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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Untitled Book, Installment #2

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 21, 2018

  1. THE HERO’S JOURNEY AND THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY {continuing from last week’s post}

 

 

I have a theory about the Hero’s Journey. We all have one. We have many, in fact. But our primary hero’s journey as artists is the passage we live out, in real life, before we find our calling.

Rocket Raccoon overcoming an All Is Lost Moment in “Guardians of the Galaxy”

The hero’s journey is the search for that calling.

It’s preparation.

It’s initiation (or more precisely, self-initiation).

On the hero’s journey, we see, we experience, we suffer. We learn.

On our hero’s journey, we acquire a history that is ours alone. It’s a secret history, a private history, a personal history. No one has it but us. No one knows it but us. This secret history is the most valuable possession we hold, or ever will hold. We will draw upon it for the rest of our lives.

The hero’s journey ends when, like Odysseus, we return home to Ithaca, to the place from which we started. We wash up on shore. We have survived. We have come home.

Now what?

The passage that comes next is the Artist’s Journey.

The artist’s journey comes after the hero’s journey.

Everything that has happened to us up to this point is rehearsal for us to act, now, as our true self and to find and speak in our true voice.

The artist’s journey is the process of self-discovery that follows.

It will last as long as we’re alive, and maybe longer.

 

 

  1. THE EPIPHANAL MOMENT

 

In Hollywood parlance, there’s an inflection point in every story called the All Is Lost Moment. This moment comes near the end of Act Two, about two-thirds of the way through the movie.

In the All Is Lost moment, the hero is as far from her goal as possible. It seems certain in that moment that she will never reach it.

The All Is Lost moment is immediately followed by what I call the Epiphanal Moment.

In the epiphanal moment, the hero experiences a breakthrough.

This breakthrough is almost always internal. The hero changes her attitude. She regroups. She sees her dilemma from a new perspective, a perspective that she had never considered before (or, if she had considered it, had rejected), a point of view that offers either hope or desperation amounting to hope.

The movie now enters Act Three. The hero, fortified by this fresh hope (or desperation), charges full-tilt into the climax.

Sarah Conner stops running and turns to confront the Terminator.

Luke Skywalker boards his X-wing and flies against the Death Star.

Bogey makes the decision to put Ingrid, with her husband, onto the plane to Lisbon, while he himself stays to confront the enemies of freedom.

You and I have All Is Lost moments in our real lives.

We have Epiphanal Moments.

Here is mine, from The War of Art:

 

I washed up in New York a couple of decades ago, making

twenty bucks a night driving a cab and running away fulltime

from doing my work. One night, alone in my $110-amonth

sublet, I hit bottom in terms of having diverted myself

into so many phony channels so many times that I couldn’t

rationalize it for one more evening. I dragged out my ancient

Smith-Corona, dreading the experience as pointless, fruitless,

meaningless, not to say the most painful exercise I could

think of. For two hours I made myself sit there, torturing out

some trash that I chucked immediately into the shitcan. That

was enough. I put the machine away. I went back to the

kitchen. In the sink sat ten days of dishes. For some reason I

had enough excess energy that I decided to wash them. The

warm water felt pretty good. The soap and sponge were

doing their thing. A pile of clean plates began rising in the

drying rack. To my amazement I realized I was whistling.

It hit me that I had turned a corner.

I was okay.

I would be okay from here on.

Do you understand? I hadn’t written anything good. It

might be years before I would, if I ever did at all. That

didn’t matter. What counted was that I had, after years

of running from it, actually sat down and done my work.

 

That was my epiphanal moment.

My hero’s journey was over.

My artist’s journey had begun.

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“This Might Not Work … “

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 14, 2018

 

Stealing a phrase (above) from Seth Godin, I’m going to try something a little different over the next few weeks and maybe more.

I’m gonna serialize a book I’ve been working on.

Consider the course and contour of this artist’s journey …

The book is about writing.

I don’t have a title yet but the premise is that there’s such a thing as “the artist’s journey.”

The artist’s journey is different from “the hero’s journey.”

The artist’s journey is the process we embark upon once we’ve found our calling, once we know we’re writers but we don’t know yet exactly what we’ll write or how we’ll write it.

These posts will be a bit longer than normal, just because that’s how chapters in a book fall. I don’t wanna post truncated versions that are so short they don’t make sense, just because that’s where chapters happen to break.

Please let me know if you hate this.

I’ll stop if it’s not worth our readers’ time or if our friends find the material boring.

That said, let’s kick it off.

