Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Giving Myself Some Props

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 11, 2017

 

Okay, it’s done.

Today I wrap Draft #14 of the project that’s been kicking my butt and send it in to Shawn.

Jurgen Prochnow as the skipper in "Das Boot"

Jurgen Prochnow as the skipper in “Das Boot”

Will it fly? We’ll see. But for the moment (a short moment), my job becomes about self-validation, i.e. giving myself some props.

These “Reports from the Trenches” have been going on now for five and a half months. That means I’ve been rewriting a crashed-and-burned manuscript for that long.

 

Good job, Steve! Whatever happens, you have risen to the occasion. You have performed like a pro. You did not crap out (okay, maybe you whined and sniveled a little) and you did not go into the tank. Half a warm beer for you!

 

But seriously …

Who else is gonna give you and me a pat on the back if we don’t do it ourselves? Our spouse maybe. Our agent. A good friend or two.

Their kind words are valid and much appreciated.

But the thing is … they don’t know. They can’t really. The only one who really knows is you and me.

Remember the training sequence in the first Rocky? With the theme music, “Flying High Now,” in the background as Rocky completes his final sprint up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum? That was great. It was stirring. You had to love it.

But in the real word, what would’ve happened was Rocky would have gone from there to a preliminary bout, stepped into the ring, and been kayoed in the first round by some ham-and-egg fighter that nobody, including Rocky, had every heard of.

THEN the real work would’ve started.

Back to gulping those six raw eggs at four-thirty on a freezing winter morning. Back to jogging through the flower market, racing along the wharf, and punching frozen sides of beef in Pauly’s meat locker.

Do it all again, the second time. Without the theme music.

Can you do that? Have you done it? I take my hat off to you. That thankless, glamourless passage is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

Rocky woulda done it. And you and I would too.

It may seem silly to give ourselves kudos. It may seem vain and even a little preposterous. But this, like the work itself, is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

One of my favorite scenes in a movie (and the source of the “half a warm beer” reference) comes from Wolfgang Petersen’s great submarine film, Das Boot. Have you seen it? About a German U-boat in WWII? A young war correspondent (meant to be the audience’s window into the film) is just joining the seasoned crew of a submarine about to put out to sea. The sub has been refitting in port for several weeks; the crew has been laboring non-stop; the at-sea shakedown has been completed … the vessel is ready to set forth. The crew assembles on deck. A young lieutenant serves as a guide and escort to the correspondent. The captain, played by Jurgen Prochnow, finally appears.

 

                                                YOUNG LIEUTENANT

(to correspondent)

Now comes the speech.

 

The skipper steps up before the men.

 

CAPTAIN

Now, men. Everything set?

 

The crew shouts “Yes, sir.” The captain smiles, nods, and turns to board the vessel.

 

YOUNG LIEUTENANT

(to correspondent)

Some speech, huh?

 

And he too hustles off to board the sub.

 

That’s my idea of self-validation. Between you-and-me and you-and-me.

We know.

We understand.

It’s enough.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

15 Responses to “Giving Myself Some Props”

  1. Mary Doyle
    October 11, 2017 at 5:26 am

    I take my hat off to you – go on, have a whole, cold beer! And thanks once again for this terrific series.

  2. October 11, 2017 at 6:15 am

    I cannot believe it has been 5 1/2 months! It is hard to give oneself praise, for sure. Good habit. Well timed praise from an expert can be drawn upon for a lifetime.

    I was the Operations Officer for an Intelligence Battalion in Afghanistan (3rd in charge)as a Captain. This is a Major’s billet, but we like to play it cheap in the Guard.

    As we were RIPTOA (relief in place, transfer of authority–new unit comes in, we leave) my replacement (a Major) and I were talking with the Division G2 (Lieutenant Colonel) about the fight.

    After the meeting, the G2 stood between Dave (my replacement) and me and clapped us both on the shoulders.

    “Dave, everyone here at Division knows this Captain has been in command all year. I’d listen carefully to him if I were you..”

    I almost wept. That was a decade ago, and it still helps. I’ve been very good at my job at least once.

    Love the Rocky analogy. The real world is not Hollywood. Rocky would have had to do it again and again.
    bsn

  3. October 11, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Quote o’the Piece: “Do it all again, the second time. Without the theme music.”

    Sums up every second thing, from the second day back to the gym to the revision process. So glad to hear that not only am I “not the only one,” but the company I’m keeping is pretty high quality. Thanks for these trench-reports.

  4. October 11, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Done. Pretty darn fine. Congratulations on completing vs #14.
    Following this 5 1/2 month revision process of yours has been a cold slap of reality for me. I am grateful for your candor. Now, when I settle at my desk, I’m settled for the long haul with fewer delusions. Raising the cold dregs of my coffee to you, sir, and rejoicing.

  5. October 11, 2017 at 7:36 am

    This sums up editing and publishing books better than almost anything I have ever read. “That thankless, glamourless passage is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.” Thank you.

  6. Ms. Moretti
    October 11, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your process. Lest I waste any more time trying to compose a fancy way of expressing my gratitude, I give thanks to you, and to all who are in the trenches. I’m off to slay the dragon of Resistance for today.

  7. Jen
    October 11, 2017 at 9:55 am

    “Do it all again, the second time. Without the theme music.”

    This took me right back to failing the CA bar exam, where I then had to scrape my bleeding and bludgeoned body off the ground so I could dive back in. That’s when the music faded and shit got real. From the sound of it, this was just a primer for what’s to come with writing…

    Good job, Steve! Here’s hoping Draft #14 flies.

  8. October 11, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Thank you Steve. You seem to always say the right thing at exactly the right time. I agree…doing it the second time without the theme music is right where I am finding myself at the moment and thanks to your wisdom over the years I am completely down with the silence and just the click of my fingers on the keyboard.
    Cheers and Congrats.

  9. October 11, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Kudos Steve!

    Life’s not set to music, and so…

    “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Nietzsche

    Stay insane!

  10. October 11, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Steve, if I could, I’d buy you half a warm beer to celebrate, then set Das Boot to play, from one hero to another.

  11. Julie Murphy
    October 11, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    For years I had a reminder taped to the front of my monitor:

    Success has less to do with how well you accomplish Plan A and more to do with how you cope with Plan B.

    Here’s to the Captain of the Plan B Team who’s going to take us all to the playoffs!!! Thanks, Steve.

  12. October 12, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Congrats Largo!

    I look forward to reading it, and getting my own ass kicked backed to the flashing cursor in my Word doc.

  13. Sonja
    October 12, 2017 at 9:10 am

    So, so good. I’m loving this series. Thank you for your honesty. It’s more uplifting than you know. :)

  14. October 13, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Bravo!!!! Kudos!!!!!

    This is what I have on my wall to view after I have completed my work:

    “You are amazing, Veleka! Celebrate yourself and your excellent work!”

    Got that from Tony Robbins when I did his “Fear Into Power” firewalk.

  15. October 16, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Perfect blog . . . sometimes its most important that you and only you know you’ve slayed the dragon. I toast to you Steve.