By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 1, 2013
Not long ago I took a wilderness trek with an old friend who had been the commander of a Recon company in the army. We were out in the boonies for five days, with no check-ins with civilization. I had never done this kind of thing before and I noticed two things:
It ain't so easy, navigating in the boonies
One, my friend was completely confident of our whereabouts at all times.
Two, we were lost at least half the time.
A phrase kept re-appearing in my friend’s conversation: “In the end, we’ll succeed.”
At first I didn’t pick up on this theme, but after the twentieth time or so, I started saying it myself. It was a great mantra, and I think it applies equally well to such diverse enterprises as writing a novel or starting a business or undertaking any long-term, high-aspiration project.
What is a “Recon commander” anyway? As my friend explained it, recon teams or platoons (among many other assignments) guide larger formations across unfamiliar territory. Their job is to go into the unknown and make it known to those who follow. My friend’s vintage is the era before the invention of the GPS or other satellite-based navigational technology. He’s old school. A map. A compass. The sun.
I know from unimpeachable history that my friend is a superb land navigator. But, trust me, when you’re out in the deep boonies with no highways or man-made landmarks within miles, everything starts looking like everything else. My friend taught me about “blind maps”—a map with no place names on it, just topographical features. It’s amazing how hard it is to scan the horizon and say, “Ah, that peak over there is this peak on the map.”
By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 24, 2013
A friend who’s a painter sent me this in an e-mail:
When you write, are you coming from your gut/heart, or from a merchandising view? Both?
When you're the Boss, love is money
It got me thinking about the old Hollywood axiom, “One for love, one for money.” This is the wisdom proffered in good faith to writers, actors and directors by their agents. It means, “Alternate the projects you work on. Do one that’s commercial, then do the next ‘for art.’”
The counselor offering that advice is trying to steer her client’s career between Scylla and Charybdis. Don’t be too precious and work only on artsy-fartsy stuff. But at the same time, don’t be so mercenary that you stick only to surefire commercial trash. Glide back and forth. Keep your hand in both worlds. The “one for money” will pay the rent, the “one for love” will feed your soul.
Of course most of us aren’t lucky enough to even get this choice. We don’t have the luxury of turning down paying gigs. But let’s set that hardball reality aside for the moment. The question on the table is: “Do you work from your gut/heart or from a merchandising point of view?”
Here’s how this issue has played out in my career:
I’ve been trying to sell out for years. My problem is I can’t find anyone to sell out to. I’ve tried to go commercial. I’ve tried to pick surefire winners. Every time I do, I crash and burn.
Now I may be an exception. My case may not apply to others. I’m a spec writer, not a writer-for-hire. Meaning what I like to do is invent my own stuff, then roll the dice on whether or not I can sell it. Someone in that boat doesn’t have the luxury of fielding offers. I might have a different opinion if I did.
The question remains: what criteria do I apply to a spec project of my own? Do I choose the one that feels commercial? Or do I go with the one I love?
By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 17, 2013
If you wanna get strong, go to the gym.
How to get to Carnegie Hall
If you wanna get fast, go to the track.
If you wanna get rich, go to (I’ve never figured that one out).
The point is: where the body goes, the spirit follows.
Therefore, move thy butt.
Put your ass where your heart wants to be.
If you want to paint, don’t agonize, don’t ikonize, don’t self-hypnotize. Shut up and get into the studio. Once your physical envelope is standing before the easel, your heart and mind will follow.
If you want to write, plant your backside in front of the typewriter. Don’t get up from the chair, no matter how many brilliantly-plausible reasons your Resistance-churning brain presents to you. Sooner or later your fingers will settle onto the keys. Not long after that, I promise, the goddess will slip invisibly but powerfully into the room.
That’s the trick. There’s nothing more to it. (more…)