Do the Work Steven Pressfield

Do the Work: How Steven Pressfield Will Make You a Better Writer

Every writer needs to study the teachings of Steven Pressfield. He is the Nike of the literary world. The ultra-successful shoe and athletic-apparel company won the slogan race years ago with Just Do It. For writers, Pressfield’s Do the Work is a close second.

While a prolific and talented fiction author, Pressfield’s nonfiction books center on strategic methods for overcoming the barriers to writing (or any artistic endeavor, but the primary focus of his is writing). The War of Art was about recognizing the enemy to any creative talent: resistanceDo the Work takes the concept a step further, showing how to beat the foe of procrastination and build your writing career

“Here’s a keyboard, connected to the entire world. Here’s a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about anyone, just about any time, for free. You wanted a level playing field, one where you have just as good a shot as anyone else? Here it is. Do the work.”

Do the Work is simple: there are no excuses. Either you choose to write each day, you choose to do the important work that will advance your career, the work that will meet your goals, or you don’t. You either choose to do the work, or you don’t. It’s that simple. One option paves the way for potential greatness, for the creation of art, for a substantial legacy. The other keeps your rooted in place, stuck in the same, monotonous existence that leads to continued frustration.

“You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”

If you’ve read The War of Art you are familiar with Pressfield’s concept of resistance. Resistance is the ultimate barrier to doing the work. Resistance is the insecurities you harbor, the self-doubt you feel inside, the distraction, the unwillingness, the perfectionism that causes you to procrastinate the one thing you have to do to be a writer: write.

The target for resistance goes beyond just the act of writing, but the pursuit of any artistic talent. Resistance bars you from the following:

  1. Launching an entrepreneurial venture.
  2. Starting a diet or health regimen.
  3. Beginning a program for spiritual advancement.
  4. Overcoming bad habits and addictions.
  5. Gaining an education.
  6. Taking a stand in the face of adversity.

Resistance thrives off anything that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long term growth. You have heard of the reptilian brain, the part of our psychology that focuses on survival and well-being. Resistance is only concerned with right now. Resistance asks, What is the least challenging thing I could do right now? What poses the smallest threat to my ego? What will bring me the greatest sense of immediate gratification?

Resistance is concerned with keeping you small.

The Qualities of Resistance

1) Resistance is Invisible. You cannot feel resistance. You cannot see it. You don’t always know what form it will take. But it’s there.

2) Resistance is Insidious. Resistance does not play fair. It will do anything to keep you from doing the important work to advance your career.

3) Resistance is Impersonal. There is no concern over who you are or what your life goals are. You could be the most philanthropic, noble being placed upon the Earth. The job of resistance is to see you fail.

4) Resistance is Infallible. There is a benefit to resistance. Regardless of you current situation in life, resistance will always point in the direction of your most important work. Use this as a compass. The work that scares you most, the work that you feel the most apprehension to start doing, is also the work that is most vital to your evolution. The more important the work, the greater the feeling of resistance.

5) Resistance is Universal. Everyone suffers from resistance. Every author. Every entrepreneur. Every person attempting to do something more with their life. Pressfield has published over ten books and still feels the resistance to write. No one is immune.

6) Resistance Never Sleeps. The actor Henry Fonda had stage fright up until the end of his career. The fear doesn’t go away. You learn to recognize resistance, to live with it, and overcome it. “The artist commits to fighting the battle anew each day.”

Other Forms of Resistance

Rational thought. The second greatest enemy to the artist is there own logical way of thinking. Rational thought will lead to a list of reasons not to do something. Resistance thrives on rational thought: the reasoning behind staying with the status quo. Rational thought is concerned with why art must be created. The true artist works from intuition. Not a whimsical, flippant “artsy” side, but true intuition. True belief in the creative process, that art is created because it must be created. The feeling that you only exist on this planet to create something and that nothing else could fill that void.

Friends & Family. Pressfield doesn’t advocate leaving your spouse and burning bridges in your personal life. However, our closest friends and family only know us as who we are today. They are invested in that form or our selves, it’s what they are most familiar with and they have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Change is scary, even for the people around us. But growth is essential to improvement. The greatest detriment to advancement is remaining perpetually as you are.

Allies of the Artist

Resistance is the primary enemy of the artist, but there are tools and allies that make the battle easier to win.

