By Steven Pressfield
Published: December 4, 2013
This happened in New York, can’t remember what year. Early one frozen morning, I’m schlepping home from somewhere—probably a girlfriend had kicked me out—and I find myself on 53rd Street passing the Museum of Modern Art. There’s a line out front.
If you’re a New Yorker, you’re like a Russian during the Stalin era. You see a line, you get on it. A line means something good is happening. There must be, or people wouldn’t be lining up waiting for it. Even better this particular morning, the line is short. Six people. That means I’ll be up front. I’ll get into the museum ahead of just about everybody.
I get in line.
Time is about eight-thirty. Temperature ten degrees. Wind chill twenty below. No problem. I’ve got my sport coat, got a scarf.
In a line I’m like Louis C.K. I talk to people. “Freakin’ arctic, eh man?” “Yeah, coming down outa Canada.”
“The show’s free, right?”
“Yeah, see the sign?”
In the line we’re stomping our feet, jamming our hands into our pockets.
“Anybody had breakfast yet?”
I volunteer to run to the Greek deli. Ten minutes later I’m back with bagels and bialys, hot coffee in the blue-and-white cups with the Parthenon on the side. Now the line is up to about fifty people. Wow, this is great, I’m ahead of forty-four people now.
“What time do the doors open?”
“Somebody said eleven.”
It’s nine now. No problem. I can do two hours standing on my head.
Posted in Writing Wednesdays
ADDITIONAL READING » ON WRITING
by Mamet, David
Technically this isn’t a book about writing. It’s about Tinseltown and David Mamet’s love-hate relationship with it. But, along with Mamet’s witty and cantankerous evisceration of show biz, Bambi vs. Godzilla delivers masterly and extremely useful insights on getting movies made, surviving criticism, paying the rent and in general surviving Hollywood while retaining some scrap of sanity and integrity. Mamet is not just any writer. When he takes on a subject, you get it in context succeeding context—commercial, aesthetic, moral, ethical, legal, Talmudic, Tantric and Vedic. It’s like reading Thucydides if he’d loaded his stuff into a ‘65 Mustang and split for the Coast.
by Phillips, Larry W.
Papa never actually sat down and wrote a book about writing. Rather, editor Larry Phillips has compiled 140 pages of hard-core Hemingwayisms from the author’s books, stories, and letters. Great material, particularly the fragments of correspondence to Scott Fitzgerald.
by Lukeman, Noah
As an agent and editor, Noah Lukeman read thousands of manuscripts from aspiring writers. He got to where he could tell in the first five pages if a submission was worth his time. In this gem of a book, he tells you the most common mistakes writers make—and how to eradicate them from your manuscript.
by Williams, Nick
A no-nonsense how-to manual and psych-yourself-up kit, for those of us who sometimes need a swift kick in the butt to get us going.
by Steinbeck, John
When he was writing East of Eden, Steinbeck kept a journal—just a few pages each morning, which he’d scribble as a kind of warm-up before turning to the actual manuscript. Fascinating insights into the writer’s life, inside and outside the covers of a book.
by McKee, Robert
I always say that McKee is not only the best teacher of writing I’ve ever seen, but the best teacher of anything. I’ve taken this three-day intensive course twice—and I’ll take it again. Yes, McKee has been spoofed (in the movie Adaptation) and lionized (in a New Yorker profile.) But that’s because he’s the best. Full disclosure: McKee and I are friends. McKee wrote the foreword for The War of Art. McKee teaches this class in cities all over the U.S. and Europe, even as far away as Israel and Singapore.
by McKee, Robert
This is the book that goes with Robert McKee’s Story Seminar. Terrific for writers in all media, but take the “live” McKee first. You’ll get more out of the book if you’ve heard the man deliver his stuff in-person.