Steven Pressfield is great example of perseverance for anyone in the creative field including bloggers. His first couple novels never saw print. But he kept at it and 17 years after his college graduation, he finally got a book published and received a paycheck. His later books became bestsellers.
In this podcast interview, he gives a couple productivity tips that have really helped me in my blogging.
The Writer Life is a Battle
At 1:41 of the podcast, Pressfield talks about the writing process as a war. To succeed, you have to have similar qualities of a good warrior; qualities like courage, patience, and long-suffering. He brings up the image of an infantryman that’s gaining ground on the enemy slowly but surely. In the day to day struggle, writing is like that.
This principle has helped me realize that blogging is hard work. Sure, there are days when the words come easily and I knock out a quality post in a couple of minutes. But those days are few and far between. Usually, it takes me awhile to get going. My first few sentences are pretty bad and I have to struggle to stay focused on finishing the post. By the time the post is done, I’m satisfied but I’m mentally tired.
Resistance is the Enemy
At 14:25, the interviewer quotes Pressfield’s book The War of Art:
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.
Pressfield goes on to talk about Resistance as the negative force that rises up whenever we want to start a creative task. Resistance shows up in many forms: procrastination, self-sabotage, excuses we make up, reasons we give ourselves that we’re not good enough, self doubt, etc. The most important thing for a writer to do is overcome Resistance.
Pressfield says that Resistance comes to us in negative voices. Our task is to ignore the voices and realize that they are bulls**t. They are keeping us from making progress.
I found this principle very helpful because it showed me that I’m not alone in the creative struggle. If a bestselling author has to deal with Resistance, then I will have to deal with it too.
Also, by identifying the enemy, Pressfield helped me not to be surprised by Resistance. I am prepared to deal with it because I know it’s there.
Turn Pro and Stop Being an Amateur
At 25:00, Pressfield gives a great metaphor for overcoming Resistance. He says we have to “turn pro.” When we see ourselves as amateurs, we will yield to Resistance when our circumstances become tough or distractions come up.
But if we think of ourselves as pros, we’ll have the mindset to carve out daily time to pursue our creative endeavors. As pros, we won’t give in to external influences.
Pressfield brings up Kobe Bryant. During the season, his knees may hurt and his back may be sore, but he still suits up and plays in the game. Pros like him don’t make excuses. They see their task as a job instead of a hobby.
Pressfield says a mysterious thing begins to happen when we turn pro. Inspiration starts to flow regularly as we persevere and make it a habit to work on our craft daily.
Make sure to listen to the whole interview where Pressfield has more advice for writers. Check out his book The War of Art for an in-depth treatment about productivity and overcoming procrastination in the creative process. Also, he started a new blog, which includes writing tips.
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Completely agree. Resistance is such the devil. I like how you said that Pressfield taught you “not to be surprised by Resistance.” I think it’s very important to know that it will come and to be able to anticipate it, deal with it, and get over it. I feel motivated already. Great post!
Well, I guess it’s about time I turned pro =)
“The War of Art” is a great book that I keep on my desk in addition to Stephen King’s, “On Writing,” another inspiring book for writers and/or bloggers.
Will definitely watch the Podcast. Thanks for posting. Great article!
Resistance terminology: procrastination, self-sabotage, excuses we make up, reasons we give ourselves… working on one or two isn’t enough. Perhaps 2010 will be… oops! – You see I did it again. Not perhaps, but 2010 MUST be a turning point.
Productivity, Self-improvement, No excuses, etc.
This has been useful. I get what Steven Pressfield is saying, that in order to be successful in writing (and indeed blogging) you have to keep on perseveering or you won’t get anywhere. The part where he reffered to blogging as a task and not a hobby is also interesting, you have to be serious about blogging to get anywhere with it.
That’s funny that he said it’s not hard to write, but hard to sit down. When I worked in another field that was exactly the same problem I had. Although I don’t know if I agree with the war analogy. That might work for some people, but in me it brings up resistance and creating an illusion of it being tougher than it really is. My 2 cents.