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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Clueless Asks

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 24, 2017

 

I turn down all clueless asks.

Alicia Silverstone in "Clueless:"

Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless:”

What exactly is a clueless ask?

  1. Anyone who sends me their manuscript unsolicited.
  2. Anyone who asks me to meet them for lunch.
  3. Anyone who sends me an e-mail headed “Hi” or “Hello there” (or with no salutation at all.)
  4. Anyone who asks me how to get an agent.
  5. Anyone who asks me to introduce them to my agent.

These are not malicious asks.

The writers who send them are nice people, motivated by good intentions.

They’re just clueless.

They have committed one of two misdemeanors (or both).

First, they have demonstrated that they have no respect for my time—and no concept of the value of what they’re asking me for.

Do I have two hours to meet somebody for lunch? In the middle of the working day? Why? To shoot the shit about scene construction and character development?

Or maybe the asker “admires my work” and would like to “pick my brain.”

Really?

Send me a check for $10,000 and when it clears I still won’t meet you for lunch.

Or maybe the asker wants me to blurb their new book.

Why would I do that?

Do I know them? Did we go to school together? Did we serve in the same battalion? Am I married to their sister?

The real ask in these cases is “Can I have your reputation?” In other words, “Will you give me, for free, the single most valuable commodity you own, that you’ve worked your entire life to acquire?”

The second crime these clueless askers commit is they have not done their due diligence.

Don’t ask a writer how to get an agent. Find out yourself. There are ten thousand sources online and a hundred books in the Writing section of a book store.

Don’t send a writer an e-mail with an attachment that contains your novel. What if I’m writing my own novel on that same subject? When mine comes out, you’ll sue me for plagiarism and tell the judge, “See, I sent him my book. He ripped me off!”

My lawyer won’t let me read anything that comes in unsolicited, for just this reason.

Do your research.

Learn good manners.

Find out how the business works.

My book Gates of Fire gets assigned sometimes to high school English classes. I get asks from kids to explain the theme, the structure, and the relationship of Character X to Character Y. You can see that the student (one wrote, “Please respond. Money is no object.”) has simply typed the teacher’s assignment verbatim into the e-mail.

These, I suppose, are not technically clueless asks.

They’re more like, “Hey, Stupid, lemme see if I can take advantage of you” asks.

 

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
56 Comments

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:

Courage.

Self-reliance.

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.

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
16 Comments

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.

 

And

 

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.

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
19 Comments
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