Starting with the epigraph, here’s the beginning of this so-far-untitled book:

 

 

 

I found that what I had desired all my life was not to live—if what others are doing is called living—but to express myself. I realized that I had never had the least interest in living, but only in this which I am doing now, something which is parallel to life, of it at the same time, and beyond it. What is true interests me scarcely at all, nor even what is real; only that interests me which I imagine to be, that which I had stifled every day in order to live.

Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

 

 

B    O    O   K         O    N   E

 

 T     H     E       H     E     R     O’     S       J     O     U     R     N     E     Y

 

A   N   D       T   H   E     A   R   T   I   S   T’   S       J   O   U   R   N   E   Y

 

 

  1. THE SHAPE OF THE ARTIST’S JOURNEY

 

 

Consider the course and contour of this artist’s journey:

 

          Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

          The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle

          Born to Run

          Darkness on the Edge of Town

          The River

          Nebraska

          Born in the U.S.A.

          Tunnel of Love

          Human Touch

          Lucky Town

          The Ghost of Tom Joad

          Working on a Dream

          Wrecking Ball

          High Hopes

 

Or this artist’s:

 

       Goodbye, Columbus

       Portnoy’s Complaint

       The Great American Novel

       My Life as a Man

       The Professor of Desire

       Zuckerman Unbound

       The Anatomy Lesson

       The Counterlife

       Sabbath’s Theater

       American Pastoral

       The Human Stain

       The Plot Against America

       Indignation

       Nemesis

 

Or this artist’s:

 

          Clouds

          Ladies of the Canyon

          Blue

          For the Roses

          Court and Spark

          The Hissing of Summer Lawns

          Hejira

          Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

          Wild Things Run Fast

          Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm

          Night Ride Home

          Turbulent Indigo

 

Clearly there is a unity (of theme, of voice, of intention) to each of these writers’ bodies of work.

There’s a progression too, isn’t there? The works, considered in sequence, feel like a journey that is moving in a specific direction.

 

          Bob Dylan

          The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

          The Times They Are a-Changin’

          Highway 61 Revisited

          Blonde on Blonde

          Bringing It All Back Home

          Blood on the Tracks

          Desire

          John Wesley Harding

          Street-legal

          Nashville Skyline

          Slow Train Coming

          Hard Rain

          Time Out of Mind

          Tempest

          Shadows in the Night

 

A strong case could be made that the bodies of work cited above (and those of every other artist on the planet) comprise a “hero’s journey,” in the classic Joseph Campbell/C.G. Jung sense.

I have a different interpretation.

I think they represent another journey.

I think they represent “the artist’s journey.”

 

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
63 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

How Steven Spielberg Handles his Villains

By Steven Pressfield | Published: February 7, 2018

 

Steven Spielberg loves to tease us with his villains.

It's twice as scary when you DON'T see the shark

It’s twice as scary when you DON’T see the shark

He shows them only indirectly.

In the audience we see the effects of the Bad Guys’ actions, but we rarely see the malefactors themselves.

This is tremendously powerful because it makes us imagine what the forces of evil look like, and that’s always scarier than actually seeing them in blinding daylight.

Remember the scene in Jaws with the three yellow barrels? Our heroes in their boat (Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw) harpoon the shark with cables linked to three huge yellow air-tank-like barrels. The barrels float on the ocean surface, enabling our hunters (and us) to see the shark’s movements from the boat even when the finned menace is submerged.

The great cinematic moment is when the three barrels go churning across the surface at high speed toward the boat, then dive under and come up on the other side.

We never see the shark.

But wow, how we imagine him.

That dude, we can’t help but say to ourselves, must be HUGE!

Likewise Spielberg doesn’t really show us the Meanies pursuing E.T. We see only their flashlight beams searching for the little guy, or their keys jangling on their work belts as they close in on him.

The giant spaceship wasn’t really the villain in Close Encounters but it felt like at least an ominous, unknown force at the start. Again, Spielberg withheld for most of the movie all direct sight of this entity.

We saw headlights and amber lights behind Richard Dreyfuss’s pickup truck. We saw screws mysteriously jiggling out of their sockets on Melinda Dillon’s floor and crazy lights flashing under her door jamb. The whole house shook. Electric toy cars began scooting across the floor. Melinda’s little son became mesmerized by the lights appearing outside.

Melinda Dillon as the mom in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"

Melinda Dillon as the mom in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

But we never saw the space ship.

Ridley Scott worked the same magic in the original Alien. We saw the nasty little bugger (the Alien, not Mr. Scott) burst out of John Hurt’s chest and flee into the darkness of the huge space vessel. But after that, the scares all came from shadows and images on search screens, mixed with the odd Holy Crap pop-up of the monster, followed by an instantaneous cut-away.

You and I could profit by stealing this trick from these great scare-meisters.

Keep the villain present and aggressive in the effects he produces, but show him overtly as little as possible.

 

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
8 Comments
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