Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“So long, David … “

By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 8, 2017

 

We lost a valued member of our online community this past week—David Y.B. Kaufmann of New Orleans and Houston passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. If you’ve read the Comments section of this blog, you know David. His contributions were always keen and insightful, and pretty funny too. He was also a damn good writer. His series, The Scotch & Herring Mysteries, was original, smart, and one-of-a-kind. He leaves seven children, his wife Nechama, and a round of grandchildren on the way. We send our deepest condolences to all the Kaufmann family. We’re all one good guy poorer today.

In honor of David, whose mind had a definite metaphysical bent, let’s point today’s post on the Professional Mindset in a mystical direction.

We’ve said so far in this series that the writer, if she aims to be a professional, must think of herself as an entrepreneur.

She can’t look to anyone else to support her financially, emotionally, or creatively. She and she alone must take responsibility for her enterprise as an artist. She will manage her time and her emotions. She will generate her ideas. She will hold herself accountable.

Patti and Bob back in the day (actually '75, when they first met)

Patti and Bob back in the day (actually ’75, when they first met)

She will be as mentally tough as the most self-reliant entrepreneurs and as organized and orderly as Google or Apple or General Dynamics.

We also borrowed a concept from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach—his idea of “Unique Ability.” In writing terms, Unique Ability meant, we said, that voice, style, point of view, and storytelling gift that was ours alone, that no one else on the planet could duplicate.

All well and good.

But now, knowing all this and having successfully internalized it, we find ourselves drifting into terra incognita. We approach the threshold of the mystery.

The question becomes, “What is our unique ability? How do we find it? And what does it mean once we do find it?”

Here’s what I believe:

The source of our voice as writers (our unique ability) lies beyond our conscious mind.

You don’t know yours, and I don’t know mine.

But it knows us.

It knows us better than we know ourselves.

Our life’s work is to find it, to open the channel to this mysterious dimension. We teach ourselves to shuttle from the conscious to the unconscious, from the knowable to the unknowable, from the material to the divine.

Did Bob Dylan, when he was playing folk songs at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village in 1961, know that he would one day “go electric?”

Did he know he would have a “Christian phase?”

Did he reckon that he would pass from writing

 

How many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry

 

to

 

I used to care but

things have changed.

 

Did he possess the slightest clue that he would one day have not one hit album but two in a row, singing American standards?

I don’t think he knew any of it.

I don’t believe any of us do.

People say that writing is a form of self-expression. I don’t believe it. Writing is a form a self-discovery.

I don’t think any of us have any idea at all what we’re doing.

Our Muse leads us.

What you and I are doing as artists is apprenticing ourselves to a part of our psyche whose contents we can never know and whose purpose we can never divine, a sector of our consciousness that knows us intimately, that carries our daimon and our voice, but that only reveals itself to us in snatches, speaking, like dreams, in symbols and riddles.

But wait, you say. How does all this mumbo-jumbo jibe with the idea of the entrepreneurial ethic, of the Professional Mindset?

Entrepreneurs have muses too. Steve Jobs did. Elon Musk. Sergey Brin.

They are being led, just like you and me, from project to project, from inspiration to inspiration.

The Professional Mindset does not lose its utility when you and I enter the Extraordinary World. It changes, that’s all.

Instead of focusing on time management, say, or acquiring the art of saying no, the Professional Mindset shifts gears and tunes in, with a patient and keenly attentive ear, to the Cosmic Radio Station.

Part of the Professional Mindset releases all inhibition, so that it can receive whatever assignment its muse presents to it next. While part of it remains grounded in Realityville, reminding itself, “Damn, this is great sh*t! I better get it down in my notebook before I forget it!”

So long, David. Thanks for being part of our gang and our metaphysical quest. We will not forget you.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

27 Responses to ““So long, David … “”

  1. Mary Doyle
    March 8, 2017 at 5:22 am

    Thanks for honoring David in today’s post. I have really enjoyed his comments in the years that I have been following this blog and will miss them. So long David.

  2. ANISE TATUR
    March 8, 2017 at 6:17 am

    I am new here and following some tips to become a better writer. Thank you for all the posts that are upgrading my abilities in writing every week. I send my sincere condoleances to David and to all his family.
    ANISE.

  3. March 8, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I wonder how old I’ll be when this thought goes away forever, “Everybody gets this but me…” I love this post very, very much. Maybe I’m finally old enough to relinquish the old, familiar whisper of Resistance, and plunge deeper into my purposeful words, without doubt or fear of drowning. And, may David Y.B. Kaufmann’s eternal soul be elevated now. May his friends and family be comforted in their great loss.

