By Steven Pressfield
Published: March 25, 2015
I’m writing this on Friday, March 23, having just read Shawn’s post from today, “The Second Draft (Is Not A Draft),” which I love and which I agree with 100%. I never see what Shawn or Callie write until it appears on the blog. I don’t show ‘em my stuff early either.
Anyway I gotta chip in my two cents on the subject of second drafts.
I’m gonna say exactly what Shawn said, but using a different metaphor. Here goes:
To me, first drafts are like blitzkriegs. They’re like the Israeli army charging across the Sinai Peninsula in four days in 1967. Or our own First Marine Division rolling up to Baghdad from Kuwait in 2003.
The concept behind blitzkrieg is don’t look right, don’t look left, just keep charging forward. If you hit a place where the enemy is putting up strong resistance, don’t stop to slug it out with him. Go round his flank. Leave him where he is. Keep rolling forward.
The danger for the attacking force in such “wars of movement” is that those bypassed enemy forces will rise up and strike you. They may attack your exposed flanks or cut off your lines of supply. That’s the chance you take with blitzkrieg.
You’re betting that rapid movement and relentless forward momentum will carry your forces so deeply into enemy’s rear so fast that the foe will panic. Your advance will seem irresistible. It will acquire a perceived power greater than it actually possesses.
The other huge asset of a rapid forward thrust is that it fills your own troops with confidence. They own the initiative. They’re dictating the action. They’re acting, not reacting.
First drafts, to me, are like blitzkriegs. The aim is to get from PAGE ONE to THE END as fast as possible.
I don’t wanna give that bugger one milli-second to dig in or rally or counter-attack.
I want the enemy confused and reeling and I want my own guys brimming with confidence. Faster! Let’s roll!
And it works. I bypass all sticking points. I don’t stop to fight it out over a strategic bridge or crossroads. I find a way around and I keep going.
That’s Draft #1.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
In January of 1966, when I was on the bus leaving Parris Island as a freshly-minted Marine, I looked back and thought there was at least one good thing about this departure. "No matter what happens to me for the rest of my life, no one can ever send me back to this freakin' place again."
Over forty years later, to my surprise and gratification, I'm far more closely bound to the young men of the Marine Corps and to all other dirt-eating, ground-pounding outfits than I could ever have imagined as I left Parris Island that first time. Gates of Fire is one reason. Dog-eared paperbacks of this tale of the ancient Spartans have circulated throughout platoons of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since the first days of the invasions. E-mails come in by hundreds. Gates of Fire is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading list. It is taught at West Point and Annapolis and at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico; and Tides of War is on the curriculum of the Naval War College. In 2009, I launched the blog "It's the Tribes, Stupid" (which evolved into "Agora"), to help gain awareness of issues related to tribalism and the tribal mind-set in Afghanistan—with the goal of helping the Marines and soldiers on the ground better understand the different people they were facing in Afghanistan.
My father was in the Navy, and I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943. I graduated from Duke University in 1965. Since then, I've worked as an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout and attendant in a mental hospital. I've picked fruit in Washington state, written screenplays in Tinseltown, and was homeless, living out of the back of my car with my typewriter. My struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in The War of Art.
With the publication of The Legend of Bagger Vance in 1995, I became a writer of books once and for all. From there followed the historical novels Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign and Killing Rommel.
My writing philosophy is a kind of warrior code—internal rather than external—in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I call "Resistance" with a capital R (in The War of Art). The technique for combating these foes can be described as "turning pro."
I believe in previous lives and the Muse—and that books and music exist before they are written and that they are propelled into material being by their own imperative to be born, via the offices of those willing servants of discipline, imagination and inspiration, whom we call artists. My conception of the artist's role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of "where it all comes from" and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox.
There's a recurring character in my books, named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like my conception of art and the artist:
"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."