Three Questions with Steven Pressfield

I've recommended Steven Pressfield's THE WAR OF ART to so many writers, I ought to be on commission. As I've mentioned on the blog, WOA is one of the best resources at a writer's disposal for helping to fight the evil powers of procrastination, which Pressfield calls resistance. I'm such a believer, I'll draw the name of one commenter on today's post and send you your own copy!

And here's something even more exciting. Recently, I was very delighted when Steven Pressfield was kind enough to answer these three brief questions for the blog.

BtO: How does resistance make every other looming task (including toilet-bowl scrubbing) more attractive than the work we're trying to get started?

SP: I don't know, but it sure does, doesn't it? Somebody should write a book about all the different activities that suddenly become so attractive the instant the thought of actually Doing Our Work enters our mind. Did you read that one in Robert McKee's intro to WOA--where he took out all his clothes from his closet and arranged them into "winter," "summer," etc. That is demented! Me? I've done everything from drive across the country thirteen different times to totally screwing up my life. "Whatever works, baby!"

BtO: As useful as it is, I'm pretty sure the Internet is the handmaiden of resistance, with its myriad distractions and the dangerous temptation to hunt up your own reviews (and believe only the bad ones). How do you cope with the web's dark side?

SP: I get sucked into it too. I'm afraid there's no answer but pure will power. How do you stop yourself from eating chocolate? [Colleen's Response: Have been asking self that question for years.] There's a great book, not easy to find, by Roberto Assagioli called "The Act of Will." Try reading that. I started, but it put up so much Resistance, I stopped.

BtO: What's the most important thing you've learned about writing since the completion of THE WAR OF ART?

SP: If anything, I would say I have even more respect for Resistance now than I did when I wrote WOA. In other words, I believe it's even more powerful and insidious than I thought--and I thought it was unbelievably powerful and insidious back then!

The forms that Resistance can take, particularly in interpersonal relationships, seem to be infinite and incredibly subtle and pernicious. It's a subject for a whole other book, or certainly part of one.

Resistance, in my experience, doesn't diminish with time or skill or the accumulation of past successes. It's just as brutal for the long-time pro as it is for the neophyte. And I haven't found, nor do I expect to, any magic bullet to overcome it. The result is I've come to have even more respect for working writers and artists and entrepreneurs who face it down every day and do their work.

"Turning pro" is still the best answer--at least for me. And it helps to associate with other pros, whom we recognize if we ourselves are doing our work. As someone once said, "A gun recognizes another gun."

Hope that helps, Colleen. Thanks for three terrific questions.

This is terrific, Steven. Thanks so much for stopping by.

I hope every BtO reader will checking Writing Wednesdays over on Steven's blog. I especially loved the post "What the Muse Wants." Also, for those who enjoyed historical fiction, be sure to check out Steven's latest, Killing Rommel. My son, an avid WW II buff, loved it.

I'll leave BtO blogsters with one last question. What's the most ridiculous task you've been driven to (see toilet cleaning and closet sorting, above) in order to resist doing your actual work?


Suzan Harden said…
Hmmm...I've always found that chocolate conquers the Resistance. The temptation of three Lindor black-label dark chocolate truffles for a 100 words is far more powerful than the desire to clean the toilet. And I always end up with more than 300 words by the time I've consumed the truffles. LOL

The Internet is my time-suck. I have to go someplace with no Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi you have to pay for (I'm cheap) to get words of the paper. I don't know what I'll do now that Barnes & Noble has free WI-Fi.
Janice Maynard said…
I sold a book on Friday - what have I done this week? I've decorated the front porch with fall mums, organized closets, all beause we had an appraisal on Monday and showed our house to prospective buyers yesterday... a necessary evil, but the ultimate time suck!!!
I started painting the baseboard trim. How sad is that?
Karen Hankins said…
I have to admit, the prospect of any dark chocolate would prove a powerful reward, and more than adequate incentive, to stay in the chair and write. The most recent ridiculous distraction I've chased when up against Resistance is working complicated algebra problems for my college class. Colleen, thanks for the post.
Painting the baseboard trim? Yikes! That's resistance at its fiercest.

Congrats on the sale. And I know what you mean about necessary evils. It's easy to argue that these things must be done.

I can't seem to resist the net, either, yet somehow, the work gets done. Mostly out of my superior resistance to cleaning house and various financial chores.
Barbara Freethy said…
I've been hearing great things about this book The War of Art and now I'm thinking I must get it! Thanks for the blog ... I've been writing for many years and often get sucked into a lot of prewriting by my outlining friends who try to convince me how much faster things will go with more prep, only to realize in the end that I usually do much better just jumping into the deep end. So sometimes I think too much prep is the ultimate form of resistance (at least for me:-) But the Internet is definitely high on the list.
Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks for stopping by, Steven. WOA is a great resource.

And congrats on the sale, Janice! Gofightwin book!
Jane George said…
I came over here via Barbara Freethy's Facebook link. Thanks Barbara!

Before that, I was decorating the kitchen timer I bought to help keep me writing and off-line. Yup, and I was having fun too.

Love the name of your blog!
Thanks, Jane and Barbara!

Jane, I'm laughing over decorating the writing timer. Though I can easily see myself rushing off to the kitchen or office supply store to buy one to keep me on track. I love those places!

I like to just dive into my work, too. All those character dossier things some people swear by are useless to me. My characters reveal themselves only as the story unfolds.

Glad you all stopped by!
Lark said…
I actually called my mother to chat. Guess you have to know her to get the magnitude of that Resistance. It only happened once.

Great interview! Thanks!
Donna Maloy said…
I bought one of those plastic draw-ers-on-wheels thingy so I could move office stuff from a different set of drawers into the new ones. Then I tried to figure out what would fit in the old ones.
Jessa Slade said…
Great interview. I very much enjoyed WOA, but I admit I'm bummed it doesn't get easier!

I'm a procrastinatory toilet scrubber too. But the lowest I went one night was pulling old storage containers out of the back of the fridge. You know the ones. UFOs (Unidentified Fuzzy Objects) were more important than my WIP :(
Jo Anne said…
Thanks for being here, Steven - and for WOA. I love the book so much that I bought copies for my entire critique group. Chocolate is a great motivator, but alas, I'm dieting (again). I know the big R has got me when I choose exercise over my current WIP. :-)

Janice, congrats on the sale. Great blog, Colleen.
Apparently, no one else will confess to endless games of Spider solitaire. I like to tell myself my muse is hard at work while I try one last time for a better score.

Love the interview. I've been hearing about War of Art for years and meaning to read the book. Thanks for the nudge!

Kate Austin said…
I'm right in the middle of a serious act of resistance - and can't seem to get past it. Thanks for recommending one more thing that will keep me from the work!

It's on my to-buy list as of right now and I'm off to the bookstore tomorrow.

Janice Maynard,
I've drawn your name as the winner of a copy of The War of Art! Please e-mail me at with your address to claim your prize. You won't be sorry. :)
Cathie Linz said…
Great blog! thanks for posting link on your fb pg, Barbara. I just ordered THE WAR OF ART from amazon. And I agree with everyone who said that dark chocolate is a good reward for work done

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