  4. March 8, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Though I’ve been a fan of your books, Steven, for many years, I’ve only recently started following this blog. The insight and candid information is beyond measure to an aspiring writer like myself. Today’s post was no different. Though I didn’t know David, I’m touched at how much of an impact he had on people’s lives, often people he hadn’t met. To me, that is the power we have been given in the gift of writing. That elusive and all-consuming muse that when it hits us, resistance is indeed futile. It must be followed, and when done so, we are blessed with the ability to create something that impacts people’s lives.
    As I work on my third novel I’m experiencing that more and more. My muse, as one might call it, often striking at 3am when I should be sleeping. Yet, those interruptions in my much needed beauty rest, have resulted in powerful scenes that when I share with people, I can see the impact. That is trusting the muse, using the gift we’ve been blessed with.
    To me, the greatest crime an artist can commit is to ignore this calling. To not create that which they have been called to create. From the sounds of it, David answered that call and did it well. Thank you, Steven, for dedicating this blog to him and his memory, and for reminding all of us who call ourselves writers, that we need to heed the call. We need to create. We need to touch people’s lives.
    I close with this poem I wrote a few years ago:

    I do not write for my own pleasure, nor is your entertainment my lofty goal.
    I write in the hope of reaching your heart, and perhaps, in touching your soul.

  5. March 8, 2017 at 7:12 am

    So sad to read this. I’ve come to know and love this wonderful community like an extended family. So long,David.

  6. Kent Faver
    March 8, 2017 at 7:15 am

    Sad news about David – thanks for giving us this update Steve – like most, I didn’t know. I recall many of David’s insights and comments, not from memory, but how they made me feel – alive and that he cared.

  7. Sandy Brown Jensen
    March 8, 2017 at 8:17 am

    I am always so startled when you articulate my direct, daily experience of being led by, as you call her, the Muse– to me, she is The Giantess. I am consumed pretty much 100% with our relationship, yet no one around me seems to ever talk about this central reality. Your insights electrify me because they reflect my core concerns back to me from the heart of the internet.

    I happen to think that is weird…and wonderful.

  8. Basilis
    March 8, 2017 at 8:43 am

    :( David will be dearly missed.

    I’d like to mention that he also had a very good perception about chess matters.

  9. CK Love
    March 8, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Thanks for this. I needed to hear this today.

    I’ve been reading your posts for about a year. Never read the comments though. Sorry I missed David’s. He sounds like a wonderful magnanimous spirit. My condolences to his family and friends.

    Peace!

  10. Bruce Kaufmann
    March 8, 2017 at 9:15 am

    On behalf of my brothers, thank you to everyone who left such kind comments about David.

    David was the eldest of six brothers and, when our father passed away 7 years ago, David stepped in and assumed responsibility for our family, as an elder brother should, and as only David could.

    The six of us are very diverse insofar as our professions and interests. But at our core, we are all the same, sharing the principles for living our parents taught us. This is what makes David’s passing so difficult – we all feel that a piece of us has been ripped out and it can never be replaced.

    We only knew David as a brother, and therefore only a portion of his life. While we knew of his involvement in the community – how did he manage to do so many things – with his passing we have been amazed at the extent of David’s involvement and the sheer volume of the people whose lives David touched in such a positive way.

    My brothers and I have always been six, but no more. However, we have each other, which makes the pain of David’s loss easier to bear. Knowing there are people like you out there who also feel this loss provides us with additional comfort.

    Thank you, Steven, for the post. Thank you everyone for your kind thoughts.

    Bruce Kaufmann, for all of us – Lenny, Avrum, Steven and Daniel.

    • Tina M Goodman
      March 8, 2017 at 11:57 am

      I am very sorry for your loss.

    • Rodney Page
      March 8, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      So sorry for your brother’s loss and transition. From my perspective, David was a deep soul and I appreciated the depth and wisdom of his insights. May you and your family be comforted with grace and peace.

    • Mary Doyle
      March 8, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      My condolences to you and to the rest of David’s family. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts here. Our prayers are with you.

    • March 9, 2017 at 2:13 am

      Bruce,

      I was re-reading some of your brother’s comments to Steve’s posts in this community. This one in particular rang like a bell. Our connections with each other give meaning to everything else. I’d like to have known him.

      “But still, we have to consider Aristotle’s triangle, even in this: ethos – the person – we are writing for us, are compelled to write; logos – the text – what we produce (and it doesn’t have to be prose or screenplays); pathos – the audience – how we reach, effect and communicate to others. For doesn’t that give meaning, or at least value, to the other two?”

    • March 9, 2017 at 2:41 am

      Bruce, Lenny, Avrum, Steven and Daniel,

      I’m very sorry for your loss. This is a very special community. Your brother was a special part.

  11. March 8, 2017 at 10:32 am

    My condolences to Steve and his brothers and the whole Kaufmann family. Even though I didn’t know David, I feel his gift flows through you Steven into this post.

