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. (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 27, 2013
Though it’s sometimes hard for me to take in, I know that numbers of people look to me as a mentor. Well, I have a mentor too. His name is David Leddick. He was my first boss, in advertising, on the Revlon account at Grey Advertising in New York.
David Leddick outside Grey Advertising, NY, 1969
David will be 84 in January. Is he a doddering old fart? You judge. Since ‘95, when he “retired,” David has written 25 books (no, that’s not a typo), including six novels. Since 2000 when he resumed his performing career (he had been a dancer at the Metropolitan Opera and with the Joffrey Ballet), he has appeared in six musicals, some with script and lyrics by himself. “My best review,” David reports, was in Some Men by Terence McNally when I sang ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ while wearing red feathers.”
For his books, David organizes his own signing tours. I thought, “This is something that readers of this blog might emulate.” Why wait for some publisher? On my own last book, I had to organize and pay for my own tour. Zero help and zero bucks from the publisher.
Anyway I asked David how he does it. Here’s his answer:
The cardinal rule for a book tour is do not go somewhere you do not have at least twenty personal contacts whom you can invite to your event. The bookstore will traditionally provide no one even if they do a fair amount of publicity.
You can do a book event in your hometown. A town you came from. You can ask friends in major cities to pull together a list for you. Then you decide what bookstore you would like to be at. Since my work is largely gay-themed I go to the major gay bookstore there. I have toured New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. I add the name and address of every person who buys a book when I am on tour and thus augment the list for the next tour.
Now with email you can amass email lists as well as mailing lists but I prefer the direct mail approach. I print postcards, the cover of your book on one side. To save money have them printed with no information on the other side and you can stamp the bookstore and time on them. Always write something like “Please come” and sign your name on every card. It will add 30 per cent to your turnout.
Once you have your mailing list you can call the bookstore you want, speak to the PR person responsible for events and they will usually book you on the date and time you want. I don’t think I was ever turned down. They will also order books for the event. Double the number you think will attend. If twenty, they should order forty. Often people will fail to turn up for the event but drop by a few days later to buy the book. Now that books are available easily on Amazon and are always less expensive I find that I get more turnout but fewer sales. (more…)
By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 20, 2013
[Some quick notices before we get into today's post:
[Remember the "Ask Me Anything" Q&A we did a few weeks ago? The hour-long audio went out then to everyone who had signed up for First Look Access. Well, since then Shawn and I and Jeff have recorded three more half-hour AMAs from that original batch of questions---questions we didn't have time to get to in the first AMA.
[We'll be sending the first half-hour audio out by e-mail on Monday. The other two will follow between then and the New Year. All are free, no sales pitches.
[If you have not yet signed up for First Look Access, do it now (upper right side of this page) and you'll get these three Ask Me Anythings.
[Last note: to psych us all up for work in 2014 we thought we'd do a fourth Ask Me Anything---something like "How to Organize a Day," "How to Organize a Year." Send in any question you like. There'll be a form in next Monday's First Look e-mail. We'll make this AMA an hour long if we get enough good stuff.
[Finally finally finally: from now on, Mondays on the blog will be "Ask Me Anything Mondays" where we'll put up audio (with transcript link as soon as we can get our act together) of one question and one answer from the longer sessions.
[And now, at last, today's post:]
I gashed my hand at the gym a couple of days ago. The mishap followed cracking my skull open on a shelf a few days earlier. On top of breaking my toe banging into the leg of a coffee table as I clomped barefoot across my living room—not to mention about half a dozen freak near-accidents on the freeway.
Bobby Jones almost didn't make it to the final leg of the Grand Slam in 1930
You may think I’m crazy, but these “accidents” are Resistance.
I’ve seen this syndrome play out dozens of times with myself and with others. Toward the end of a project (I’m in the last couple of weeks of a three-year all-out effort) I’ll start breaking bones, backing into parked cars, and in general trashing my body, my mind, and all other subsidiary paraphernalia.
Why does this happen? I don’t really know. One school of thought says it’s our psyche telling us, “Stop!” Our Self wants to get us re-grounded, back into our body. Another theory (the one I agree with) says it’s pure self-sabotage. If I gash my hand open, I can’t do my normal routine at the gym. I’m thrown off. If I wreck my car, I’m embroiled in all kinds of B.S. with accident reports, the body shop, etc.
I can’t work.
Resistance has become physical. It’s trying to knock me out of the game literally.
How bad has this gotten with me? Without getting into specifics, let me say only “life-threatening.” Can you relate? I’ll bet there’s not one of us who isn’t nodding his or her head.
There’s a second advanced form of Resistance that’s happening to me now as well. I’ll talk about it at greater length in upcoming posts. That is sabotage by others. There is more than one person in my life right now who, completely unconsciously, is doing everything they can to screw me up. I’ve seen this a hundred times before too.
But back to accidents, mishaps, and other self-inflicted wounds. The phenomenon is so common that sports teams routinely anticipate it by building in precautions as the season approaches playoff time. Practices get easier. Heavy contact is forbidden. Yeah, partly it’s common sense, to avoid injury. But coaches know that injuries happen more frequently as their teams approach the World Series, the Final Four, the Superbowl.
I’ll go beyond that. I think something in the universe itself conspires against us, the closer we get to some cherished goal. There’s a famous story of the great golfer, Bobby Jones, as he approached the final leg of the Grand Slam in 1930. First a bolt of lightning hit the stone chimney of a golf clubhouse as he was hurrying toward it to get out of a storm. The blast blew chunks of brick and mortar for a hundred yards, pieces big enough “to have killed a man had [one of them] hit him in the head.”
When I got into the clubhouse, someone discovered that the back of my shirt had been ripped down to my waist and I had received on my shoulder a scratch six inches in length and just deep enough to break the skin.
A few weeks later Jones was walking down a sidewalk in Atlanta without a soul in sight “when someone [behind me] yelled, ‘Lookout, Mister.’” A car had jumped the curb and was careening straight at him. Bobby just barely leapt clear.
There was no doubt that I would have been crushed between the automobile and the building had not the lone pedestrian warned me.
I know, I know. I’m taking this way too far. But I swear: something in the electromagnetic mojo-sphere changes when we get close to the completion of our novel, our Ph.D., our start-up. It’s a law of the universe. When Resistance sees that we’re about to move to a higher level creatively, ethically, or spiritually, it begins sticking voodoo needles in dolls that look exactly like us. I can’t prove it. I’ve got no evidence. But when it happens I can feel it in the air, and I’ll bet you can too. (more…)