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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Book I’ve Been Avoiding My Whole Life

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 9, 2014

I never talk about a book while I’m working on it. It’s bad luck. The Muse doesn’t like it.

"The Lion's Gate," non-fiction coming May 6

That’s why, although I’ve been working for the past three years on a project that’s been all-consuming for me, I haven’t offered a peep on this blog.

But now the book is done. It’s in production; the first finished copies are coming off the presses now. The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War will be published by Penguin/Sentinel on May 6.

Now that the book is finished, I’m gonna become a blabbermouth. I’m going to write about it here on the blog. We’ll start next week. Posts will appear on Mondays and Fridays (Writing Wednesdays will continue uninterrupted each Wednesday, after the initial kick-off post next week.)

The Lion’s Gate is a non-fiction book about the Six Day War of 1967, the war that re-drew the maps of the Middle East and laid the foundation for most of the turmoil that has been roiling that region—and the world—ever since. But it’s a lot more than that for me. I’ll start talking about that next week.

Beyond the subject matter of the book, I’ll get into detail about the writing process. It’s okay to do this, I believe, as a means of helping my fellow-artists-in-the-trenches, of demonstrating for their benefit that I’m just as nutty as they are, and that my way of working is just as crazy as theirs. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Did You Like It Or So Many Other Things’d It?

By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 4, 2014

I didn’t like Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them when I first read it, yet some five years later, his short stories still drift into my head.

They arrive with Sadness and Inspiration and, in their wake, leave me struggling with the reality of the fiction.

I didn’t like Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them when I first read it. Instead, I so many other things’d Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them when I first read it—and learned from it.

In 2006 I helped share the documentary The War Tapes.

After watching a screener I sent him, a long-retired veteran relayed his plans to share the film with others.

My reply?

I’m glad you like it.

Without pause, he said:

I didn’t say I liked it. We need to learn from it.

In the years that followed, like grew with Facebook, as a popular way to nod our heads toward a book, an article, a movie, a quote, a picture, and so on – thus making like a stand-in for hate, love, amazing, tragic, astonishing, silly, wonderful, moronic, intolerable, and numerous other descriptives.

With Facebook’s watering down of like and the comments of the veteran in mind, my response to “Did you like it?” today often arrives in two parts.


Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Living in Beirut

By Steven Pressfield | Published: April 2, 2014

I’m reading a really interesting book by three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman called From Beirut to Jerusalem. It’s not a recent book; it’s from 1989 (it won the National Book Award that year). It’s about Mr. Friedman’s early years as a correspondent in the Middle East.


Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980s

Beirut in the 80s was the Hobbesian Wild West. There was a war going on with Israel; artillery shells were raining down at all hours. At the same time a Lebanese civil war was raging; local militias, criminal gangs, extremist-religious armies and kidnapping rings ran rife. Death came out of nowhere and at all hours. Entire city blocks would be leveled by truck bombs, for which no group even took the trouble to claim credit. At the morgue (when anyone cared enough to transport bodies to the morgue), corpses were not even afforded the dignity of being identified. It was an era of out-and-out anarchy, where death was frequent, random, and meaningless.

And yet people lived their lives. Kids went to school, businesses found ways to stay open, Tom Friedman pursued his journalistic calling.

Maybe the most popular Beirut mind game … was learning how to view one’s environment selectively.

I learned to be quite good at this myself. Late one afternoon in the summer of 1982, I was typing a story at the Reuters bureau when the crackle of machine-gun fire erupted in the park across the street. Another American reporter, who had just arrived in Beirut, ran to the window [and] became transfixed at the sight … he rushed over to me and said excitedly, “Did you see that? Did you see that guy? He was holding a gun like this right in his gut and shooting someone. Did you see that?”

I just looked up from my typewriter at this fellow and said, “Was he shooting at you? No. Was he shooting at me? No. So leave me alone, would you?”

As I was reading this, I was thinking: this is the artist’s life.

This is my life.

True, bombs aren’t going off on my block. But the world outside my skull is a minefield of chaos that feels, to me, a lot like Beirut in ‘82. Death, real death, happens, and it happens up close and personal. Sudden tragedies strike me and people I love, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And that’s just outside my head. Inside I’m tiptoeing past booby-traps of distraction, dereliction, laziness, arrogance, self-sabotage, not to mention spiritual upheaval and emotional disarray.

I’m living my own little Beirut every day. I’ll bet you are too. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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