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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Why the Raiders Suck

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 15, 2014

Readers who follow this blog will have already guessed what today’s post is going to be about:

Personal culture.

Gruden

Jon Gruden. Could Chucky turn Al Davis' franchise around?

The Oakland Raiders are an example of an institutional culture. The Raiders are the poster child for a losing culture. No matter what players the Raiders draft or acquire in free agency, no matter what coach they hire or what new quarterback they install, they still stink. (Yes, I am a Raiders fan.) The losing culture is so entrenched and so powerful that it cannot be overcome. At least not yet. (Jon Gruden, are you listening?)

But let’s get back to ourselves as artists and entrepreneurs. We too have cultures.

Internal personal cultures.

These cultures are identical to institutional cultures except they’re one-person versions, and they exist entirely within our own heads.

Like institutional cultures these personal cultures consist of our histories; our records of success or failure; our assumptions about ourselves and the world; our expectations, fears, and hopes; our methodologies, our skills, and so forth.

One element is common however to all cultures, personal and institutional.

That element is Resistance.

Cultures evolve in response to Resistance.

Successful cultures overcome Resistance. Unsuccessful cultures are overcome by Resistance.

Where do cultures come from?

We breathe them in from birth—our national culture, our religious culture, our ethnic culture. These form our baseline. Over these, specific and unique organizational and personal cultures become overlain.

If you were born and raised in the American consumer society you have already, whether you realize it or not, imbibed and internalized an extremely insidious, pernicious, and toxic personal culture.

Where did this Toxic Culture come from?  From well-meaning parents and positively-intentioned teachers, from traditional role models such as Congress, the President, the Supreme Court (stop me if you’ve heard this before). This toxic culture consists of consumerism, conformity, faux “liberation” and the affectation of self-conscious “irony,” from the values implicit in the prescription of Adderal and Ritalin; from political correctness; gangsta and wannabe-gangsta self-conception and presentation; from “self-esteem;” narcissism, shallowness, laziness, lack of work ethic, pursuit of external stimulation; from entitlement, worship of celebrity, instant gratification, nerd culture, self-indulgence, flight from adversity, pursuit of third-party validation, etc.

This is the mass culture that you and I inhale from movies, TV, pop music, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. It’s the sea we swim in. We can see it no more than a flounder can see the Pacific Ocean.

This culture has to go. It must be eradicated by you and me and replaced, component by component, by an internally-originated, self-generated and self-approved personal culture. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
40 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Why Do Authors Still Approach Traditional Media Outlets?

By Callie Oettinger | Published: October 10, 2014

Roger Sutton made waves this past week for writing “An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed,” which begat “No, I don’t want to read your self-published books” by Ron Charles, itself a G-rated echo of Josh Olson’s “I will not read your fucking script.”

If you care about my thoughts on Sutton’s and Charles’ pieces, read “Dearest Writer: Nobody Owes You Shit” by Chuck Wendig, who said exactly what I would have if I had his writing chops and wasn’t too lazy to write something myself.

There’s one thing about Charles’ piece that I would like to discuss here. It’s a question Sutton asked after Charles contacted him:

“And if old media is so passe, why do they care so much about what we think?”

Why indeed?

We talk all the time about traditional media, how they aren’t relevant and don’t push sales as in days of yore. Blah, blah, blah, and more blah… But . . . .

We still go to them.

Why? Follow-the-Leader (a.k.a. The Domino Effect), Following and Conversation. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
21 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Becoming Our Own Editors

By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 8, 2014

Last Wednesday’s post ended with this:

Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in "The Way We Were"

The writer these days has to be her own editor. It’s tough, but true.

You and I have to learn the craft, whether we want to or not.

Writers today have to be their own editors because it’s so hard to find a real editor, meaning someone who understands story structure and can help the writer whip her work into ready-for-prime-time shape. The breed has become extinct, alas, at most publishing houses (or those who carry the title of editor and have the chops are so busy with material acquisition, marketing, and internal politics that they don’t have time to sit down and work with their writers in the old-school, Maxwell-Perkins, hands-on manner.)

It’s probably a good thing that we writers have to be our own editors. After all, who if not us should be responsible for the shape of our work?

But how do we become our own editors? What skills do we need? Where can we acquire these skills?

The editor’s primary creative contribution—i.e.,the skill that you and I need to master—is this:

The editor understands narrative structure. He knows what makes a story work. He understands genre. He knows that every story falls into a genre, and that every genre has conventions. He knows what those conventions are, and he understands how to use them.

Have you taken Robert McKee’s class in Story Structure? Take it. Take his class in Love Story. Take his class in Thriller. Whatever he’s teaching, take it.

Read Stephen King’s On Writing.

Read writers’ blogs.

Read Shawn’s blog here on Fridays and at www.storygrid.com.

Read everything you can on the subject of story structure and story analysis.

Keep reading. Keep watching movies. Learn the skill of editing the same way editors learn it. Study stuff that works (and stuff that doesn’t) and ask yourself, “How did the writer do that? How did she achieve this power, this emotion, this meaning?”

When you and I find a book or movie that we love, we have to read it and watch it over and over. Take notes. Ingest it. Pick it apart page by page and frame by frame till we understand how it works as well as the writer or filmmaker who created it.

Shawn’s concept of the Story Grid wasn’t handed to him on a platter. He figured it out on his own by reading and thinking and reading and thinking some more after that.

Can you analyze Hamlet?

Can you break down Blade Runner or The Usual Suspects or Taken 2? (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
18 Comments
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