Photo by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash

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.

In other news, registration for my next Deep Dive Writing Intensive opens today.

Check it out here: https://calledtowrite.com/deep-dive

 

 

 

Photos by Carlos Quintero on Unsplash and Ales Krivec on Unsplash

Get Steven Pressfield’s latest book for free

If you haven’t seen the news yet, Steven Pressfield has a new book out called Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What To Do About It.

You can download a copy of the ebook for free for the next week or so (click this link to go to the download page). There’s no email opt-in required.

I love this for so many reasons. Among them:

1. I adore Steven Pressfield’s books about writing. He says this one picks up where The War of Art takes off, which is one of my all time favorite books about writing and always gets me to sit up a little straighter when I read it. My other all time favorite is one of his other books Turning Pro. So you can imagine that I’m thrilled to read the next one.

2. It’s a very cool marketing strategy. Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne, the co-founders of Black Irish Books, take the long view when it comes to publishing and marketing. They believe in building a loyal audience and spreading by word of mouth. They believe in the value of what they publish and know that getting it out there is a huge part of the process.

3. They’re taking a casual approach to their offer. They’re not forcing an opt-in (though there is certainly a time and place for that when building a list and a platform). And they’re leaving the decision as to how long the offer stays open up in the air a bit. This speaks to their confidence and experience in a powerful way. These guys are comfortable about what they are doing, and it shows.

4. It’s got a great title. I’m reminded of the oft-shared article, “I Will Not Read Your F*cking Script”, which had me in stitches when I read it. This title speaks to the angst we writers experience over trying to get our stuff looked at … and WHY people may not want to, something we all could use a little education about, I’m sure. I can’t wait to read it.

5. Because I’m a lifer when it comes to being a Pressfield fan, it’s fun to get to share this with you. Ordinarily I wouldn’t share a book with my audience without reading it first. But because I know, like, and trust Steven Pressfield and his work, I’m happy to put it out there. When we think about this from a marketing perspective regarding our own work, there are lessons to be learned in spades here.

Go forth and download!

Enjoy. And let me know what you think when you read it. I’ll be diving into it soon myself.

Warmly,

Jenna

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 TODAY, 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.

And the winners are…

Thanks to the almost 100 of you who participated in my Called to Write Survey!
I appreciate your input so very much.

It was fascinating to look over the results.

So many of us feel called to write, but struggle with all the challenges of bringing it into reality.

For instance, in answer to the question, “Do you feel that you are called to write?”

  • 71% answered “without a doubt
  • 21% answered “would like to believe that
  • 8% answered “not sure

But even though so many of us feel called to write, there are still lots of struggles with procrastinating, being too busy, being uncertain about what to work on, and more.

I’ll be looking further at the data and seeing what else I can glean, as well as reviewing all the great questions and issues all of you brought up. Thank you so much!

And without further ado… 

Our book drawing winners!

Here are the TWENTY winners from our random number generated drawing:

  1. Courtney
  2. Dorit 
  3. Michele (with one ‘L’)
  4. Debi
  5. Beth
  6. Jodie
  7. Marion
  8. Steven
  9. Karen
  10. Rebecca
  11. Christine (@yahoo)
  12. Jo Ann
  13. Risa
  14. James
  15. Antoinette
  16. Amy
  17. Linda D.
  18. Nikki
  19. Candace
  20. Selen

I don’t have last initials for everyone, but everyone has been emailed who won (check your spam folder if you think your name is on the list but you don’t see an email from us).

IMPORTANT: Winners have until Monday, August 31 at 12 noon Pacific Time to respond with their mailing address and book preference, after that we will move on to our Runners Up.

 

Thanks again to everyone who participated!

 

 

Share your input + be entered to win

I’m working on prepping a class called “Called to Write: How to Align Your Daily Actions with Your Soul’s Deeper Purpose” and I’d love to have your input.

If you can spare a few minutes of your time to fill out a short survey, I would be grateful!

Everyone who participates will be entered into a random drawing to win a print copy of The War of Art or Turning Protwo of my favorite books by Steven Pressfield. Multiple copies are available, courtesy of the lovely Callie Oettinger at Black Irish Books, so there will be multiple winners!

The drawing will be held on Wednesday, August 26th and winners will be announced then.

You can enter the drawing and participate in the survey by clicking here.

Thank you so much!

What if you treated your writing like a business?

I seem to have a business mindset at the forefront right now (see my post from last week about criteria for bestowing grants), which isn’t surprising when you consider that we’re going through a marketing phase in my screenwriting master class at ScreenwritingU right now.

Sonya commented on last week’s post saying, “[this] is very close to the same list of things investors want to see when considering an investment in a business; a book and author are no different for a grantor (or publisher, for that matter)! They are an investment, and a risk, to manage.”

It fits right in with this idea that’s been swirling around in my brain: What if we treated writing like a business?

When I was in my early 20’s applying for jobs, my father taught me to look at myself as a asset that I was bringing to the job interview. As if I was the CEO of my own small company, and it was up to me to make smart business decisions based on my skills, talents, and abilities, and to communicate about them objectively to my prospective employers. He also taught me to consider whether or not that employer was a good fit for me, not just whether or not I was a good fit for them. 

In other words, it had to be a good match for everyone.

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to think about our writing endeavors as their own kind of enterprise. After all, at the end of the day, many of really are writer-entrepreneurs, even those of us that get traditional publishing deals. 

