What Steven Pressfield told me

I wanted to share author Steven Pressfield’s recent blog post, “Why I Don’t Speak,” the minute I read it on the “Writing Wednesdays” column of his website. He writes about why he doesn’t accept invitations to speak about his books on writing and creativity.

But my blog is for book lovers, I reminded myself, and he wrote “Why I Don’t Speak” primarily for writers and others involved in creative projects. (Though he would be the first to say creativity is any sustained effort to bring something to fruition, such as training for a marathon, overcoming an addiction, advocating for a social cause.)

He writes,

“In the secret communion between writer and reader, soul-altering material was gifted to me, and I accepted it with gratitude. No one knew. Not even the writer. But he or she had imparted something seminal, and it changed me and saved me.”

The italics are mine.

I think readers already know about the secret communion between writer and reader.

But what they may not know: Pressfield says the biggest challenge of any creative act, of giving the gift of soul-altering material, is overcoming resistance.

I have Pressfield’s book, Do the Work, on my “What I’m Reading” sidebar. I’ve been spending time with Do the Work along with his other book, The War of Art, as I look at my own writing process.

He has hard things to say about how insidious resistance can be. How we often blame our lack of progress, our inability to do the work, on some external obstacle when, really, we need to look inside ourselves.

I felt squirmy as I read certain passages. I didn’t like knowing these things about myself. And once I knew these uncomfortable truths, I then had to actually change.

Pressfield writes,

“I’m confessing some of the darkest hours and most shameful failures of my life. But more than that, I’m holding these moments up to the reader, who no doubt has experienced the same in her own life, as a means of confronting her and making her face her own shit. I don’t know how to do that in a public setting, and I wouldn’t want to try. It’s too private. It’s too personal.”

That’s why Pressfield doesn’t do speaking engagements.

Even though authors make pulling off that communion between writer and reader look easy, it’s not. The great, gifted writers confront the same resistance that is in all of us.

The next time you finish reading a book that possessed you or changed you; the next time you re-read a favorite, treasured work – know that the writer may have had to fight a great battle to bring her creation into the world.

She fought, and won.

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