  1. Stupidity. Resistance works by causing us to overthink situations. The smartest person in the room is often the one most concerned with the impossibility of a task, rather than just attempting to do it. Planning is useful, but not a substitution for the act of doing the work. Be oblivious to the odds of art working out and just do the work. An amateur doubts, overthinks and hesitates. The true artist acts.

“Don’t think. Act. We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.”

  1. Be Stubborn. Once you commit to the art of action, the last thing you want to do is stop. I’ve talked about the overwhelming value of building momentum towards success. People tend to procrastinate the longest at the beginning. The action feels scary, it feels painful. But the secret to procrastination is that pain only lasts before you start the act. Which means that procrastination itself is what’s painful. Once you get started, once you commit to writing and begin stringing together days of productive work, the act becomes intoxicating. It becomes exciting. “Holy &^%&, I’m actually doing it!” When that excitement subsides, you’re not left with a hangover in the way you would expect. Instead, you have developed a routine. The act of creating art becomes habit. It’s just something you do. Like brushing your teeth or making the morning pot of coffee, writing is essential to your daily schedule. What happens when you forget to brush your teeth? You regret it for the rest of the day. What happens when you forget to make your morning coffee? You feel terrible. The same will happen with writing, but you have to take that first step. Being stubborn in the artistic sense is not done for false effect. Pressfield says it’s not about being heroic or noble-like. Artistic stubbornness is about the grind, not the feeling. You are a mule. A worker. You write because you are a writer, and to be a writer means you are forced to perform your craft each day. Animals are stubborn. Children are stubborn. Anyone can be stubborn, and everyone knows how to be stubborn. The act of writing is something you should be stubborn about.
  1. Blind Faith. Pressfield says the greatest ally available to a writer is an unwavering belief in the intangible. There are no guarantees when you begin a project. You don’t know what you are going to create or how it will turn out in the end. But you must believe the overall process will succeed. Don’t complain about writer’s block. Don’t make excuses to avoid writing. Don’t feed the resistance. The truth is simple: you believe that you can come up with good ideas and execute on them, or you don’t. If you don’t hold the belief that you will succeed, save yourself the time and give up now.
  2. Passion. “When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless well of passion.”  I have been critical of passion in terms of producing success. The problem with passion is not the exhilaration or the energy, but how people cling to it in place of a reliable system. Passion, or the lack passion, becomes an excuse for avoiding the work: “I’m not feeling passionate about this project, better quit.” “I’m not passionate about my job, better find something else.” “I can’t start until I discover my passion.” If you are reading this post, you are passionate about writing, or some related pursuit. Passion does not have to be sexy. You can do the work—the act of artistic creation—without feeling inspired and passionate. It can take the first hundred words to get into groove. My experience has been that passion is the result of performing well in a particular field, not as a random source of attraction. Elite performance comes through practice and repeated diligence, meaning that you can create passion and the benefits associated. There is an upside to passion. Passion will give you the energy and drive to outwork your competition, but you have to make the decision to do it. You have to make the choice to do the work. Life doesn’t work like a metal detector. There is no device to point you in the right direction. Take writing. Many published authors admit that writing is the worst part of bringing a book to market. But these same authors have recognized that writing is necessary to sustaining their career and achieving their goals. They are passionate about their books, even if they don’t love every step of the process.
  3. Friends & Family. Earlier, we saw these two groups were a detriment to the artist. Friends and family members can erect barriers to your growth in an effort to maintain their status quo. But for those members who support you, for those who understand enough to get out of your way, they can also be your greatest ally and source of motivation. Legacies are often created and built for the people we love the most.

The Beginning

1) Start before you are ready. “Don’t be prepared. Begin.”

I can tell you the hallmark quality of the novice writer.

I went through it. Steven Pressfield went through it. At some point, every writer has experienced the same problem: they had an overwhelming urge to prepare in place of actual writing. The pull to do more research, to plan, to sketch, to outline, is overwhelming in the amateur. Despite the feeling of utility that comes from preparation, it’s no different than procrastination. You can only plan a book so much before you realize it will never be written. It’s tapping into the side of Resistance that revolves around perfectionism. We know that our writing will not be perfect, so we continue to plan in compensation. The true enemy of the writer is not the act of preparation, which has its uses, but the mind which creates excuses and insecurities as a way to prevent getting started. Refer again to the section on being stubborn. It’s difficult to get started, but once you do, it can be hard to stop.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” –Johann von Goethe

