Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE




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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Warriors and Mothers

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 17, 2017



What are the virtues of an entrepreneur?

Allison Janney as "Mom"

Allison Janney as “Mom”

What qualities of mind do you and I need if we are going to succeed as artist/entrepreneurs?

One answer (the one I usually use) is to say we need the virtues of warriors:



The ability to endure adversity.

Another way is to say we need the virtues of mothers.

I had a dream once. I was living in New York, driving a cab at night, trying to write in the daytime. A friend came to visit. My friend was one of these wildly extroverted guys, who immediately went out on the town and came back with fabulous stories of all the fun he was having. I found myself thinking, I should be like him. Why am I denying myself everything, busting my butt day and night? Have fun, Steve! Stop being such a monk!

Then I had the dream. In the dream another friend’s wife, who happened to be pregnant at that time, came to me and sat down at my kitchen table. “Steve, you are pregnant too,” she said, “with that book you’re writing. You can’t go out partying. Your responsibility is to the new life growing inside you.”

The dream was right.

I woke up and immediately stopped worrying.

That movie that’s gestating inside you? That’s your baby.

That novel.

That album.

That new business.

The virtues you and I need to develop are the virtues of mothers.

A mother puts her own needs second (or third or fourth or fifth.) The needs of her child come first.

A mother will kill to protect her baby.

She will sacrifice her own life.

She’ll run into a burning building to save her child.

She’ll lift a Buick off her infant with her bare hands.

A mother knows how to say no.

No, she won’t go to the club.

No, she won’t drink those mojitos.

No, she won’t ingest that banned substance.

A mother eats right.

A mother gets her sleep.

A mother weans herself off Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram (at least most of the time.)

A mother is the definition of tough-minded.

A mother is the consummate professional.

She is in it for keeps.

She is in it for the long haul.

She is in it 24/7/365.

Nothing under the sun can shake a mother from her object, which is to nurture and protect and defend and prepare her baby to grow into its fullest possible potential.

A warrior is nothing compared to a mother.

Wanna be an artist? An entrepreneur?

Be a mother.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Politics and the Professional Mindset

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 10, 2017


Candidates for office in all lands and in every century make the same promise to the voters they hope to attract:

The Great Exception

The Great Exception


I will get you what you want and it will cost you nothing.


“Want your job back? A free college education? No problem. I’ll get it for you.”

Something for nothing is the offer a drug dealer makes to an addict or a mother provides for an infant.

In the grownup world, something for nothing does not exist. Yet politicians sell it to us, and we fall for it every time. Why?

The amateur, the infant, and the addict operate out of the identical mindset. Each looks to others—specifically others perceived to be more powerful or capable—to supply their needs or solve their problems without pain, effort, or risk.


I will get you what you want and it will cost you nothing.


The candidate for office adds two particularly pernicious corollaries to this proposal.


The straits in which you find yourself are not your fault. You are blameless. You were duped and betrayed by (insert Vulnerable Minority here), upon whom you shall now, by my agency, wreak your vengeance.




You need pay nothing for the solution to your problem. We will take the money from (insert Affluent Minority here.)


Why am I bringing this up? It’s not a rant, really. My aim is to contrast the amateur/addict/infant mindset to the mindset of the professional—whether she be an artist, an entrepreneur, a mother, a student, whatever.

The professional and the entrepreneur start from the following assumption (I’m borrowing from Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach here):


I will expect no opportunity and no remuneration until I have first created value for someone else.


I was watching a terrific PBS “American Masters” documentary about David Geffen, who rose from humble beginnings (in Brooklyn, natch) to become a legend in the entertainment biz and a renowned philanthropist. When he was a boy, David was offered the following piece of wisdom by his mother:


You’d better learn to like to work, because we have no money and you’re going to be working for the rest of your life.


Another authority figure once made a similar statement to a pair of innocents under His care:


And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.


The professional is immune to politician-type promises, whether they come to her from the outside or from within her own head. She recognizes them for what they are.

Instead she tells herself, Whatever I want, whatsoever problems confront me and my family, no one is going to solve them but me. The only way I will change my circumstances for the better is through good sense and hard work.

