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What It Takes

What It Takes

Too Old For Heroes

By Shawn Coyne
Published: February 27, 2015

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Like you, every Wednesday morning, with my first cup of coffee in hand, I sit down and read Steve’s WRITING WEDNESDAY posts.

Preeminent listener, E E Cummings..."nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands"

His recent series on “killer scenes” and the ways in which he constructs his work have been off the charts for me.  Here’s what I love about them:

  • They’re personal…Steve does not pretend to be speaking from Mount Olympus.  He’s just giving us the straight dope about how he keeps his writing engines primed and working at peak efficiency. I was reminded of the importance of these idiosyncratic methodologies we all develop from Jeremy Anderberg’s Twitter post that linked to Hemingway’s interview in the Paris Review.  If Papa was timid talking about his process, fearful that to talk about it is to dissipate its magic, you know this stuff ain’t for the faint hearted.
  • They’re Meta-entertaining.  I love reading about how people create things.  What went through their minds.  How they solve problems.  It’s the classic “origin story” Subgenre of the Performance Genre.  Which as you know has the core value of Honor/Shame.  The trick is to honor your process, not to degrade or cheese it up for profit.  You’ve got to be truthful. And yes, as Steve proves over and over again, you can write about writing with honor.
  • They’re Inspiring.  I’m an editor/Right Brain kind of writer.  What that means is that I want to create a lot of little boxes or units of story, fill them up, polish them and then link them all together.  I start from the structural point of view.  That’s what makes me comfortable.

Reading about how Steve does it from the Left Side of the brain takes away a lot of the terror I’ve associated with the Muse.  I’m the kind of person who thinks the Muse has no interest in me.  I’m a blue-collar worker just banging out the word count and then getting out the sander after I’ve got some knotty pine to smooth.

It’s obvious that Steve does not do anything of the sort that I do.  He does not construct his stories so much as he tunes in and listens to his inner word whisperer.  He then pulls out the meaning of the messages that come to him from the great unknown.

Of course he’s a pro, though.  He wears the same blue-collar I do.

He knows all of the stuff I know (more even) so he organizes the messages in a general/global structure that aligns perfectly with Story nerd systems like mine.  He knows he needs inciting incidents, progressive complications, crises, climaxes and resolutions in every scene he writes etc., but instead of working to fill up boxes, he thinks about the whole trunk first.

I find his technique terrifying.

If I can’t label something and put it inside a methodology, I just as soon toss it in the trash can.  But after having read Steve’s Killer Scenes series, I feel better.  I’m more open to the quantum soup.  I’m not so quick to toss out a phrase that somehow jumps into my brain.  Now I’m putting them in little folders to marinate.

Which brings me to the title of this post…TOO OLD FOR HEROES.
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Do The Work

Steven Pressfield is the author of the most important book you've never read: The War of Art. It will help you understand why you're stuck, it will kick you in the pants, and it will get you moving. You should, no, you must buy a copy as soon as you finish reading this.

In this manifesto, Steve gets practical, direct, and personal. Read it fast; then read it again and take notes. Then buy a copy for everyone else who's stuck and push them to get to work as well.

—From the Foreword to Do The Work by Seth Godin

Do The Work isn't so much a follow-up to The War of Art as it is an action guide that gets down and dirty in the trenches. Say you've got a book, a screenplay or a startup in your head but you're stuck or scared or just don't know how to begin, how to break through or how to finish. Do The Work takes you step-by-step from the project's inception to its ship date, hitting each predictable 'Resistance point' along the way and giving techniques and drills for overcoming each obstacle. There's even a section called 'Belly of the Beast' that goes into detail about dealing with the inevitable moment in any artistic or entrepreneurial venture when you hit the wall and just want to cry 'HELP!'

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