In today’s episode I’m welcoming back one of my all-time favorite guests, writer Steven Pressfield. Steven is the author of several popular novels including The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and The Virtues of War. He’s also written several popular non-fiction books on the creative process, like Do the Work and The War of Art, which cover how to overcome what he calls “the Resistance.” Steve’s now got a new novel out called The Knowledge. It’s based on his early days as a writer in 1970s New York City and provides the backstory of how he learned to overcome the Resistance in his own life.
Today on the show, Steve and I discuss how the Resistance rears its ugly head in our lives and how to overcome it by transforming from an amateur to a professional. We then talk about Steve’s early days as a writer and the struggles he went through in becoming a pro.
If you are or someday hope to be a writer, artist, or entrepreneur, you’re going to love this episode. It’s filled with insights on the mindset you need to adopt in order to thrive in any endeavor.
- What the Resistance is
- The smaller, more insidious, not-so-obvious forms that Resistance takes
- How family and friends can sometimes actually pull you down
- The difference between an amateur and a pro
- How to make the leap from amateur to pro, in any avenue of life
- How closely Steven’s new book, The Knowledge, follows his real-life experience as an artist in the 70s
- The importance of role models
- The meaning of the title of the book, and how it applies to everyday life
- How seeking “the knowledge” can actually do us harm
- The benefits of being objective and even detached from your work
- The struggle to find success that can come even after you turn pro
- The Resistance that Steven faced in writing and publishing his novel The Legend of Bagger Vance
- Does Resistance ever go away with practice?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- The War of Art by Pressfield
- Turning Pro by Pressfield
- My first podcast interview with Steven
- The Fighter
- Inspiration is for Amateurs: How to Become a Creative Professional
- The World Belongs to Those Who Hustle
- The 5 Insanely Difficult Steps to Writing a Commercially-Published Novel
- The Knowledge in the Age of GPS
- Writing Wednesdays
If you’ve read The War of Art, you need to read The Knowledge so you can get the back story of how Steven developed his ideas of “the Resistance” and “turning pro.” Steven does a great job capturing 1970s New York. I felt like I was watching one of those gritty movies from the 70s like The French Connection while I was reading his novel.
Connect With Steven Pressfield
Black Irish Books — Steven’s publishing company
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
The Illustrated Art of Manliness. We’ve got a new book coming out this spring. It’s The Illustrated Art of Manliness: The Essential How-To Guide. We’ve taken some of our most popular illustrated guides we’ve published on the site and created a whole bunch of new ones, and put them in this handsome hardcover-bound book. Go to aom.is/illustrated to pre-order.
And thanks to Creative Audio Lab in Tulsa, OK for editing our podcast!
Recorded on ClearCast.io.
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. In today’s episode, I’m welcoming back one of my all-time favorite guests, writer Steven Pressfield. Steven is the author of several popular novels, including The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, and The Virtues of War. He’s also written several popular non-fiction books on the creative process, like Do the Work, and The War of Art, which covers how to overcome what he calls the “resistance” in any creative endeavor.
Steve’s got a new novel out called The Knowledge. It’s based on his early days as a writer in 1970s New York City, and provide the backstory of how he learned to overcome the resistance in his own life.
Today on the show, Steve and I discuss how the resistance rears its ugly head in our lives and how to overcome it by transforming from an amateur to professional. We then talk about Steve’s early days as a writer, and the struggles he went through in becoming a pro.
If you’re somebody who hope to be a writer or an artist or an entrepreneur, you’re going to love this episode. It’s filled with insights on the mindset needed in order to thrive in any creative endeavor. After the show is over, check out our show notes at aom.is/theknowledge.
All right, Steven Pressfield, welcome back to the show.
Pressfield: Hey, it’s great to be here, Brett. Thanks for having me.
Brett McKay: We talked to you on the podcast before to discuss your works of fiction that deal with Greek history, Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, some of my favorite books. You have a new novel out called The Knowledge: A Too Close to True Novel. We’re going to get to the details of the novel here in a bit, because the story is fantastic. It’s a bit of autobiographical fiction. There’s some crazy stuff that happens in the book, so I want to know if some of this stuff actually happened to you.
Before we get to that, I want to talk about what’s on the inside of the jacket of the book, because I think it’ll give some context about the details of the novel. You say this novel shares the origin tale of the ideas you laid out in your popular book, The War of Art. It’s a book popular with entrepreneurs, artists, writers, etc. The big idea there is this idea of the resistance. For our listeners who aren’t familiar with that concept, can you briefly describe what the resistance is?
