Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Giving Myself Some Props

By Steven Pressfield
Published: October 11, 2017


Okay, it’s done.

Today I wrap Draft #14 of the project that’s been kicking my butt and send it in to Shawn.

Jurgen Prochnow as the skipper in "Das Boot"

Jurgen Prochnow as the skipper in “Das Boot”

Will it fly? We’ll see. But for the moment (a short moment), my job becomes about self-validation, i.e. giving myself some props.

These “Reports from the Trenches” have been going on now for five and a half months. That means I’ve been rewriting a crashed-and-burned manuscript for that long.


Good job, Steve! Whatever happens, you have risen to the occasion. You have performed like a pro. You did not crap out (okay, maybe you whined and sniveled a little) and you did not go into the tank. Half a warm beer for you!


But seriously …

Who else is gonna give you and me a pat on the back if we don’t do it ourselves? Our spouse maybe. Our agent. A good friend or two.

Their kind words are valid and much appreciated.

But the thing is … they don’t know. They can’t really. The only one who really knows is you and me.

Remember the training sequence in the first Rocky? With the theme music, “Flying High Now,” in the background as Rocky completes his final sprint up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum? That was great. It was stirring. You had to love it.

But in the real word, what would’ve happened was Rocky would have gone from there to a preliminary bout, stepped into the ring, and been kayoed in the first round by some ham-and-egg fighter that nobody, including Rocky, had every heard of.

THEN the real work would’ve started.

Back to gulping those six raw eggs at four-thirty on a freezing winter morning. Back to jogging through the flower market, racing along the wharf, and punching frozen sides of beef in Pauly’s meat locker.

Do it all again, the second time. Without the theme music.

Can you do that? Have you done it? I take my hat off to you. That thankless, glamourless passage is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

Rocky woulda done it. And you and I would too.

It may seem silly to give ourselves kudos. It may seem vain and even a little preposterous. But this, like the work itself, is the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

One of my favorite scenes in a movie (and the source of the “half a warm beer” reference) comes from Wolfgang Petersen’s great submarine film, Das Boot. Have you seen it? About a German U-boat in WWII? A young war correspondent (meant to be the audience’s window into the film) is just joining the seasoned crew of a submarine about to put out to sea. The sub has been refitting in port for several weeks; the crew has been laboring non-stop; the at-sea shakedown has been completed … the vessel is ready to set forth. The crew assembles on deck. A young lieutenant serves as a guide and escort to the correspondent. The captain, played by Jurgen Prochnow, finally appears.


                                                YOUNG LIEUTENANT

(to correspondent)

Now comes the speech.


The skipper steps up before the men.



Now, men. Everything set?


The crew shouts “Yes, sir.” The captain smiles, nods, and turns to board the vessel.



(to correspondent)

Some speech, huh?


And he too hustles off to board the sub.


That’s my idea of self-validation. Between you-and-me and you-and-me.

We know.

We understand.

It’s enough.

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Posted in Writing Wednesdays



Steven Pressfield

steve {at} stevenpressfield {dot} com

Shawn Coyne

coyne85 {at} gmail {dot} com

Callie Oettinger

callie {at} o-a-inc {dot} com

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