15 Steven Pressfield Quotes to Inspire Your Writing

Steven Pressfield has been among my greatest sources of inspiration since I committed myself to taking my call to write seriously.

Around that time, a friend suggested I read The War of Art.

It was life-changing.

Since then, I’ve continued to be deeply inspired and motivated by his other books including Do the Work, Turning Pro, The Authentic Swing, and his newest book, The Artist’s Journey (among others). 

Steven’s work, his ideas, and his message have become a part of me. They’ve become a cornerstone for how I approach my writing practice, and what I do as a writing coach.

In fact, the core of what we offer at Called to Write could not be more perfectly aligned with The Artist’s Journey, both of which span the practical nuts and bolts of writing all the way to the more spiritual aspects of calling, destiny, and purpose. 

Today I’m sharing 15 of my favorite quotes from his books, with the intention of inspiring you, as he has inspired me.

#1. “There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.” ~ The War of Art

I have found this to be true, over and over. Every time I’m tempted to check something online or take care of something else first, it’s resistance. And this is what we do with my Called to Write Coaching Circle and my writing intensives — help writers overcome fear, doubt, and resistance, and sit down to write. Every day. For me, showing up to one of our daily writing sprints helps me press that inner “Go” button and get to work. Every time.

#2. “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” ~ The War of Art

I have very much found this to be true. Those who question their calling are the most likely to be truly called. I also find that a writer’s sense of identity is a byproduct of actually writing. In other words, once we’re writing, regularly, we feel like writers. And it’s surprising how little it takes to get to that place. 

#3. “Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” ~ The War of Art

I also loved what I heard Steve say in an interview once, “Figure out what scares you the most and do that first.” Fear (and resistance) truly shows exactly where we need to grow. If there’s a place in your writing you’re experiencing resistance, look there first. That novel idea you’re avoiding, the story you’re longing to write but you’re scared you won’t be able to do justice? Go there. 

#4. “The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. . . [he] steels himself at the start of a project, reminding himself it is the Iditarod, not the sixty-yard dash. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.” ~ The War of Art

Writing is very much about the long haul. Every screenplay I’ve embarked on has taken far longer than I’ve ever anticipated. I’ve learned now to catch myself when I start saying things like, “this will practically write itself!” and to recognize it as one of the many voices of resistance playing tricks with my mind.

#5. “Creative panic is good. Here’s why: Our greatest fear is our fear of success. When we are succeeding — that is, when we have overcome our self-doubt and self-sabotage, when we are advancing in our craft and evolving to a higher level — that’s when panic strikes. . . When we experience panic, it means we’re about to cross a threshold. We’re poised on the doorstep of a higher plane.” ~ Do the Work 

“Threshold” is a perfect word here — there are transitions in each work where panic appears. When we’re closing in the on the end, when we’re pushing our envelope. It’s fascinating how that’s often the moment when things go awry and panic sets in. The most important thing is to not make it mean anything. 

#6. “Start (Again) Before You’re Ready: I was living in a little town in northern California when I finally, after seventeen years of trying, finished my first novel. I drove over to my friend and mentor Paul Rink’s house and told him what I had done. ‘Good for you,’ he said. ‘Now start the next one.'” ~ Do the Work 

I’ve always loved this concept, because it reminds me that this is a lifetime choice for me. I’m a writer. This means I will always be writing. So when I’m done with one, I celebrate it, but then I get going on the next.

#7. On writing “A Character Smarter Than I Am: I realized something I had already known: The part of our psyche that does the writing . . . is far deeper than our personal ego. That part is tapped into a course whose wisdom far exceeds our own. All we have to do is trust it.” ~ The Authentic Swing

Something I love about Steven Pressfield is his ability to bring in the reverence and awe of drawing on our greater, wiser selves with our writing. That even while we’re doing the “blue collar” work of writing, much like digging trenches and just showing up and putting in the time, we’re also resonating with the Muse on  a higher plane. The work comes through us, when we let it. 

#8. “Aspiring artists often kill their careers in the cradle by overworrying and overthinking. Don’t do it. … You discover who you are as you go along. What defines you is what you have done, but the weird part is you never know what that’ll be until you do it. The trick is: Do it.” ~ The Authentic Swing

Just do it. Just do the writing. And I don’t mean — “just write” — I still prefer to plot and plan my work. But writing is where the answers lie, pen to paper, fingers to keys, even if I’m dialoguing with myself, noodling to figure out what I’m doing. Thinking isn’t writing. I put words on the page to find out what I think, what I know, and who I am. 

