THE STORY GRID: A Five Part Video Series from Shawn Coyne.

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Steal Without Shame, Part Three

By Steven Pressfield
Published: November 18, 2015

My friend Dave wrote to me a week ago with a problem.

James Patterson, seen here on his course, maintains a big file of NEW IDEAS

James Patterson, seen here on his course, maintains a big file of NEW IDEAS

How do we as artists and entrepreneurs transition to the next project?

Dave had just turned in a manuscript. He was trying to get the next idea going. The problem was he didn’t know what that idea was going to be.

For me, the transition is as pernicious a Resistance war as the previous project’s attack towards the finish line. Yes, I know we’re supposed to show up, buckle in, lace up the work boots, and “start the next one tomorrow.” [But] sometimes [we]¬†write and write and it still isn’t feeling right. At the same time, we watch our cash flow dwindle and slowly lose our mojo.

This is what I am fighting right now.

Here’s what I wrote back:

Oddly enough, I was just watching (yesterday) the MasterClass course on writing taught by James Patterson —¬† — and he was saying how he keeps a GIANT file of ideas and is constantly adding to it. I do that too.

The ideal situation is to have Idea #2 long before you finish Idea #1. My goal is to have a month or two’s work already done on #2 by the time I wrap #1. Then there is no transition. No agony.

This counsel, of course, was a little late to help Dave. So I added this:

I’m a big believer, when you’re stuck, in stealing. I don’t mean outright ripping off or plagiarism, but rather a benign and respectful mass exposure to everything that’s out here, hoping the somebody else’s stuff will trigger an idea that I can run with.

Read read read. Go to movies, concerts, gallery openings. Read new stuff. Read stuff from the ancients. Read magazines, blogs, listen to podcasts. Keeping writing. Keep working on the NEW IDEAS file, but don’t overdo it. Put your brain on “input” instead of “output” until something clicks.

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Posted in Writing Wednesdays

The Warrior Ethos

The Spartans do not ask how many are the enemy,
but where are they.
—Plutarch, Sayings of the Spartans

The Warrior Ethos was written for our men and women in uniform, but its utility, I hope, will not be limited to the sphere of literal armed conflict. We all fight wars--in our work, within our families, and abroad in the wider world. Each of us struggles every day to define and defend our sense of purpose and integrity, to justify our existence on the planet and to understand, if only within our own hearts, who we are and what we believe in.

We are all warriors. Do we fight by a code? If so, what is it? What is the Warrior Ethos? How do we (and how can we) use it and be true to it in our internal and external lives?

From the Introduction by Steven Pressfield.

[The following is from chapter 12 of The Warrior Ethos:]


All warrior cultures start with a great man.

In ancient Sparta, that man was Lycurgus. He took the city from a normal society to a warrior culture.

So that no man would have grounds to feel superior to another, Lycurgus divided the country into 9000 equal plots of land. To each family he gave one plot. Further, he decreed that the men no longer be called "citizens," but "peers" or "equals."

So that no man might compete with another or put on airs over wealth, Lycurgus outlawed money. A coin sufficient to purchase a loaf of bread was made of iron, the size of a man's head and weighing over thirty pounds. So ridiculous was such coinage that men no longer coveted wealth but pursued virtue instead.

Lycurgus outlawed all occupations except warrior. He decreed that no name could be inscribed on a tombstone except that of a woman who died in childbirth or a man killed on the battlefield. A Spartan entered the army at eighteen and remained in service till he was sixty; he regarded all other occupations as unfitting for a man.

Once a Spartan was visiting Athens. His Athenian host threw a banquet in his honor. Wishing to show off for his guest, the Athenian indicated several illustrious personages around the table. "That man there is the greatest sculptor in Greece," he declared, "and that gentleman yonder is its finest architect." The Spartan indicated a servant from his own entourage. "Yes," he said, "and that man there makes a very tasty bowl of soup."

The Athenians, of course, were outstanding warriors in their own right. The great playwright Aeschylus, composing his own epitaph, mentioned nothing of his ninety plays or of any other civilian accomplishment.

Here lies Aeschylus the Athenian. Of his courage at the battle of Marathon, the long- haired Persian could speak much.

Lycurgus decreed that no man under thirty could eat dinner at home with his family. Instead, he instituted "common messes" of fourteen or fifteen men who were part of the same platoon or military unit. Above the threshold of each mess was a sign that said:

Out this door, nothing.

The point of the common mess was to bind the men together as friends. "Even horses and dogs who are fed together," observed Xenophon, "form bonds and become attached to one another."

The payoff came, of course, on the battlefield.

Here's how Spartans got married. Lycurgus wanted to encourage passion, because he felt that a child—a boy— conceived in heat would make a better warrior. So a young Spartan husband could not live with his bride (he spent all day training and slept in the common mess). If the young couple were to consummate their love, the husband had to sneak away from his messmates, then slip back before his absence was discovered.

It was not uncommon for a young husband to be married for four or five years and never see his bride in daylight, except during public events and religious festivals.

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