Fiction writer's advice to aspiring writers

I saw this on Stephen Pressfield’s website. He writes historically-faithful novels about war and politics in ancient Greece-- recommended, if you like that sort of thing. Anyway, here’s his advise to aspiring writers. The gist is, “Don’t worry about it so much that you don’t ever get to work and do it.” He wrote for 27 years before he sold his first novel (The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was made into with Will Smith and Matt Damon). He also has a free “Writing Wednesdays” audio course on his website.


If you’re an aspiring writer,
I’ve got good news and bad news…

First the bad news

  1. THERE IS AN ENEMY
    The playing field that you, the aspiring artist, stand upon is not level. It is stacked against you.

  2. YOU ARE THE ENEMY
    Resistance (self-sabotage, procrastination, fear, arrogance, self-doubt) is inside you. No one inflicts it on you from outside. You bring it with you from birth.

  3. RESISTANCE WILL KILL YOU
    If you don’t believe me, look around at friends and family who have talent and ambition in spades … but are drinking, doping, abusing themselves and their loved ones, wasting their lives because they can’t get out of their own way and do the work they were put on this planet to do. Trust me: you will NEVER, NEVER achieve your dreams until you learn to recognize, confront, and overcome that voice in your head that is your own Resistance.

Now the good news
4. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
You’re not “wrong” if your head is your own worst enemy. You’re not “weak.” You’re not “sick.” Everybody experiences Resistance.

Resistance is an objective force of nature, as immutable as gravity.

  1. RESISTANCE CAN BE BEATEN
    There’s no magic bullet. No hack, no trick, no tip, no class, no degree.

But you, armed with the right knowledge and resolution, can acquire the self-motivation, self-discipline, and self-belief necessary to become a focused, mentally-tough working pro.

  1. YOU’VE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE
    Whatever brought you to this site—luck, chance, maybe reading or hearing about The War of Art—doesn’t matter. Welcome! You have found an ongoing resource to help you fight and win the inner war of the writer, the artist, and the entrepreneur.
    https://stevenpressfield.com/
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Thanks man. I’m 200+ pages in (65000 words). And on the last 5 chapters of a novel I am working on…and I need motivation to succeed…aka…finish

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I hope you’re not selling it on amazon, they sell anything.

I’m on my last 10-ish chapters, so I feel ya. Good luck and good writing!

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I listened to the mini course (5 lessons, each around 10 mins. long). Here’s a summary.

  1. Resistance is an actual force of nature. Because it is built into all of us. It happens whenever we think about doing something that will make us a higher quality person. Resistance is feeling that you can’t complete the creative work, that no one will like it, that you don’t have time right now, that you don’t feel inspired, that you’d rather be doing what you do this time every day, etc.

  2. The good news is that Resistance only happens because the writer/artist has an idea. The bigger and more ambitious the idea is, the more the writer cares about it-- the stronger the Resistance. And the bigger the prize for overcoming Resistance and completing the work.

The amateur sports player sits down if he twists an ankle or something, and doesn’t play again until it’s healed. The pro player takes well-considered actions to counter the problem, then works a full day, despite the discomfort and adversities.

  1. To overcome Resistance, the writer has to switch from “amateur” thinking to “pro” thinking. The amateur waits for inspiration that will lead to creating a perfect work. The pro doesn’t wait for inspiration, he decides he’s going to work for X hours, and sits down and does them. The goal is not to create a perfect gem, but to produce better and better work each time.

  2. When asked about tips for storytelling: The Hero’s Journey identified by Carl Jung and elaborated on by Joseph Campbell. Like Resistance, the story is built into the psychology of all humans. Rather than more TL;DR, I’ll refer you to many excellent and thoughtful Google articles about Luke Skywalker, King Arthur, Gilgamesh, et al.'s hero’s journeys. A full cycle story would include every element of the journey. But any story that includes insights into a section of it is interesting. And all storytelling does include some part of it.

  3. The writer/artist’s journey is the same as the Hero’s Journey. Life in the ordinary world, hearing the call, rejecting the call, accepting the adventure, leaving for unknown lands, gaining a mentor and allies, overcoming opposition, receiving an award or treasure, returning home changed, with a treasure.

  4. The amateur loses courage when someone makes a negative comment about his work, or it doesn’t get much praise. The pro doesn’t pay attention to negative feedback, and he doesn’t let positive feedback let him get overconfident about his stuff.

  5. “No one wants to read your sh*t.” They just want to do what they were planning to do before they encountered your work. You have to make them want to change their minds.

  6. “Put your ass where your heart is.” Your heart wants to create the thing it envisions. Get your ass into gear and take the time and do the work to make it real. If it doesn’t come out perfectly, so what? You built the thing you envisioned, bottom to top, and came back home with your award. Next time, another dream and more Resistance to overcome. But this time you’ll have experience, and do your best to do it better.

Thank you, Mr. Steven Pressfield! :slight_smile:

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Quick summary from recent brief ‘Writing Wednesday’ blog emails donated by this pro writer to working on it fiction writers (via a cool assistant):
-At the start, the villain knows what (s)he wants. It may or not be something good or evil, smart or stupid.
-At the start, the hero knows what (s)he wants, more or less. It may or not be something good or evil, smart or stupid.
-At the end, the villain knows what (s)he wants. Same as above about smart-stupid or good-evil.
-At the end, what the hero wants has changed. To have become at least a little smarter.

I suppose that’s more thoughts for characters across a novel, rather than for short fiction. Still, interesting, I thought.

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Pressfield is featured heavily in this video about making a creative living. Lots of echoes of your prior summaries. If nothing else, a pep talk to come back to when in need.

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Pretty good points throughout.

As a writer, I think within the realm of Eve RP you have to do many of the same things. You should be crafting an arc for your character and turning it, essentially, into a transmedia project.

Thought provoking subjects. Good post.

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