The Research Diet. As a way of avoiding and trimming down the time spent procrastinating the work of writing, Pressfield came up with the research diet: you are only allowed to read three books on a subject before you can begin writing. You can’t be a writer if you don’t actually write. Research is useful in the creation of a book, but researching makes you a historian. Or a sociologist, or a political activist. Not a writer. Knowledge is useful but it is worthless without application. Don’t allow the accumulation of research delay the actual act of writing any further than it has to. Many great authors, such as Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and Robert Greene spend over half the process of writing the book on researching alone. The takeaway is, more than likely, you are not one of these authors. Until you build the discipline to both research and write, follow a system to keep yourself from over-preparing. I find note-taking useful, but not at the expense of quality time I can spend writing. When I set a quota for how much or how long I intend to write in a given day, research and preparation does not factor in. That’s extra time. Don’t allow anything to interfere with actually doing the work.

“You want to do the work. Not prepare to do the work.”

Once you’ve finished your allotted three books, get started. Or even better, start before you’re ready. You can always come back for the heavy duty research. The world is at your fingertips with a library card and access to the internet—that information is not going anywhere. But your book will never get started, your grand career will never take off, if you don’t make the conscious effort to do the work.

Pressfield advocates being primitive, not sophisticated. The sophisticated writer is focused on show. They’re focused on creating order through pristine research and imposing perfectionism upon their work. Perfectionism is a primary pillar of resistance. Many novice writers think, “What’s wrong with pristine and perfect? What’s wrong with focusing on quality?” Perfectionism is tantamount to covert procrastination. Just because you start now does not mean you have to sacrifice quality. The beauty of writing is that there is always the ability to edit, to rewrite and go back over. But you will never have a finished work to review if you don’t get started.

Some advice on outlining a book. Steven Pressfield’s mentor, author Norm Stahl, remarked one day at lunch, “Steve, God made a single sheet of yellow fool scrap paper exactly the right length to hold the outline of an entire novel.”

The takeaway lesson: don’t overthink the process of writing. Don’t over-prepare. Outline fast and on instinct. Boil it down to a single page. If you can’t fit the base outline of your story onto a single page, you more than likely don’t know what it is you’re writing. Complexity is good in the little details. The broader picture should be distilled to simplicity. It’s not an easy process, nor is it supposed to be. It’s easy to write for pages and pages what a book is about. But if you can condense it to one page, if you can take those tens of thousands of words and squeeze them into a one sentence theme, then you know exactly what it is you are going to say and how you are going to say it—even if the nuances of each chapter and each individual sentence have yet to be written.

Some advice on writing a book. Get it down on paper. Right now. As fast as you can. You can always revise later. “it’s better to have written a shitty book you can revise than to have no book at all.”

Tools of the Trade

  1. Begin at the end. Work backwards. Solve the final problem first so that you know where you are going. Be able to answer the question “What is this about?” before you sit down and start writing. If you don’t know, you can bet at the end of 500 pages neither will your audience. Nail that first and the rest will follow with a purpose. Nail the theme of the book and you already know the ending. Start with the ending, and you can work backwards to get the theme.
  2. Utilize Three Act Structure. If you’re stuck on where to begin, consider the classic three act structure. The Beginning, where you are introducing the reader to the world, character or topic at hand. The middle, where you flesh out said world, delve said character into the plot, or make your argument for the topic. And the ending, where you provide some sort of resolution or wrap up the point of your book with the theme. If you can outline your story in these three parts, the rest of the act of writing becomes about filling in the gaps.
  3. Rule of thumb for fiction: You need seven to eight major sequences. Pressfield finds that to be the happy median in keeping your reader entertained without dragging the story past the point of it’s natural conclusion. If you can script your eight major sequences, you are writing to move the characters towards each sequence as a process of your gap feeling. You have direction. You know what’s going to happen and you know where to take your story even if you don’t know exactly how you will get there.

Doing the Work

Here are some tips of Pressfield’s for doing the work. The work is what is most important to the advancement of your professional career. In the case of authors, doing the work is writing. Not planning to write, not researching to write, but actually writing something that can one day be published.

1. Cover the Canvas. Pressfield’s rule for all first, full working drafts: get them done as soon as possible. Cover the canvas. Write all over your piece of paper. Fill your wordprocessor. But get it done. This is one of the most important times to utilize the power of momentum and being stubborn in creative pursuit.