I’m sure there are artists out there right now rolling their eyes, talking about art for art’s sake and all that.

But I don’t really mean this in a grasping, heavy-handed business-y / gross marketing kind of way. (Though I do believe in grounded, sustainable marketing as a valuable thing — I do not subscribe to the belief that all marketing is evil and wrong.)

What I mean is this:

  • What if we look at every writing project we take on as an investment, with pros and cons and viability to consider ALONG WITH our level of passion and artistic interest and commitment in it?
  • What if we make real, practical choices about developing our skills in order to do our best work, by evaluating our writing skills not with a fixed mindset, but with a growth mindset, and pursue training and mentoring accordingly?
  • What if we treat our writing like a professional commitment and show up every day to do the work?
  • What if we set specific goals for our writing projects and careers and check in on them monthly, quarterly, and yearly to see how we were doing?
  • What if we think about a project from start to finish, including how we will take it to market?
  • What if we wrote because we said we would, and didn’t wait until we “felt like it”?

Again, I don’t say any of this to suggest “selling out” or becoming overly commercial.

To me it’s more about the mindset of being a professional and taking our work seriously.

diamonds

And, as I write this, I also know that I love exploring the side of writing that puts the focus on the joy and passion of it.

I believe there is a lovely hybrid of business and pleasure that feels like a sweet spot for each one of us. That’s what I mean when I use the word “calling“. More about that to come in a future post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the blog.

 

 

Going pro

Over the last week, I’ve seen a lot of conversation about being professional. In part this was from a writer’s perspective, but it also came up in the broader context of reading Steven Pressfield’s new book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, which is a book for “artists, entrepreneurs, and athletes whose ambition is … to pursue their heart’s calling and make it work.”

If I had to pick one role model to follow, I’d be hard pressed not to choose Steven Pressfield. He’s inspiring, practical, and amazing, and a man after my own heart. If I stand for anything, it’s about helping you get out of your own way and do what you were put here to do.

Do the work

What I love about Steven’s work is that he doesn’t say that it will be easy, that you should do what you love and the money will follow, or any of that.

What he says, instead, is that doing the work is hard. That we have to face our fears everyday and get our butts in our seats no matter what to do the work — whatever it is.

Passion is a misnomer

I also read yesterday that passion is a misnomer (I’ve written about this subject before myself). In this guest essay, Joshua Fields Millburn points out:

“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy every aspect of it.

“In fact, I’ve found the opposite to to be true. While writing my first masterpiece, Falling While Sitting Down, it was a miserable experience 80% of the time. Seriously, much of the time I wanted to put my head through a wall. But the other 20% was magical and exciting and made all the suffering and drudgery well worth it.

“The key is pushing through the tedium of the 80%, so you can find the beauty beneath the banality; it’s there, plentiful in that remaining 20%. You have to tolerate the pain, if you want to pursue your dream.”

Turning pro means being a grown up

When I talked with Elaine yesterday about writing, we agreed with Joshua. Pursuing anything meaningful is hard, a lot of the time. It takes being a grown up and facing the hard sucky parts to get to the other side of completion. It means surfing the waves of pain and self-doubt, sitting on the throne of agony, and doing the work.

It’s time we started telling the truth about that.

Remember, even Ray Kinsella went through his own kind of hell before people came to his field of dreams.

What if we loved even the crummy parts?

And while it’s tempting to pursue one’s calling with the focus on the magical 20% — the epiphanies, sudden insights, and flashy Elvis moments — I can’t help wondering, isn’t it worth it to enjoy ALL of it?

In my post yesterday, I asked you to share your questions for me (which I’m having fun answering — come post one if you haven’t already), and Mary asked, “What’s your story of ‘turning pro?'”

Here’s my answer: The day I turned pro with my writing was the day that I realized that if someone offered me $10,000,000 with the condition that I could never write again, I would turn them down. I knew with incredible conviction that I want to write — I must write — and I will allow nothing to stop me. Not even the bad days where I think I can’t write myself out of a shoebox let alone put a whole script together.

Now the only questions about my writing are: What to write, what to write next, and how to make my writing better and hone my craft. And then what to write after that.

That was the day I turned pro.

When you just can’t do anything else

Steven Pressfield tells a similar story. He talks about how despite his doubts and failures, he knew that he simply couldn’t do anything else but write, and when he tried anything else, he couldn’t stand it. So he had no choice but to keep writing. And he did.

I’m with him.

Bottom line

Dr. Phil talks about making “life decisions.” These are unalterable, no-turning-back decisions where you are all in. To me, that’s what it means to turn pro. What about you?

Your turn

Share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.

Warmly,

 Jenna

Coming Attractions

~> July 5th. Last day to register for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle. For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

~> July and August. It’s almost time for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group. Are you interested in grabbing a spot before we sell out? Email my team and we’ll put you on the advanced notification list. Find out more at http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.com

 

What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth through ScreenwritingU.

~> September 18 to 20th. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU event to meet with producers and agents.

~> September 21st to 22nd. Staying on in Hollywood for the InkTip Pitch Summit.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Reading Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix with my little boy and Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey on my own. Still in the queue: (500) Days of Summer, Another Earth, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, while we’re finishing up watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones. Amazing! (Yep, I read all the books too.)