Pressfield: If you’re a writer, Brett, as you are, and probably a lot of your listeners are, you know that when you sit down to the blank page, you can feel a force radiating off that empty page. It’s a negative force that’s trying to make you go get a hot fudge sundae or go surfing or do something like that, anything other than actually face the page. That is Resistance, with a capital R. It’s this negative force that kicks in any time we try to move from a lower level to a higher level, or enact any kind of creative instinct.
Brett McKay: This isn’t just for writers, it can also happen in your life whenever you want to have a goal, like you want to lose weight. The resistance is, “Go eat that hot fudge sundae.”
Pressfield: Exactly. If you’ve ever brought home an ab machine or a treadmill or something and watched it gather dust, then you know what resistance is. It seems to kick in, in all seriousness, anytime we try to move from a lower moral/ethical/spiritual level to a higher one, including in relationships, anything like that.
Brett McKay: I think everyone’s experienced that resistance of writer’s block or procrastination, or you buy the membership to the gym and you just don’t go. Are there some more insidious forms of resistance where you don’t think it’s resistance but it really is resistance?
Pressfield: Absolutely. I have a little motto that I apply in cases like that, and the motto is, “When in doubt, it’s resistance.” Resistance comes, for me at least, as a voice in your head that usually is trying to talk you out of doing the thing that you know that you have to do. It may say something like, “You’re worthless. This is a terrible idea. Why did you even come up with this idea? It’s been done a million times. You’re never going to be able to finish it,” that sort of thing.
Resistance will take a form of just distraction, like I was just saying. It’ll come up with any number of other alternatives that you might do: log on to Facebook, log on to Snapchat, distract yourself with this or that. In its darker forms, it gets into actual vices: drugs, alcohol, abuse of oneself or others, that kind of thing. To get even darker about it, if you want me to … Do you want me to keep going in this, Brett?
One of the things is that people in our world, people that we’re intimate with, sometimes they will embody resistance and lay it on us. For instance, if you decide that you’re going to write the novel that you’ve always wanted to write, and you get yourself together professionally and you start to do it, you’re actually sitting down, you get in one week, two weeks, three weeks, what you’ll find, dark as this is, is that the people closest to you – not all of them, but some of them – will start trying to sabotage you.
If you’ve ever seen movies by David O. Russell like The Fighter, with Mark Wahlberg, or Joy, the recent one starring Jennifer Lawrence, he gets into these dysfunctional families where the mother or the sisters, the boyfriend, the wife, the husband, will try to sabotage the person who is defeating his or her own resistance. Resistance is a really dark force that is diabolical in the ways that it can get after you.
Brett McKay: What’s interesting too, and I think you talk about this in The War of Art, is that example of people around you, people who love you. They’re your family, your friends. They’re going to bring you down when you’re trying to improve yourself. They’ll say, “Why are you changing? This is not the way it’s supposed to be.” Then you leave them, kind of get away to do better, but then you find yourself being attracted or drawn to people who are just like your friends and family who are trying to pull you back down like the proverbial crab in the bucket.
Pressfield: Yes, it’s true. Now, what’s happening, the dynamic that’s really happening when somebody else tries to bring you down in that kind of case, it’s not that they’re bad people, it’s that they’re dealing with their own unconscious resistance. For instance, they may have a dream that they feel in their heart that they want to do that they’re not doing. When they see you, Brett, when they see you writing your novel or creating your startup company or whatever it is, your actions become a reproach to them. This happens on an unconscious level. They don’t even know they’re doing it. They will say to you things like, “What’s happened to you, Brett? Man, you’ve changed. We used to be able to get high together, we’d have a great time. Now you’re going off, and who do you think you are? You’re better than us?” That is the ways that resistance manifests itself in the more insidious ways, other than just a voice in your own head.
Brett McKay: You argue that in order to overcome the resistance you have to become a professional and stop being an amateur. What’s the difference between a pro and an amateur in the way you frame it?
Pressfield: One of the things is when we fall prey to resistance, when we’re mired in our own resistance and we just can’t get anything done, sometimes we’ll blame ourselves. We’ll put a value judgment on it. We’ll say, “There’s something wrong with me. It’s like I’m sick, I have some demented thing from childhood,” or whatever. We’ll blame ourselves, in other words. The idea of amateur versus turning pro in a situation like that, it worked for me thinking of it that way in that it takes the value judgment out of it. You stop telling yourself that you’re wrong or you’re “sick,” or there’s something that’s not functioning right. Really, the mistake that we make when we get defeated by resistance is we’re operating as amateurs.