    Love this topic! I’ve been teaching on it these past few weeks to my group members. It’s been such a wonderful Aha to realize that it’s a relationship with the Muse, with the Mystery, that fuels us as writers — as creatives.

    You tied it beautifully in a way i haven’t seen to the Professional Mindset. I especially love that notion of “tuning in.”

    We are but tuners and receivers picking up what is in us and out there — which is really the same thing.

  12. March 8, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I would like to add how Steve’s blog and the comments enrich my week. They get me out of myself. David’s will be missed.

  13. Dave LaRoche
    March 8, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Did not know or know of David Kaufmann (too new to the thread) but do appreciate your words related to voice, and agree it is the one thing we all uniquely possess. It is also the thing so easy to loose when facing critique.

  14. Amelia Pawlak
    March 8, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Steve – The tenderness and affection with which you honored David today has deeply touched my heart. I offer my condolences to David’s wife, children, family and friends.

    This passage describing the soul after it leaves this life, called out to me to share:

    “The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its people. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest….” ~from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah p. 157

    May David’s light now be a muse to multitudes.

  15. Paul C
    March 8, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Internet comment sections receive so much criticism, I wondered if Steve was going to close off his site to comments like some of the other high profile sites, and what a loss if we couldn’t read comments from David. The Muse will help ease the pain. I lost a family member recently and have been taking notes from the incredible dreams.

  16. Regina
    March 8, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    So long, David. Until we meet again.

    Steven, thanks for the update in his honor. He will be missed.

  17. March 9, 2017 at 7:19 am

    prayers, blessings, condolences to everyone within loving distance of david. it may very well be his voice now, whispering into the hearts/minds of earth-bound writers..

    ***

    regarding the discovery of our unique voices -I am eternally grateful to the innovators of the blogosphere. when writing professionally for magazines, newspapers, trade journals, etc. -you are required to represent their voice

    the blogosphere allowed me to discover and represent and honor my own

    and speaking of muses, that cerebral hyperlinks here:

    http://shesayswithasmile.blogspot.com/search?q=on+a+sleepless+night

    it is my experience:

    writing is a powerful instinct -surrender! to win

    blessings all around, ~sandra

  18. Catsie
    March 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

    You write, “[We apprentice]ourselves to a part of our psyche …that only reveals itself to us in snatches, speaking, like dreams, in symbols and riddles.” I am reading some collected essays by Taisen Deshimaru, on the Zen Way. He writes, “In Zen as in Budo, the first period, shojin, is the period of training in which the will and the conscious effort are implicated.

    “The second stage is the period of concentration without consciousness, after the shiho. In the third stage, the spirit achieves true freedom. ‘To a free spirit, a free world’.”

    I mostly labor in shojin with occasional brief forays into the second stage. This for me is close to bliss, but what must the third stage be like?

    That is what I would love to know, even if only for short magical periods. I’d feel blessed.

    I imagine you were there, at least some of the time, when you were writing Gates of Fire.

  19. March 12, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Hi, amazing Steve! Your museful work, “The War of Art” is pure and inspired poetry! I love your book! It’s just what I needed. I wrote this poem today which I attribute to wonderful, helpful you:

    Dare to Fail or Fail to Dare!

    Bouyed when Pressfield encouraged creative works,
    My own creativity now no longer shirks;
    I’ve ceased hiding my light beneath lampshades;
    Because today I dare call spades spades;
    I’m beginning to finally face my muse
    And my own creative juices use.

    ‘Tis said one must “paint badly” to paint well;
    Or dare to “write badly” to tell a tale;
    Where our creative works will lead,
    If we follow our beckoning head,
    We never can know nor tell;
    All we can do is dare to do well!

    In other words, we must start somewhere
    Our powers of creativity to share and wield —
    “Resist resistance,” stresses Steven Pressfield,
    In his inspired work, “The War of Art;”
    If we don’t dare fail, we’ll never start;
    Never write the book of our heart;
    Never let genius do its part.

    So dare to break through the blocks
    Whenever your amazing muse knocks;
    Win your inner creative battles
    By daring to fail to ever do well;
    The final outcome time only can tell.

    By Stephany Spencer 2016
    StephanySpencer.com

  20. March 14, 2017 at 1:49 am

    Nice posting, my condolences to David’s family.

    You have a paragraph just above a picture Bob Dylan:

    She can’t look to anyone else to support her financially, emotionally, or creatively. She and she alone must take responsibility for her enterprise as an artist. She will manage her time and her emotions. She will generate her ideas. She will hold herself accountable.

    This appears to be eerily like a paraphrasing of the lyrics from his song She Belongs to Me

  21. matt mcconnell
    March 14, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Very nice tribute. Very good essay. I feel this also in my law practice and like most things you write in terms of art, I feel it is transferable to career.