2. Suspend Self-Judgement. Do away with the self-doubt and criticism during your first draft. It’s hard enough to get started writing on a workable idea. You can make the process nearly impossible if you are overly critical of every sentence you write. Some of it will be bad. Perhaps even most of it. That’s okay. It’s a draft. Just write and keep writing and worry about putting the finishing touches on later. There is a force that builds each time your finger pushes a key or your pen strokes out a letter. Don’t waste that energy on backtracking and fretting over something as nonsensical as a typo. Trust yourself to produce a workable draft, and trust that you can edit it to the point of publication later. The only thing that matters in the initial draft is getting something done, regardless of how flawed it may be.

3. The Crazier, the Better. Don’t question yourself in the initial draft. Don’t “throttle it back” in the expectation of what your work should be. If you want to write exceedingly dark and gory fiction, then go for it. If you want to create sci-fi that is fantastical and mind-bending, that’s what you should do. Don’t hold an illusion of what your publisher will expect from you, or you will stunt yourself creatively. There are no expectations in the content of your draft. There is nothing that your writing–or any writing–“should be” other than to convey the theme of the piece. Trust your intuition.

4. Ideas Do Not Come Linearly. If you come up with an idea, write it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first scene of your novel or the last, write it as it comes. Ideas, stream of consciousness in your mind, does not always follow a linear path. Neither should your writing. It may require some effort during the editing process to piece the story together in a way that flows smoothly, but don’t waste the opportunity to craft a scene in your book just because you haven’t reached that point in the plot, or the research material in the case of nonfiction. Pressfield punctuates this principle by echoing a piece of advice given by nearly ever author: always keep something with you to write ideas down. In the past it was pen and small notepad. Now we all have phones in our pockets. Either way, be ready to jot ideas down as they come to you. Great ideas can be fleeting, especially in the literary world. If you don’t write it down, if you forget it, that idea is lost forever.

The Process of Writing

The act of writing itself can be broken down into two categories: Action and Reflection.

Action is what you should think of when you hear the words “Do the Work.” Action is putting pen to paper. It’s the process you employ while writing your first draft, a process that is both fluid and frantic. Reflection is evaluating what you already have on paper. Reflection doesn’t occur until after the initial draft is over. But both processes are essential to the craft of writing. Act, Reflect, Act, Reflect, is the standard method by which you will accomplish the majority of your work, although they can never occur simultaneously. If you are pausing at the end of each sentence or paragraph to reflect, your work will come out stilted and largely uninspired. On the flip side, if you are all action and no reflection you are destined to create a sloppy mess. Remember your job at all times as a writer: discover what it is you want to say (your idea) and then find a way to bring it into being (your writing). Action is about sailing the ship; reflection keeps you on course.

Keep Working

Stephen King famously writes on every day of his life. That means birthdays. That means while on vacation. That means during periods of the highest success and deepest failure. He does not take days off. If Stephen King, who has published over 65 books, who has amassed enough wealth, fame and influence to retire for the rest of his life, never takes a day off from writing, you have no excuse. 

Even if you don’t feel like writing on a given day, force yourself to do it. Even if you don’t see the purpose in writing, or you find yourself getting nowhere in the process, force yourself to write. Jot down the mantra, “Write, and good things will happen,” and repeat it whenever you find yourself having doubts. Momentum is the artist’s greatest ally. It’s hard to understand until you start doing it, but writing every day is much easier than writing every other day. It’s like going to the gym. When it becomes habit, there’s nothing special about the act of writing. It’s just another thing you do. If you start skipping days, all of that positive momentum goes away. Writing becomes a chore again. You find yourself making excuses. You allow resistance to find a way to procrastinate the work you know you should be doing.

There is such thing as negative momentum. Negative momentum moves you in the opposite direction. When you make one excuse you find it easier to do it again. If you go one day without writing, because it’s your friend’s birthday or you don’t feel well, it becomes okay to make excuses. Rather than giving yourself the option, take a hard stance on the act of writing. “I will write every day. No exceptions.” I don’t care if you have to sneak into a broom closet at work to scratch something out, you make the time for writing. Momentum is everything. Your job as a writer is to keep that momentum going by devoting as much time to writing as you can, each day, every day.

“Keep working. Keep working. Keep working.”

The only time you stop working is during periods of reflection, when you take time to re-evaluate the theme and purpose of the work. But that’s it.

