Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“This Might Not Work … “

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 14, 2018

 

Stealing a phrase (above) from Seth Godin, I’m going to try something a little different over the next few weeks and maybe more.

I’m gonna serialize a book I’ve been working on.

Consider the course and contour of this artist’s journey …

The book is about writing.

I don’t have a title yet but the premise is that there’s such a thing as “the artist’s journey.”

The artist’s journey is different from “the hero’s journey.”

The artist’s journey is the process we embark upon once we’ve found our calling, once we know we’re writers but we don’t know yet exactly what we’ll write or how we’ll write it.

These posts will be a bit longer than normal, just because that’s how chapters in a book fall. I don’t wanna post truncated versions that are so short they don’t make sense, just because that’s where chapters happen to break.

Please let me know if you hate this.

I’ll stop if it’s not worth our readers’ time or if our friends find the material boring.

That said, let’s kick it off.

Starting with the epigraph, here’s the beginning of this so-far-untitled book:

 

 

 

I found that what I had desired all my life was not to live—if what others are doing is called living—but to express myself. I realized that I had never had the least interest in living, but only in this which I am doing now, something which is parallel to life, of it at the same time, and beyond it. What is true interests me scarcely at all, nor even what is real; only that interests me which I imagine to be, that which I had stifled every day in order to live.

Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

 

 

B    O    O   K         O    N   E

 

 T     H     E       H     E     R     O’     S       J     O     U     R     N     E     Y

 

A   N   D       T   H   E     A   R   T   I   S   T’   S       J   O   U   R   N   E   Y

 

 

  1. THE SHAPE OF THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY

 

 

Consider the course and contour of this artist’s journey:

 

          Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

          The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle

          Born to Run

          Darkness on the Edge of Town

          The River

          Nebraska

          Born in the U.S.A.

          Tunnel of Love

          Human Touch

          Lucky Town

          The Ghost of Tom Joad

          Working on a Dream

          Wrecking Ball

          High Hopes

 

Or this artist’s:

 

       Goodbye, Columbus

       Portnoy’s Complaint

       The Great American Novel

       My Life as a Man

       The Professor of Desire

       Zuckerman Unbound

       The Anatomy Lesson

       The Counterlife

       Sabbath’s Theater

       American Pastoral

       The Human Stain

       The Plot Against America

       Indignation

       Nemesis

 

Or this artist’s:

 

          Clouds

          Ladies of the Canyon

          Blue

          For the Roses

          Court and Spark

          The Hissing of Summer Lawns

          Hejira

          Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

          Wild Things Run Fast

          Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm

          Night Ride Home

          Turbulent Indigo

 

Clearly there is a unity (of theme, of voice, of intention) to each of these writers’ bodies of work.

There’s a progression too, isn’t there? The works, considered in sequence, feel like a journey that is moving in a specific direction.

 

          Bob Dylan

          The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

          The Times They Are a-Changin’

          Highway 61 Revisited

          Blonde on Blonde

          Bringing It All Back Home

          Blood on the Tracks

          Desire

          John Wesley Harding

          Street-legal

          Nashville Skyline

          Slow Train Coming

          Hard Rain

          Time Out of Mind

          Tempest

          Shadows in the Night

 

A strong case could be made that the bodies of work cited above (and those of every other artist on the planet) comprise a “hero’s journey,” in the classic Joseph Campbell/C.G. Jung sense.

I have a different interpretation.

I think they represent another journey.

I think they represent “the artist’s journey.”

 

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

63 Responses to ““This Might Not Work … “”

  1. Kevin
    February 14, 2018 at 2:09 am

    Serialization, yes! Heck, why not? It seems to be the trend now on television (BrBd, GoT, etc). Go for it, Steve.

  2. Mary
    February 14, 2018 at 4:57 am

    Hate this? Are you kidding? Bring it on!

    • February 14, 2018 at 11:54 am

      My words exactly!
      Bring it, Steve!
      I’m gonna gobble this up.

  3. Julia Murphy
    February 14, 2018 at 6:17 am

    Thank you, Steve

  4. David Smith
    February 14, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Interesting enough to keep reading…go ahead, convince me!

  5. Don Akchin
    February 14, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Whether or not it works is irrelevant. I am fascinated by the concept and eager to read more. Thanks!

  6. February 14, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Had no idea I’d been waiting for this. Eager for more.

  7. February 14, 2018 at 6:39 am

    Steven,

    DON’T STOP!

  8. February 14, 2018 at 6:39 am

    Yes yes yes! I am a visual artist, not a writer, and gain so much insight from your posts. The parallels are amazing, so I say, yes, go for it!

  9. February 14, 2018 at 6:40 am

    Go for it! It will be fun to read and compare with “The Artists Way” which influenced me years ago.