#9. “How Writing Works . . . The trick to writing, or to any creative endeavor, is that once you start, good things begin to happen. You can’t explain it. You don’t know why. An energy field is created by your love, your will, your devotion, your sweat. . . Trust it. Be brave.” ~ The Authentic Swing

Writing takes on a life of its own. Writing regularly brings a kind of self-sustaining momentum to it, once we get it going. That’s where the magic happens.

#10. “Before we turn pro, our life is dominated by fear and Resistance. We live in a state of denial. We’re denying the voice in our heads. We’re denying our calling. We’re denying who we really are. . . What changes when we turn pro is we stop fleeing.” ~ Turning Pro

Turning Pro is one of my favorite books of Steve’s. When I read it, I straighten up and get serious about my work, no matter whether I’m loving or hating it. I take it seriously. 

#11. “When we turn pro, everything becomes simple. . . We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. . . This changes our days completely. It changes what time we get up and it changes what time we go to bed. It changes what we do and what we don’t do.” ~ Turning Pro

Yes. Once we commit, we redesign and reconsider everything. We recognize the effort it takes to overcome the resistance, and design our writing lives to minimize that friction and get ourselves to the page as quickly and as easily as possible, each and every day.

#12. “The amateur believes that she must have all her ducks in a row before she can launch her start-up or compose her symphony or design her iPhone app. The professional knows better. . . Athletes play hurt. Warriors fight scared. The professional takes two aspirin and keeps on truckin’.” ~ Turning Pro

Although some might find the idea of writing hurt harsh, I’ve found that so many of the stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t write just aren’t true — and most especially those things we tell ourselves we have to have or have done first (like having more time, more money, better computers, or the bills paid, house clean, laundry done, kids off to college… you name it).  

#13. “The artist on her journey confronts no foes that are not of her own creation. Her fear is her own. . .  She has created them mentally. She can defeat them the same way.” ~ The Artist’s Journey

Most everything that stops us with our writing comes from within us. Our fears, our doubts, our excuses. Our addictions. (My experience is that grief may be an exception to this.) I love Steve’s point that we can defeat these the same way they are created. 

#14. “On the artist’s journey, all strengths are mental. . . [and] are self-generated . . . all may be acquired by effort and force of will.” ~ The Artist’s Journey

Our strengths, just like our fears and doubts, come from within as well. We can learn resilience, patience, courage, and more. 

#15. “An artist’s identity is revealed by the work she or he produces. Writers write to discover themselves… whether they realize it or not. But who is this self…? It is none other than the ‘second you’ — that wiser ‘you,’ that true, pure, waterproof, self-propelled, self-contained ‘you.'” ~ The Artist’s Journey

An underlying concept of the The Artist’s Journey is that our “second self,” the part of ourselves that is greater and wiser, is the one who writes. When we allow her to do so. I call this part our “essential self” — the part of us that remains when everything else (ego, personality, negative habits, limiting baggage) has been stripped away and we can step forward fully into ourselves and shine. Steve suggests that our role as artists is to move between our first and second selves, essentially “returning with the elixir” over and over again, as we write, even many times in day, and that the core of what we’ve been put here to do is to make that journey over and over again.

I love this.

If you’d like to check out these books for yourself, here are links to them on Amazon.com and Black Irish Books (Steve’s publishing company). The Amazon links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click on them and purchase the books that way.

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Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Our Stories Are Our Ladders to the Stars

I just watched Donovan Livingston’s Harvard commencement address. It’s truly stunning.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching, thrice over.

You can also read the full text online here too.

He spoke to the deepest part of my heart and soul, where it comes to writing, to education, to believing in ourselves and in our children and in our capacity for greatness.

I loved this:

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.

Write your stories.





The Sci-Fi Rewrite: I’m DEEP into the sci-fi rewrite I mentioned in my last post. It’s been a fascinating dive into world-building, shoring up plot holes, digging into character, and more. The project is due June 29, so I’m hoping to emerge a bit more from my writing cave then. 

New Logo Design: The fabulous Giulietta Nardone and I have been working on a new logo design for my CalledtoWrite.com website. Donovan’s speech could have been written about many of the images we’ve been working with. I cannot wait to see what we come up with. Giulietta is an amazing artist, writer, muse, and fearless explorer.

Delicious New Ideas: I’m coming with all kinds of new ideas and exciting projects. I’ve been talking with a few of my Circle members about beta testing a writer’s platform building program, among other things. I can’t wait!