Overcoming the Wall of Resistance

At some point during the process of writing, generally as you near the end of your final draft, the voice of doubt will start to creep back into your mind. The outset of a project is filled with so much excitement and energy that keeps the feelings of insecurity at bay. But once you get settled, once the exciting work just becomes the regular work, you are going to have to tend to a sense of inadequacy. Fear of success, rather than failure, is the primary obstacle the longer you write and the closer your writing is to completion. Pressfield argues that these feelings offer a form of guidance, like resistance pointing in the direction you should be working, fear of success often accompanies the period just before you are about to have a major, creative breakthrough. As stated in The Alchemist, most people give up just as they are about to achieve their heart’s desire. You will have a long career ahead of you. Giving up during your first project means you will give up on your second, your third, and so on. You have to recognize and overcome the principles of resistance:

1. There is an Enemy. It should come as no surprise that Pressfield is an author of military fiction. Many of his analogies and metaphors involve references to the life and death struggles that accompany combat. Most of us live safe, relatively unimposing lives. Aside from when we were young, we don’t have bullies. We don’t have people or entities that seek to torment us, to watch us fail. Resistance is that enemy. Resistance wants to bar you from success.

2. The Enemy is Implacable. Resistance doesn’t just want to trip you up, it wants to destroy you. You could be 3oo pages into a novel and resistance will try it’s best to make you give up entirely.

3. The Enemy is Inside of You. There is no external source of resistance. It’s something you carry every where you go.

4. The Enemy Inside of You is Not You. Self-doubt has a way of making the afflicted feel as if there is something wrong with them. That they are the cause of their insecurity, that they need to change before it can go away. Everyone harbors resistance. Everyone feels inadequate at times, particularly in the creative pursuits where outcomes are largely intangible. It’s not your fault.

5. You Must Battle Resistance. “On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.”

6. Resistance Arises Second. Without the pursuit of art, there is no resistance. It’s not until you come up with an idea, a passion, a dream that resistance begins to creep into the picture. The danger of resistance is that we begin to blame these creative pursuits for our misery. But, importantly, this means that the initial idea existed without resistance. Our job becomes about returning to the magic of that initial state, when all we felt was excitement and energy to see our idea to fruition.

7. The Opposite of Resistance is Assistance. Whenever Steven Pressfield finds himself stuck on a novel, he thinks about his personal hero of Charles Lindbergh, and how he was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a rickety, patched together propeller plane. Assistance is any action that returns your focus to the unimpeded creation of art. Rather than dwelling on reasons why your project will fail, assistance is considering how it will succeed. Look to your heroes, the people you admire for what they were able to achieve. What would they do in your situation? Would they allow self-doubt and the other trappings of resistance to prevent them from accomplishing their goal?

Find your Charles Lindbergh.

Tests for Resistance

Pressfield recognizes two primary tests for determining whether you are able to overcome resistance.

#1. How bad do you want it?

How bad do you want to be a writer? How bad do you want to be published? There are several levels of “wanting it.” Dabbling –> Interested –> Intrigued but uncertain –> Passionate –> Totally confident.

There is only one right answer if you intend to pursue a lifetime of art.

#2. Why Do You Want It?

There are many reasons for why a person would write. Most of them revolve around some form of monetary compensation or career advancement. Others will want to do it for fame, recognition or respect. But your focus should be beyond all of those extrinsic perks. You should write because you have no other choice. Cartoonist Tim Kreider, in his book We Learn Nothing, says any day that goes by without writing feels like a day he should not have been allowed to live on this planet. That may sound like an omission of suicidal tendencies, but what Kreider is getting at is that he has to write. There is no other option. He was put on this Earth to be a writer, and if he fails to do so, he’s wasting opportunity, he is squandering a genuine gift and doesn’t deserve all of the other perks of being alive. You should feel something similar if writing is what you truly want to do. There are a lot of amazing benefits that can stem from writing—Pressfield’s wild success as a fiction author (including having Bagger Vance made into a movie) can attest to this—but the only reason you should write is to satisfy the craving you have to do so. If you can write for the love writing, all the rest will follow in due time.

The only thing you need to keep with you to be a writer is a love of the work and a will to finish. Leave everything else behind when you sit down to write. Leave your ego at the door. Peel off a sense of entitlement. Destroy your impatience, hopes and anger. Something will happen if you start writing. It may be good. It may just be mediocre. But you will never find out if you don’t actually get started.

The Big Crash

Just as resistance will continue to plague you as you near the end of a project, the “Big Crash” is what Pressfield refers to when your creative pursuit begins to tank. At some point in the process of creating art, you are going to experience setback and failure. It’s unavoidable, and more than likely, will occur on nearly every project. You can’t prepare for failure—not knowing when it will strike—but you can learn to handle failure when it occurs. Pressfield shares the experience of working on a novel (The Profession) for two years before having it torn to pieces by his test readers. Even people closest to him hated the novel. It just didn’t work. He had to push through the pain of failure, the depression accompanying months of wasted time. He gathered himself and the broken novel and set to work rewriting most of it.