  10. Jack Ludden
    February 14, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Keep ’em coming!

  11. February 14, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Looking forward to reading every word
    Thank you Steve

  12. Michael Beverly
    February 14, 2018 at 7:14 am

    Carry on.

    • February 14, 2018 at 8:21 am

      What he said.

  13. February 14, 2018 at 7:23 am

    MORE !!!

  14. Judith Bornhouser
    February 14, 2018 at 7:26 am

    More, please.

  15. February 14, 2018 at 7:30 am

    Keep going. I feel the same way about the hero’s journey too! Anxious to get your take.

  16. Lyn
    February 14, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Pure genius. I love your idea and the epigraph from Henry Miller.

    When writers think they have something to say, that’s when they start writing. An idea is born and the artist’s journey begins. Ideas turn into more ideas which turn into books and then into series of books, leaving a creative trail, an artist’s signature that says, “I was here and here are my thoughts.” If that’s not living — I don’t know what is.

    “I think, therefore I am.” Descartes

  17. Kenny Daley
    February 14, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Yes Please!

  18. February 14, 2018 at 7:54 am

    of course this is magic. More Pressfield! Always. It’s like cowbell. More, please.

    The medium doesn’t really lend itself to serialization, just as Dickens use of a boat to bring each chapter to the US was a little fraught.

    But we’ll take it.

    Why not offer a Kindle of the whole thing so those that are itching for the rest can pay you the $12 bucks and dive in?

    • February 14, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      Look at this—two of my favorite people (the kind that I read so much it feels as if I know them but I don’t really know them) on the same page, Steve & Seth. Yes to Steve’s question and Yes to Seth’s recommendation.

  19. February 14, 2018 at 7:55 am

    “This Might Not Work…”

    That sounds like all of my projects. Often they work, sometimes they don’t. I’m a photographer. I tell stories through my art. I just took a medical hit over the weekend, a sort of warning call summoned by stress. “HEY! Stop that! Keep it up and next time it may be real.” Hospital emergency rooms are interesting. Everything is back to normal, except my work.

    I explore. I take my work as far as I can and work to boredom. When I’m bored, I change direction. Picasso did it. I think most artists do. I just finished my Fashion Period through the aforementioned warning call. This wasn’t the first warning call. Strike two.

    I don’t know where I’m going. I’ve been restructuring my work, my future. There will be street photography. There will be people, events, stories. There will be sports games. There will be prints, magazines, videos. I have to do this.

    The idea of the Artist’s Journey makes perfect sense.

  20. Krista
    February 14, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Fantastic, looking forward to more!

  21. Kara
    February 14, 2018 at 8:16 am

    Oh WOW! Gratefully received! Thank you.

  22. February 14, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Intrigued!

  23. Kristy
    February 14, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Yes please! I need your insight on this now, before you can finish a book so pls share it. I am on an Artist’s Journey and it’s sooooo confusing. There are little mini hero’s journey’s within each piece of work, but the path is totally different. Just seeing the list of other artists work gives me more clarity on how this unfolds. thx!!!

  24. February 14, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Interesting, in my opinion.

  25. Eiry
    February 14, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Waiting. Yes please.

  26. February 14, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I’ve been waiting for this perspective.

  27. February 14, 2018 at 9:38 am

    This is so exciting! I can’t wait to read what you’re going to write about this. In my classes I’ve used The Wizard of Oz and a simplified version of The Hero’s Journey to help artists understand they are on an inner and outer journey that starts with a dream and ends with coming home to yourself. All the challenges and tests and mentors and allies are there to help us express our truth. This higher perspective is comforting … makes it easier to travel the road.

  28. February 14, 2018 at 9:45 am

    You had me at “this book is about writing”
    So look forward to what’s next!

  29. Gabriel Porras
    February 14, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Hello Steven,

    This is a very stimulating idea -and a great choice of songwriters!- so please keep sharing. It will never be boring.

    I just worry that you may end up in a legal tangle or create unintended confusion in your reader’s minds, since there is already out there an excellent book on a very similar subject titled “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.

  30. February 14, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Kudos!
    +1 on the “more, please!”

    Instead of age- or maybe passion-based path (which amount to more or less the same thing), here’s hoping that your Rake’s Progress might take us down a focus-depth-based path, more like following a mineral seam vertically, rather that following a horizontal stream, if that makes any sense.

    In any event, I cannot wait to see how your exploration unfolds!

    Many thanks for doing this — much-neeed in our community and thus already well worthwhile, no matter where you end up.