Coming Up

Coaching CircleThe next session of the Called to Write Coaching Circle starts on Monday, June 20th and the last day to register and join us is Thursday, June 16 by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

Find out more and register here: http://JustDoTheWriting.com. Join us!


fittingwritingintoyourlifeI’m leading a one-week intensive called “Fitting Writing Into Your Life: Becoming a Productive Screenwriter” at Screenwriter’s University starting on August 11th and running for 7 days. It’s a three-part online recorded video presentation from me and plus online discussions, interaction, and support from me. Find out more and register here. *


* This is an affiliate link, which means I’ll earn an extra commission in addition to my teacher’s pay, if you register through me.
Photo by Greg Rakozy, used under the creative commons license.

Seeing it through to the end

On the Welcome Call for our Writer’s Circle session that started yesterday, it was fun to notice how many members were talking about finishing. So many of us were at that point of having just finished a major draft or putting the finishing touches on one.

After having run the Circle now for going on two years, it’s deeply gratifying to see so many writers reaching that milestone.

It got me to thinking about the ingredients that go into the mix to make that happen.

It strikes me that there are both internal and external aspects to these success stories. What I see on the internal side is:

  • Vision — having an idea or a calling to see something come to fruition.
  • Passion — having a love or interest or fierce desire for a specific project or idea.
  • Decision — making the decision to tackle the project.
  • Courage — having the courage to dive in to the unknown.
  • Perseverance — having the wherewithal to stick with something.
  • Intuition — knowing when something is right for you, or not.

Hopefully we have all these skills. If we don’t, we can strengthen them within ourselves. (And there are good coaches and therapists who can help us do just that.)

So yes, completing any project requires a tremendous amount of drive, determination, and courage. But even the strongest of strong-hearted among us get tripped up by a laundry list of obstacles, like:

  • Doubt — what if I can’t do it?
  • Fears  — of success, failure, rejection, disapproval, shame
  • Resistance — the force that repels us from our dreams
  • Procrastination — our tendency to put off anything that moves us toward completion of our dreams
  • Perfectionism — the belief that perfection is attainable and that if we’re not hitting it, we’re failing.
  • Bad habits — putting vices before taking action on our dreams.
  • Poor self- management — struggles with discipline, decision-making, commitment, time choices.
  • Poor self-care — not taking care of our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits.
  • Comparison with others — thinking other people are doing better than we are.
  • Obsessing about our chances of success — focusing on the big questions rather than doing our work.
  • Approval-seeking — looking outside ourselves for validation of our talent or ability.
  • Life challenges — stopping when life gets hard.

Many of these things can be solved with self-awareness and determination, and yet what I see time and again is that we can draw on resources outside ourselves to help us make it through the rough patches. Things like:

  • Support — there’s nothing quite like having other people believe in you, especially when you’ve temporarily forgotten your own skill and ability.
  • Daily accountability — having support to see it through, to keep showing up and do the daily work is deeply motivating.
  • Community — being a part of a community where you are with other people who truly “get” what you’re experiencing helps end the sense of isolation we can all experience at times.
  • Energy — the shared energy of working together, whether side by side or as a team, can move us into action when we’re otherwise flagging.
  • Inspiration — a shared spirit of energy and enthusiasm can reignite us when the going gets tough.

The question that strikes me is this: Do you have the support you need to weather the challenges of creating your dreams? If not, how can you create that for yourself? Tell us what you think in the comments.



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A letter to Ray Bradbury

Ray BradburyDear Mr. Bradbury,

Thank you.

Thank you for touching my heart and opening my eyes. For seeing me in ways I didn’t yet understand in my younger years. For showing me new worlds and new ways of seeing our world.

So many of your stories will be forever etched into my consciousness…

The tale of the man who drowned himself in the endless rain of Venus, “sitting on a rock with his head back, breathing the rain.”

The April witch, Cecy, who could flit from being to being but longed to fall in love, even if it meant giving up her powers.

The mechanical house dying after a nuclear holocaust, shadows of its family etched against its blackened siding, calling out the date and time to no one as it burned.

The Martian — the chameleon — who changed to be who others longed for and died in the maelstrom of their conflicting desires.

And the Rocket Man who died when his rocket fell into the sun, just when he had promised his family to stay home with them after one last trip.

Heart-breaking. Truthful. Painful. Gorgeous. Raw. Philosophical.

Your passionate commitment to envisioning the future has changed many lives for the better.

Your words made me think.