Creative panic is useful. Just like the fear of success, creative panic strikes when we are close to breaking new ground. It occurs when we are succeeding, even if it appears to us as failure. Pressfield had a mess of a novel on his hands, one that required nearly another year of editing before publication—but he had a novel. Each time you panic, fail, or experience a setback you are expanding the boundaries of your potential. Every time you come across a problem, do not allow yourself to become debilitated with uncertainty. Start looking for solutions. No matter how large the setback, there will be a way to right the ship.

“The problem is not us. The problem is the problem. Mistakes are not a reflection of our worth as a human being. It’s just a problem, and problems can be solved.”

 Part III. The End

Develop a Killer Instinct

“Finishing is a critical part of any project. If we can’t finish, all our work is for nothing.” Resistance is strongest at the finish line. Anticipate having to ramp up your work ethic as you near the end, in order to compensate for this push-back. Resistance doesn’t care how much work you have already put in, it wants you to fail. Whether you have three pages or three hundred, resistance wants you to quit. Don’t waste your time and effort. There’s a saying in sales called ABC, “Always Be Closing.” When you embark on creative pursuits, your goal is to finish. Not every idea is worth seeing through to the end, not every book idea should be expounded upon, but if you get far enough to make publication a reality then you need to see it through. Quitting can become as much a habit as closing, so make sure you do the latter.

Fear of Success

Hand in hand with resistance barring the way to finishing is a fear of success. People who have never attempted to do something out of the ordinary with their life don’t understand this concept. They think, “Why would you fear success? Isn’t success a good thing?” The reason these people continue to lead ordinary lives is precisely the answer to that question. We avoid success because it means hard work. It means taking a risk, whether it be wasted time or effort, exposing ourselves to the criticism of others.

Sometimes the fear of success does not come from a sense of inadequacy, but a fear that we are capable of greatness—we just don’t deserve it. The artist plagued with self-doubt and insecurity will fall into this category, and it’s a malicious one. In the words of Marianne Williamson, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

I have a suspicion that a fear of being undeserved is less an issue for millennials and beyond. When you are steeped in a self-esteem culture, a society that sees nothing wrong with handing out participation trophies and celebrating the act of just showing up, it’s hard to imagine yourself as being anything less than absolutely worthy. But if this is foreign to your own upbringing, then you were likely taught to expect less. You were taught to dampen your expectations and not hope too greatly for something to happen. Because of that, you extended this mindset to your own work. Don’t expect that you can do great things. Don’t expect that you can produce great works of art. Thus, from this lack of esteem is birthed the tendrils that eventually make up a fear of success. The solution is to understand a simple fact of life: you deserve success if you are willing to work hard enough for it. If not, that’s okay. You can continue on with an average life. But if you are willing to go after it, if you are willing to work harder and longer than your competition, then there is no reason you should not be able to reap the rewards of your efforts.

If it is criticism you fear the most, Pressfield has a response for you: Regardless of the outcome, of the ensuing criticism, the act of shipping is the most empowering feeling an artist can have. You are doing what you love.

You are a professional.

Pressfield’s Promise

“Slay the dragon once, and he will never have power over you again.”

You will never be able to fully overcome resistance. Each time you sit down to write, each time you close in on publishing, put in your final edit, ship of your stack of novels, resistance will be there. You will have to fight it every day. But if you can do it once, if you can beat it long enough to see your writing to the finish, you know that you can do it again. There is no feeling more powerful for an artist than being able to finish. It’s a game-changer. An event that immediately separates you from the amateurs, the pretenders, and elevates you to a position of professionalism.

What To Do When You Finish Your Project

“Good for you. Now start the next one.”

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield


About Mike LaVere

Student, author and aspiring surgeon. Former bar bouncer and meat butcher. Mike LaVere graduated from a top university with a degree in English and Creative Writing. After spending several years working in healthcare as a surgical technician and EMT, Mike returned to college to obtain a post-baccalaureate degree in Biochemistry before applying to medical school. In addition to providing help for new writers and pre-medical students, Mike writes about the current state of healthcare and how it can be improved. His mission in life is to improve the quality of patient care around the world by inspiring providers to be more passionate about their work and to take pride in caring for their patients.