The professional mindset is hard-core. Why? Because it reflects the realities of life.

How do you write a novel?

How do you make a movie?

How do you raise a child?

The only time life is not hard-core is when it is portrayed in the speeches of candidates campaigning for office.

By the way, whatever happened to


“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”?


Not to mention


“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”


Maybe I am ranting. The point I’m trying to make is that JFK and Winston Churchill in those phrases addressed their constituents as if they were adults and as if they possessed the professional mindset.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Wanna Have Lunch With Stephen King?

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 3, 2017


Suppose you, an aspiring writer (or even an established one), got the chance to have a two-hour lunch with Stephen King?

How much would that be worth?

Shawn at his February STORY GRID seminar in New York

Shawn at his February STORY GRID seminar in New York

If you had to put a dollar figure on it, how much would you pay to have that experience? What price would make it fair to Stephen King for the expenditure of his time, for permitting you access to his wisdom? What would it be worth to you, just to hang out with the master of horror over a cheeseburger and fries?

Or …

Suppose you were a young architect and you could have dinner with Frank Gehry? Suppose Mr. Gehry would not only answer your questions or take a look at your portfolio but that he would actually prepare a two-hour piece of instruction for you? Suppose he would distill everything he had learned over sixty years in the profession—and present it all to you?

How much would you pay for that?

Clearly those happy meals are never gonna happen.

You and I are not going to get to sit down with Toni Morrison or Joyce Carol Oates or Margaret Atwood. They’re too busy. They’ve got work to do and lives to live.

There’s an alternative however.

Joyce Carol Oates teaches at Princeton. Frank Gehry is doing an online MasterClass. Margaret Atwood spoke last weekend at the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books.

This is all by way of getting around to Shawn’s three-day STORY GRID course on writing Love Stories this past February in New York.

Shawn gets e-mails every day asking him to read manuscripts, be somebody’s mentor, go out to lunch and let some young writer pick his brain.

Shawn can’t do that. And the people who ask him are asking, whether they realize it or not, for thousands and thousands of dollars worth of hard-earned skill and savvy, for which they are willing to pay nothing.

The answer is to take a course from Shawn.

A few years ago, before Shawn and I had become partners in Black Irish Books, I needed his help. I asked him to read a manuscript I was stuck on. He did it. I wrote him a check for $35,000.

A few years later, feeling guilty, I asked him, “I got off cheap, didn’t I?”

Shawn laughed and said, “Yeah, you did.”

Expertise has value.

Decades of sweat and pain are worth something.

Frank Gehry is not going to write back to you and me saying, “Sure, let’s meet for lunch at Gjelina.” Philip Roth is not gonna have a drink with us at the St. Regis. And J.K. Rowling? Her security staff shredded our note before it got within a half-mile of her.

Maybe you and I can’t take these masters to lunch, but we can sign up the next time one of them teaches a course or a weekend seminar.

Okay, we won’t get Alice Munro one-on-one. But we can raise our hand and ask a question if and when she teaches a course. We can approach her during a break.

People write to me all the time, wanting me to put them in touch with Shawn so he can read/edit their novels. I don’t even tell Shawn. He’s too busy.

The answer, again: take a course from Shawn.

Become a member at Shawn’s blog, Watch for the announcements of upcoming events.

In The War of Art I went off on a rant against workshops. I called them “colleges of Resistance,” which they are, if you’re using the workshop as an excuse not to do your own work.

But my assessment has softened over the years. The right course, taught by the right teacher, can be invaluable. Not just for the specific content (which a lot of times we can glean from a teacher’s published books or blogs or articles) but for the experience of actually meeting the person we hope to learn from. It seems silly but there’s a kind of magic to it. There’s no substitute for it.

For years Shawn has been playing with the idea of teaching what he knows, not just in books but in person. It’s taken him a while to wrap his mind around the idea of booking venues, preparing material, and actually getting up there onstage and engaging an audience.

But he’s doing it now.

If you and I are smart, we’ll get on a plane and go.

We might not be able to get him to have lunch with us, but we can learn a lot from three days in the same room with him.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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