They made me feel.

I thank you.


Photo taken by Will Hart, used with permission under Creative Commons licensing 

Finding The Way Through Perfectionism — A Success Story

One of “my” writers in the Just Do the Writing Accountability Circle, Molly Yarrington, has taken on a brave and courageous challenge to raise $300 for charity by writing 30 poems in 30 days in the month of November.

Molly is a sensitive soul, a dreamer, a writer, a crew coach, and a poet with a passionate spirit — and like many of us (including me), one with a strong perfectionist streak.

Molly is courageously using this challenge and the support of the Writer’s Circle to push herself to publish a daily poem on her blog to overcome her fears around sharing her work with others and to tame her perfectionism.

“I have been a hermit poet most of my life.”

Molly says, “I have been a hermit poet most of my life, hiding my poems away and only sharing them with a select few best friends. When I took on this challenge, I made a commitment to write and make my writing public, daily.

“All the poems are fresh, ‘first draft‘ format. It is a rare poem I write in one sitting, so this has been a double challenge for me to share not only my poems, but poems I consider to be ‘works in progress.'”

From the inside of the Writer’s Circle (I’m writing this with her permission), I’ve watched Molly persevere through an incredibly busy time in her life to write a poem each and every day, sometimes posting with only minutes to spare, while we cheer her on.

It’s been inspiring to see Molly struggle with the feelings that come up around sharing such raw, deeply personal writing in such a public way, and do it anyway.

You see, when it comes to writing — or creating anything for that matter — we have to be willing to give ourselves permission to do it no matter what, and even to start.

And one of our biggest obstacles to starting is perfectionism, which is really fear in disguise.

Molly says it beautifully:

“Along with, and much more importantly than helping me develop a daily habit of writing, the Writer’s Circle has brought me an awareness of the real issues that have held me back, and believe me, they are NOT lack of time (though I did believe that was the primary issue when I began).

“Through my interaction with this amazing group, I have been able to see that what holds me back is nothing special — I share the same fears and concerns as everyone out there — and somehow, knowing I am not alone in this creative process, makes all the difference.”

The trick is to find ways to bypass that urge to perfect before we create something, and take the risk to get it out there.

Let Molly be your inspiration.

Find Out More About Molly’s Project

Read Molly’s poems here.

If you’d like to, you can support Molly’s pledge for the Family Literacy program of the Center For New Americans here.

Join The Writer’s Circle

If you’d like to have the support to overcome your inner struggles with writing, come join my Just Do The Writing Accountability Circle. The last day to register is TODAY, Wednesday, November 23rd for the session that starts on Monday, November 28th. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

Your Turn

How are you holding back? What are you ready to share? Tell us what you think.


Coming Attractions

~> November 28th. The next session of my Writer’s Circle starts. Sign up here. Get my Free Writing Tips series too, and get a coupon for a savings on your first session.

~> November 29th. It’s my birthday! I’ll be holding a birthday sale for the entire week. Details coming soon.


~> Ongoing. Writing for the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU. Today I worked on eliminating clichés from my script. Super cool.

~> Daily and especially Fridays. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up. Except this week sacred writing Friday became sacred writing Tuesday because of Thanksgiving. :)

Busting Through Conceptual Glass Ceilings

How do you “up” your creative game?

How do you breakthrough the limitations of your thinking and conceive of something that’s entirely original?

Or is it really true that “there’s nothing new under the sun?”

As a die hard science fiction fan, I can readily attest that nothing delights me more than new ideas and seeing things in new ways, or even seeing my own similar musings explored by like-minded wonderers. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, here comes Another Earth or Melancholia to bend my mind in new ways (haven’t seen them yet, but looking forward to them).

So how do we reach for those ideas and concepts we’ve never thought of before? How can we bust through those conceptual glass ceilings that keep us spinning the same ideas around in endless circles instead of coming up with something new?

I’ll tell you my deep dark secret: I’ve never been sure that I can. I’d like to be able to, but I’ve never trusted my creativity enough to come up with something brand new.

But I like to think I can.

Snap Out of It

My friend Giulietta says most of us are sleep walking through our lives.

There are days when I remember to dig my head up out of the hole of my computer, look at the sky, and remember.

Remember to breathe, to be awake, to see. Oh yeah, I’m awake, I’m alive, it’s not about how much email I “have to” answer today…

Try Something New

As I’ve explored the screenwriting industry, I’ve been thrilled to look at things with new eyes.

