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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Writer’s Skill

By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 1, 2015

The artist’s world is mental.

Paramahansa Yogananda in the photo that came to be called "God's Boatman."

The sculptor may manipulate clay, the software writer may work with code, but, like the filmmaker and the mystic, their real tools are Shadows and Light.

The sphere of the artist is the mind.

Her currency is imagination.

She asks (how can she not?), “Where do ideas come from?”

Did Rhapsody in Blue come to Gershwin in the shower? Was J.K. Rowling baking a pie when she first imagined Hogwarts? Or was he at the piano and she at the typewriter keyboard?

Like the Zen monk or the meditator, the artist enters a mental space. An empty mental space. He becomes a child. She becomes a vessel.

They tune in to the Cosmic Radio Station and listen to whatever song is being broadcast specifically to them.

What, exactly, is the writer’s skill?

We know what a carpenter does. We can understand the work of a surgeon. But what does an artist do? Of what does her skill consist?

It’s this:

The artist enters the Void and comes back with something.

Her skill is to turn off the self-censor.

Her skill is to jump off the cliff.

Her skill is to believe.

As artists, what are we believing in? We’re believing in a model of the universe (or at least of consciousness within that universe) that is not random, not pointless, not devoid of meaning.

We’re believing in a mental reality that is active, creative, self-organizing, self-perpetuating, infinitely diverse and yet cohesive, governed by laws that are not beyond the grasp and ken of human understanding.

We’re believing that the universe has a gift that it is holding specifically for us (and specifically for us to pass on to others) and that, if we can learn to make ourselves available to it, it will deliver this gift into our hands.

Believe me, this is true. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
19 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

When Resistance Pays You a Compliment

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 24, 2015

My friend Roda is on the cusp of finishing her second novel. We were having breakfast the other day and she was telling me she was absolutely overwhelmed by Resistance. “I know the dragon gets stronger the closer you are to the finish line … but wow, this is really more than I can handle. I’m stuck. The dark side is winning.”

Alfred Molina as "Doc Ock." The bigger the dream, the bigger the Resistance.

Here’s what I told Roda:

“If you’re feeling that much Resistance, think of it as a compliment. Resistance is paying you a compliment.”

Remember: the level of Resistance we feel at any point is directly related to the power of our vision and to how important our project is to the evolution of our soul.

In other words, Resistance is telling Roda she is onto something big.

Resistance is terrified that Roda will actually push through and complete her book. It’s terrified because it knows that if Roda does, she will have become a different person, a stronger person, an artist and a professional who is not only really doing her work but who is armed, now, with a vastly increased self-confidence that she can handle anything Resistance throws at her in the future. Resistance senses that it’s at the point of losing. That’s why it’s pulling out all the stops.

I haven’t read Roda’s book. I have no idea what it’s about. But if Resistance is hammering her this hard, particularly at the finish, it’s an infallible sign that Roda is poised on the threshold of something significant—artistically, personally, and professionally.

Three laws are at work here.

1. Resistance always comes second.

What this means is that Resistance has no existence on its own. It arises (like Newton’s Third Law: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”) only in response to a creative impulse, to a dream of potentiality, to a vision of something that might be.

Your book.

Your movie.

Your orphanage in Nepal.

Resistance is the shadow that appears only after your dream arises into the sunlight of your imagination.

2. The force of Resistance (again like Newton’s Third Law) is equal and opposite to the scale of your dream and of its importance to the evolution of your soul. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
38 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Files I Work With, #5

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 17, 2015

I did some posts a few weeks ago about the five files I keep on my screen while I’m writing. I posted four but somehow spaced out doing the fifth. My apologies (and thanks to Peter Brockwell for reminding me). Here it is now:

Dante and Virgil approaching the entrance to Hell (engraving by Gustave Dore)

I call this fifth file CULLS.

Have you ever seen an inspection station for tomatoes or potatoes? A conveyor belt shuttles the fresh-from-the-field produce past a line of human checkers (usually farm kids being paid eight bucks an hour.) The good taters and peaches sail past and get boxed up for market. The bad ones get plucked out and sent to agricultural hell.

Those are the culls.

My CULLS file contains everything I’ve cut from the manuscript I’m working on. I don’t delete anything permanently. I just stash it in literary purgatory.

Here’s why I like having a CULLS file:

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
12 Comments
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