  31. Bruce Andis
    February 14, 2018 at 10:23 am

    I’m intrigued. And, as always, love the writing. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  32. Elizabeth Sale
    February 14, 2018 at 10:24 am

    I would love it because of my own journey, trying to figure out what it means and why I have felt the way I do since I was a little kid. I’ve been writing a novel for years that keeps changing but remains the same and gets deeper and more personal and more involved and won’t stop even when I want it to, but I couldn’t imagine what my life would be if it did. So I guess Henry Miller and I have something in common: Looking back, I know now that I have also been wanting to express myself. The thought of the artist’s journey makes me feel as though I’m not alone, in a way different from merely knowing I’m not alone. I have 70 ! writing books that I was told over the years I must read. That has been true of only six. I know yours will be the seventh, so have at it.
    I’ve loved every one of your books I’ve read, so I know I’ll love this one. Thank you.

  33. February 14, 2018 at 10:33 am

    I wrote you an email. So glad to see this resonates with everyone here.

  34. February 14, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Steve,

    There are great writers and there are great people who inspire us to be better period you may be both… when I read your writing, I am never sure if I am learning the craft of writing or if I am learning to listen to that push inside that says “create! Create!”

    There is something about your special presenCR in the world that speaks to this place in me to keep listening and creating within the void and to pull something out of it and to allow myself to be quite pleased with the work and to at the same time be dissatisfied into creating more, going beyond what has been.

    So I don’t mind what you write. What is important is what I write. And because of you, my journey is better.

  35. Laurie
    February 14, 2018 at 11:17 am

    YES, PLEASE keep going with this. A training manual of sorts to help writers find their place on the path… can’t wait to read more!

  36. Vivienne
    February 14, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Love it so far, please keep it going. I find your voice very truthful and insightful. Keep it up.

  37. Linda Andrews
    February 14, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    WOW! You have opened new doors for me. Kick this one open for yourself and grab us by the hand. We will certainly take the journey with you and with each other. I’m excited for us all!

  38. Bane
    February 14, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    This moment needs a personalized Campbell/Jung refesher!!!

  39. Amelie Hubert
    February 14, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I’m so excited for this!!

  40. February 14, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    Yes, bring it on!

  41. Rachel Walsh
    February 14, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Excellent! Can’t wait for the next chapter.

  42. February 14, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    This may well be the only way I’m able to write my first book! Hell yes, bring it, Steve.

  43. Tom
    February 14, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    Please continue…..

  44. February 14, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    More, please. And I agree with Mr. Godin’s notion.

  45. February 14, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Love it!!! The lists were intriguing – hooked me. I’m curious to know more, to see the similarities between the two journeys, and to see where I am on it. This creative life is such a journey…

  46. Robert
    February 14, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Steve:

    If you are offering the Henry Miller quote as a guiding principle by which writers ought to embark on writing, I say “STOP THIS PROJECT NOW!” I advocate that writers should actually LIVE before they write — or at least AS they are writing — that they should experience life’s joys, sorrows, ups and downs, tragedies, triumphs, victories and defeats. That they should learn first how things work, look, smell, feel, taste, sound — before they set out on their literary journey.

    David McCollough says he won’t write about a place until he’s gone there himself to see how the land and the weather and the light influences the actions of history or of the people he writes about. When fleshing out his characters, he interviews family members and friends, sifts though photographs, even examines the handwriting of his characters. In these ways, he can be accurate — and genuine — in what he puts forth. Sure, he’s writing history. But he’s first and foremost writing literature.

    Miller cares for none of that. Sure, what Henry Miller says is just dandy if you’re writing fantasy or doing exercises in self-contemplation (both of which, frankly, Miller was all about). He even says as much when he says he doesn’t care about what’s true or real. Someone, I forget who, once said that one shouldn’t attempt a novel before the age of 40; after all, what does a person know — really KNOW — before then? Witness the tragedy of how many ‘creative writing’ students spend their lives in academe, graduate and then try to write novels or screenplays of note, only to end up sour, dejected, defeated and up to their chins in college debt? What do they know, except what they have garnered — not actually learned — from books and professors? Is it any wonder that so many tomes that make it to the press or to the screen these days are vapid, eye-rolling dreck, or are based on comic book superheroes, wizards and laughable action heroes — none of which require little in the way of examining that which is real?

    No, Steve: I’m from the old Hemingway school: live, travel, explore, experience life deeply, feel it for all it’s worth, and you will have literary furnishings worth writing about, worth expressing yourself about. By the way, that’s how you did it yourself, Steve.

    Keep up the great work, my friend. But please: drop the Miller quote.

    All the very best,
    — Bob —
    Doylestown, PA

  47. February 14, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    “Please let me know if you hate this.” Spoken just like a writer. Write on!

  48. February 14, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    Very excited about the journey.

  49. Thijs
    February 15, 2018 at 12:28 am

    Please keep this going until the end.

  50. February 15, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Brilliantly… simple. I’m all ears to hear more.

Leave a Reply

Avatar

If you'd like your picture to show up when you comment, sign-up for a free gravatar account.

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>