The big news over the last few years in the coaching industry is all about learning formulas and blueprints for success. Yawn.

What I love about my current screenwriting class is that the focus is on teaching us to take our familiar ideas and look at them from different perspectives to generate new concepts. It’s entirely refreshing.

If you’re tired of thinking about the same old things in the same old way, try learning something new and see how it translates back into your world.

Set Yourself Up for Inspiration

As I’ve been working with my creative clients around setting up sacred time for their creative endeavors, one of the things that’s become crystal clear is that it is not necessarily in those precise minutes of working that inspiration happens, but that showing up regularly to the work allows the inspiration to come through then or other random moments, like in the shower or on a walk.

Most of us think we have to wait for that moment of random inspiration to occur, but by consciously creating time to put yourself through your paces, you open yourself up to possibilities.

Mind Map Your Way Out of It

I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with mind mapping and free writing lately as tools to get my creative engines whirring.

I take a “seed idea,” or a problem I’m stuck on resolving, put it at the center of my paper and start spider diagramming until I solve it (thanks to Kris for reminding me recently about this great tool).

Somehow the act of writing down EVERYTHING I’m thinking, without judgment or censorship, is what allows me to come up with new solutions. There’s so much filtering that happens internally, that otherwise those new breakthroughs might never see the light of day.

Which Reminds Me

Isn’t it interesting that so much of the sleepwalking we do in life is tied to censorship?

We’ve been so programmed to “go along” that we forget to think for ourselves.

Wouldn’t it be a brave new world if we could all bust through that conceptual ceiling?

Your Turn

What do you think about all this? I’d love to hear from you.




Coming Attractions

~> October 7th. FRIDAY. The absolute VERY LAST day to get into the current session of my Writer’s Circle. Really, don’t miss it. If you want to write but you aren’t finding the time for it or being consistent or accountable to your dream, this will give you just the kick in the pants you’re looking for. Sign up here.

~> November 10th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough ‘Big Vision’ Group. Ready to find your life purpose through an astonishingly accurate system of hand analysis and claim your big vision in the world? There’s only one spot left in this affordable small group session. I don’t know when I’ll be offering another one of these sessions, so jump in now if you’re on the fence. Personalized payment plans are available. Sign up here.


~> Next two Tuesdays. Right Brain Business Planning with my buddy Kris Carey. Wish us luck for finishing up!

~> Ongoing. Writing in 10 day stretches for the ProSeries class at ScreenwritingU. Amazing!

~> FRIDAYS & now mornings too. Sacred writing time. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

Creative Inspiration vs. Creative Resistance

Is it necessary to be “creatively inspired” before pursuing creative projects, or is waiting for creative inspiration a pitfall that trips us up?

Another way of saying this is: Do you have to be in the ‘right mood’ or ‘right energy’ in order to be creative?

Steven Pressfield would call this “resistance,” and say instead that what we need to do is show up and “do the work” no matter what pain, doubt, terror, or mood we might encounter in the process.

There’s more on this subject in my article, “Resistance is Futile.”

My experience is that often when I think I “can’t” create, and I do it anyway, the act of engaging with my art puts me in a whole new energy state, usually one that is more uplifted and inspired.

Other times, when I’m really stuck in my thinking or in a bad mood (yes, me too), I can jolt myself out of it by wondering about creative solutions, which puts me in a more resourceful creative state.

It seems like if I ask the right question, like, “I wonder how I could make my character more convincing as a tough, surly broad?” :) or “I wonder how I could make contact with the sci fi filmmakers?” all kinds of new answers start flowing to me.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you about any or all of these:

  • Do you wait for inspiration to strike when it comes to your creative projects?
  • Do you know how to draw on your inspiration at will (and if so, how do you do it)?
  • Or do you get your butt in seat and start writing (or whatever your artistic equivalent is)?


Coming Attractions

~> July & August. Doing Creative Destiny Assessments with visionary creatives ready to claim their creative destiny. Interested? Email me here to request a session.

~> August 4th. My next Life Purpose Breakthrough ‘Big Vision’ Group. SOLD OUT. Details. If you’re interested in the next group (probably in September), email my team here and we’ll add you to the list.

~> September. Beta-testing my new writer’s accountability system with a select group and offering Life Purpose Coaching Groups. Stay tuned for more info.


~> MONDAYS. Right Brain Business Planning with my buddy Kris Carey.

~> FRIDAYS. Sacred writing days. The Do Not Disturb sign is up.

~> Vacationing with my family in August (at least part of it!).