with more garbage, etc.”

Now I say to myself, “Okay, the team suffered a bit of a setback. Perhaps our instincts were not as spot-on as we had thought. Let’s schedule a meeting with ourselves to regroup and decide on next steps.”

I may still be myself-the-writer, but I’m also myself-the-CEO. Under pressure, the writer may fall prey to self-doubt and impulses of self-destruction. But the CEO maintains his cool. He’ll send the writer to Palm Springs for a three-day vacation if he thinks that’ll get him back to his old self. Or he’ll put him up against the wall and read him the Riot Act.

Either way, I/me/my company are operating at the same professional level as the corporations we are competing against. We are the Google and the Facebook and the Tesla of our own mind.

Those Fortune 500 corporations are not going to falter and neither are we. We’re as self-energized as they are, as self-organized, and as self-sustaining. There is nothing they can do in their sphere that we can’t do in ours.

Stand back, MacChesney! Make way for the expedition!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

17 Responses to “You, Inc.”

  1. marcos stefanelli
    February 8, 2017 at 6:14 am

    my name is marcos and iam brasilian people
    iam learning english
    ok

  2. February 8, 2017 at 6:28 am

    As I was building my first “real” company – we ended up with over 200 employees – those weekly “commit” meetings were a vital part of our success and keeping us all on track for fulfilling the vision.

    After I sold the company and became a leadership coach, I was back to being a corporation of one again. Guess what, those weekly “commit” meetings with myself are even more important now. If I miss one, it’s like that feeling you get when you don’t brush your teeth for a few days when you’re camping.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Gail
    February 8, 2017 at 6:43 am

    I don’t know what magic is at work, Mr. Pressfield, but once again you have gifted me with the exact right message just when I needed it. I love your Monday morning planning meeting with yourself and promptly adopted it — with one change: Ima do it on Sunday evening.

    Thank you, and thank you, and thank you for this and so much else.

  4. February 8, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Funny. I started drawing again after I stopped work on a graphic novel because I was too intimidated to draw people. Found myself picking up a drafting table, a stool, and a light. Put ’em in my closet–and when I say that, I mean I set them up in my closet to work. No excuses, no distractions. It’s an office, as far as I’m concerned. A tiny office with my butt sticking out of it, but still. An office.

    And now this. What a great post. Thanks! What a great way to commit to the work.

    • February 8, 2017 at 7:12 am

      Ugh. Wish there was a way to edit this…

  5. Mary Doyle
    February 8, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for another inspiring post!

  6. February 8, 2017 at 7:37 am

    I love the idea of I/me the CEO sending I/myself the writer to Palm Springs for a vacation “if he thinks that’ll get him back to his old self. Or he’ll put him up against the wall and read him the Riot Act.”

    Thanks for another great example of establishing clarity between I/the artist and I/the businessman

  7. Kim Coleman
    February 8, 2017 at 8:03 am

    This is a great idea, I will start this one immediately, the Monday Morning planning meeting. Especially the action list and review the previous weeks accomplished works..
    Thanks for the help.

  8. February 8, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I have the glorious and rare gift of a wife who shares these roles with me. Though I’m CEO of my own writing, she manages the overarching enterprise of which Joel the Writer is only one part. That means that I have someone who gets me at a fundamental level who can nod sagely or smile wryly when I say That Stuff I Say.

    We follow all the tenets of today’s post, and if I had to go it alone, I’d immediately codify my own version of these habits so Joel the Biz Guy could keep Joel the Writer on track.

  9. February 8, 2017 at 8:26 am

    I love the genius and insight of these words. Plus the reminder of how to change hats/roles in your business and keep moving in a focused way.

  10. BING
    February 8, 2017 at 10:13 am

    This post is like food,” breakfast for champions”. I collect this kind of stuff. Here is another one I love to read. “You are not finished when you re defeated, you are finished when you quit” – Zig Ziglar . I feel like Jacob wrestling with God, I will not quit until I receive a blessing. Ephesians 6 Put on the full Armour of God.
    Thanks all of you warriors

  11. Jerry Ellis
    February 8, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Ah, Mr Steve CEO, you golden-nailed IT yet again! About that “list” you plan and review to kick your ass or pop the champagne: Got ten minutes on Saturday, March 18th, to further empower your brand? I’m holding my 8th Annual All Day Writing/Publishing Seminar that day, 10-4 CST, and it’s ALWAYS full, limited to 20 professional or aspiring writers. I did this True Ten Minutes one year with my NY agent and my wonderful clients were thrilled. We did it by phone, or certainly Skype could deepen the meaning and purpose of the True Ten Minutes, where clients ask a few questions. I think you recognize my fiery flag, the man who was first in the modern world to walk the 900 mile route of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, and the ms sold at auction to Random House, later nominating it for a Pulitzer Prize? Six figure book deals followed and I was hired to “speak” in private international schools in Asia (loved Hong Kong), Africa (I dodged the raging rhino by a hair), Europe (I live in Rome, Italy as well as in Fort Payne, Alabama on Cherokee ancestral land), and throughout the USA. Feel some Resistance to doing this True Ten Minutes? Why, then, you know what your answer might kindly be, right? My email: jerrywalkingthetrail@gmail.com. Thank you.

  12. February 8, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Again, so timely. Yours is the only list I’m still subscribed to after all these years. The others have been ditched long ago. I’m always so pleased I never binned you too. I’m on it. Monday’s meeting already in the planning stages.

  13. Veleka Gray
    February 9, 2017 at 5:08 am

    Again, Steve, brilliant because you told me how I can do this, too. Thank you ♥

  14. Sonja
    February 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I love this expanded version from War of Art—You, Inc.

    And that’s just one of the many secrets, isn’t it? This is one more tool to battle Resistance. In this case, hiring yourself out. Well put.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom to all of us who continue to battle Resistance in its many sneaky forms.

    Loved the podcast ! : )

  15. February 15, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Wow oh wow is this profound, Thank you for this!

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