Now, what is an amateur as opposed to a pro? An amateur is somebody that is a weekend warrior, that doesn’t really take it seriously enough, whatever their dream is. If you want to become a professional piano player or a concert pianist, what do you have to do? Realistically, you have to commit yourself to hours and hours a day of working on your music, and working on all the aspects of it: the career aspects of it, the health aspects of it, the mental toughness aspects of it, as well as the musical aspects of it.
The way that I found that worked for me is just to turn that switch in your mind where you say to yourself, “I’m not going to be an amateur anymore. I’m not going to be a weekend warrior. I’m going to turn pro. I’m going to think of myself as a professional.” One of the things, Brett, and I know I’m rambling on, here … For instance, a pro. What does a pro do that an amateur doesn’t do? A pro shows up every day. A pro stays on the job every day. A pro plays hurt. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea of what I’m getting at there.
Brett McKay: One of the things I found in The War of Art that really helped me out, in that idea of trying to think of yourself as a pro, is thinking of your profession, whatever it is, if you’re a writer, a business owner, think of it as a corporate entity that’s not you. I feel like a lot of writers, entrepreneur types, artists, they tie up their work with their self so much. If they suffer defeat in that one aspect of their life, it just demolishes their entire self-worth. When you separate that and you think, “Okay, this is my work. This is Steve Inc. over here. If I’m not doing good in Steve Inc., that means I’m not necessarily doing bad in my other areas of life.”
Pressfield: Yeah. When I first got out to Hollywood and started working as a screenwriter, I learned – and this is in The War of Art – that many writers were incorporated. They had their little one-man corporations. When they signed a contract to do a script or screenplay, whatever it is, it would be FSO: For Services Of. Their corporation would sign the deal for the services of them as an individual, as a private person. I thought that was a great way of separating the entity part of yourself that does the actual work from the entity that is managing you. It’s a great device to sort of split yourself in half. The one half of you can kick the ass of the other half of you, and also can encourage you and support you.
In our world as writers or artists or entrepreneurs or whatever it is, we’re competing with Facebook, we’re competing with General Dynamics, we’re competing with Frigidaire, we’re competing with all these corporations out there and we have to be as organized in our own minds, in our own selves, as they are. Just as a place like Apple, say, under Steve Jobs has its corporate culture that demands a certain level of work and will not be satisfied below a certain level of excellence, you and I as individuals, Brett, and anybody that’s listening to this, we have to be Apple in our own heads and have that same sort of corporate culture, only on the individual level, that has a level of excellence that we aspire to and that we won’t let ourselves fall below. We have to be able to motivate ourselves, to reinforce ourselves, to pick ourselves up when we fall down. All of those things are aspects of thinking of yourself as a professional instead of an amateur.
For instance, when an amateur encounters adversity, an amateur will quit. They’ll, say, “I’m just going to go to the movies, I’m going to hang out with my girlfriend,” whatever it is. A professional, if you think about Michael Jordan or LeBron James or something like that, they wake up in the morning, they’ve got high ankle sprain, they’ve got a broken finger on their shooting hand, they play. They show up because they have that professional attitude, whereas the amateur might quit and just say, “It’s too rough today. I can’t handle it.” The professional will get in the arena and do his or her job.
Brett McKay: I think one thing you talk about, too, is the amateur is really tied up … Amateur means that you do it for the love of the whatever. You do it for the love of the sport. Love, it’s a feeling. Feelings are fleeting. Sometimes you feel like you love it and sometimes you feel like you don’t love it. I guess that’s one of the reasons why an amateur would be more susceptible to the resistance.
Pressfield: I would even put it in a slightly different way, Brett. The word amateur comes from the Latin root, amo, amas, amat, meaning somebody that plays for the love of the game only, as opposed to playing for money, let’s say. To me, the amateur doesn’t love the game enough. If they loved it enough, they would commit to it full bore the way a professional does, and they would think of it … If you’re a writer, even if you don’t have an agent, you haven’t been published, you’re sitting there working on a novel or whatever it is, and realistically you figure the best I can do is self-publish this on Amazon and it’ll sell 200 copies, nonetheless, you have to think of yourself as if you are Philip Roth or Toni Morrison. You have to operate as a full-bore professional, or you’ll never get to that level.
Brett McKay: How do make the switch? Is it just like a mental switch you flip in your brain, like, okay, I’m no longer an amateur, I’m a pro? Does it involve embodied actions to help you train-
Pressfield: It’s both, Brett. That’s a great question. It really is a simple mental switch. To me, it’s an analogy like when somebody recognizes that they’re an alcoholic. They wake up face down in a gutter at 4:00 in the morning for the 20th time and suddenly it dawns on them, “Oh my god, I’ve got to come out of denial. I really do have a problem with alcohol.” At that point, if the person is going to survive, they make that mental switch in their head and they basically turn pro. They say to themselves, “I have a problem. I can’t handle it by myself, I’ve got to get help.” Then they join AA or they take some sort of step, and they change their life.
