By Steven Pressfield
Published: October 7, 2015
People write me letters sometimes. Wannabe musicians, aspiring novelists; I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
These letters purport to be seeking counsel. The writer details his or her struggles with deciding which creative field to pursue, their frustrations with their own indecisiveness, with getting their art going, etc. Then they ask for advice.
Now, there’s a good way to ask for advice. The good way is when the person is earnest, sincere; he or she can, in truth, profit from a boost of encouragement or an impartial reality check. That’s the good kind of advice-asking.
But that’s not what these other letter writers want.
I can’t tell you how dispiriting it is to receive such missives. They reek of mental weakness, shallow superiority, and an impenetrable mantle of self-delusion and self-indulgence. Worse, they’re “hooks.” Meaning their aim is to steal a piece of the recipient’s soul.
For years I took these cries for aid seriously. I’d ask myself, How can I help? What wisdom can I impart? The poor letter-writer seems to be suffering so.
Then one day I realized, These characters aren’t really looking for help. They love the state they’re in. They’re wallowing blissfully.
They are Beautiful Losers.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
ADDITIONAL READING » FAVORITE FICTION
by Percy, Walker
National Book Award winner 1963. New Orleans stockbroker Binx Bolling (one of the great characters of contemporary fiction) battles Kierkegaardian despair with the help of his cousin Kate, an ultra-dry sense of humor, and a compulsion for going to the movies.
by van der Post, Laurens
A close second: World War II classic by the South African master. A tale of two brothers, a Japanese prison camp, and the soul’s triumph over suffering and isolation.