In other words, it’s both of what you said, Brett. It’s that decision that is like flipping a switch, but after that decision happens, then there has to be a total change in the way a person lives their life. I always say that an amateur has amateur habits, and a pro has pro habits. They’re completely different, one from the other. It’s a great exercise for an individual to ask themselves, “How do I pursue whatever my dream is?” To be a photographer, a filmmaker, an actor, or whatever it is. “Am I pursuing it with amateur habits or am I pursuing it with professional habits?” If you’re doing it with amateur habits, you’ve got to flip the switch and pursue it with professional habits.
Brett McKay: Let’s circle back to The Knowledge now. These ideas you wrote about in The War of Art, The Knowledge is about where you got these ideas from. It’s a fiction novel about a struggling writer living in gritty 1970s New York City who makes money on the side driving cabs and managing a band. Then the writer gets involved with his boss’s underworld dealings, when he has to start tagging his boss’s wife around New York City. Lots of high jinks ensue. Really great book.
The book says it’s the too-close-to-true novel, so this stuff happened to you. There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens in this novel. Exactly how close does it follow this period of your life as an artist?
Pressfield: Pretty close, Brett, if you eliminate the murders and stuff like that. That’s obviously tarting reality up a little bit. The basic internal story, just like we were talking about a couple of minutes ago, Brett, when you talk about the struggling writer, this really was me at that era in New York. I’m driving a cab, I’m tending bar, I’m writing a book, I’m doing all kinds of other stuff. I’m writing my third book, actually. All three of them failed, never got published.
Basically what that story is, it’s a person that’s living the amateur life and allowing distractions in the form of sex, drugs, blah, blah, blah. All of the other crazy stuff that we all get into in that sort of time in our life. The turning point at the end of the book could be looked at as the protagonist turning pro. It’s as simple as that. The villain of this book, The Knowledge, is simply Resistance with a capital R, just what we’re talking about here. It’s not any individual. There’s no bad guy that’s going against the protagonist. It’s all inside his head, as he sabotages himself in his struggle to be a writer.
Finally, what happens … I was talking about waking up face down in a ditch and saying to yourself, “Gee, I do have a problem with alcohol.” That is the all-is-lost moment for the hero of this book, The Knowledge. He finally totally crashes and burns, and wakes up and says to himself, “I do have a problem. I’m sabotaging myself. There’s some demon inside me that’s stopping me from just getting out of my own way. At that point he makes the decision that he’s got to change, because he realizes the alternative is basically to die.
The events of the novel, The Knowledge, many of them are true in my true life. They are the events out of which the ideas for The War of Art came for me, and when I realized that there was this negative force called resistance, that it was beating the crap out of me day after day, year after year, and that I had to get a handle on it one way or another or I was just going absolutely nowhere and my life was going down the toilet.
Brett McKay: In the novel, the protagonist, who’s also named Steven, he encounters people – individuals, friends, coworkers – who it seems like they planted the seeds of this idea that he needs to turn pro or else he’s not going to survive, he’s not going to thrive. I’m curious, when you were in New York City at this time in your life, did you encounter people like that that planted the seeds of these ideas of the resistance and turning pro?
Pressfield: Yes, definitely. I think we all have those people in our lives. There may be a boss or a mentor that is constantly trying to kick us in the butt and get us to see what we can’t see and what we’re in denial of, or maybe we have a friend or a spouse or a girlfriend or boyfriend where you have those … Maybe it’s in a moment of a terrible fight when they just sort of unload on you, and they say, “Look in the mirror and see what you …!” That sort of stuff. Yeah, there definitely were characters and people in my life that were really positive influences on me, and some of them are in the book, literally. I think we all have that in our lives. We do have friends and people who love us who are trying to make us see what’s right in front of our face when we’re in denial of it, as I certainly was and a lot of people are.
Brett McKay: Sometimes your friends just act as an example, I guess. In the novel, Steven has a friend who works in an ad company who’s just super disciplined. Meditates, gets up early, just does everything by the book. He has a routine and he sticks to it. He’s a pro. It seems like now in your life that routine, ritual, is really important to you as well. I imagine there was someone in your life that you encountered that was just like that.
Pressfield: Yeah, that’s exactly true. There are so few people, I find, who actually do possess self-discipline, if you look through your own life and everything. You do, Brett, that’s for sure. Coming up, I had maybe just one friend, really, that did have it, that would get up with the crack of dawn and do piano stuff and meditate and do that sort of thing. He was a role model to me, and I basically tried to become him, and have copied so much of the way I live right now from this one particular friend. Role models are tremendously important.
In a way, what you’re doing with the Art of Manliness is trying to be an online role model for a lot of people. I’m trying to do that myself on my blog, because it helps. Nowadays, people get it online rather than in person.
Brett McKay: Let’s talk about the title of the book, The Knowledge. In the novel, Steven and his friend Gill work on this concept music album and they call it The Knowledge. It’s based off of The Knowledge, which is what London cabbies have to memorize to become cab drivers. Basically, the London cabbies have to memorize the entire map of London and all the cattywampus streets there, and how to get to different places. It takes two or three years for someone to memorize this stuff. For Steven and Gill in the novel, The Knowledge seemed to represent something higher. What did The Knowledge represent for Steven and Gill?
Pressfield: That’s a great question, Brett. You’re right, The Knowledge, in terms of London taxi drivers, is sometimes referred to as the hardest test in the world. These guys who want to be London cab drivers, it’s like 20,000 different lanes and streets in London and they will literally get on a bicycle or a moped or something and for two years, with a pad and a pencil, they’ll ride around London just trying to memorize where all the streets go. They have to pass a test where somebody will say, “How do you get from Earls Court to Shepherd’s Bush?” and you’ve got to play that back.
I asked myself, writing this book, “What’s the metaphor here?” The metaphor is, just as a cabbie has to learn the geographic layout of the city of London, what you and I as writers or artists or entrepreneurs, or just as human beings, we have to learn the “knowledge of life,” of the city of life. We have to learn how to navigate from A to B and all that sort of stuff.
In the concept that I was applying it in the book, it was not only knowledge of the real material world but knowledge of our interior world. When we’re talking like we were before, Brett, about resistance and about self-sabotage, that sort of stuff, we have to learn the knowledge of our inner city, our inner London that’s inside us, how to navigate around our own self-imposed roadblocks. Beyond that, I would even go to say that it was knowledge of previous lives or other things from dimensions that are beyond the material dimension or even the interior dimension.
It’s sort of like we come out of the womb, we’re in this strange place called Planet Earth where we have an unconscious and we have a conscious, and we have the world out there in front of us. From infancy, we’re trying to master it. Like where are we, who are we, why are we here, what are we trying to do, and how can we do it? What is it all about? These are the questions that everybody asks themselves. In terms of the book, that’s what “The Knowledge” means.
Brett McKay: Why do you think sometimes, seeking the knowledge, it ends up swallowing people mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically? They do themselves harm trying to seek out the knowledge. Why do you think that happens to people?
Pressfield: It’s a big world and it’s a dangerous world, and it’s full of a lot of negative and evil stuff. I’m talking about inside our own heads. We don’t have to look for bad people out there who will harm us. Most people live life on a very shallow level. If they have a job, if they have a spouse, if they can raise a family, they’re happy with that. When any of us try to go deep, we’re playing with fire because there are a lot of blind alleys out there, and alleys that will take you down sinkholes. That’s why I think mentors are so important, and finding somebody that …
This is a bad analogy, Brett, but when a young quarterback comes into the NFL, let’s say. The coach will not throw him into a game too soon. Sometimes a quarterback … Even Aaron Rodgers was played behind Brett Favre for years. There have been many players that are thrown into the deep end too soon, and it can ruin you. That’s just the way life is. That’s why mentors and coaches and role models are so important that can lead the young person, like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, can lead the person one step at a time and not expose them to too much too soon, because it’s a dangerous world out there and inside our own heads.
That was what the character – actually, his name was Peter – in the book, that was why that character was in the book, to represent the dangers of pursuing art too deeply, or pursuing the knowledge too deeply, when you’re not prepared and don’t have the mental discipline and the mental self-knowledge.
Brett McKay: I think that ties in nicely with one of the other things you talk about in The War of Art, about being pro. We talked about this a bit already, but being detached. You have to keep a little detachment from your work, and even from the task of seeking that higher thing you’re looking for as well, or else it will end up doing a lot of damage.
Pressfield: I think that’s true. It’s a great point, Brett. One of the attributes of a professional, I think, is that they don’t take success or failure personally. Again, they can sort of split themselves in half and say, “Okay, I had a great success but I’m not going to let it get my head swelled,” or, “Okay, I crashed and burned, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a loser. I just did something wrong. I’ll correct it.” I think it’s great to have that witness perspective as well as the man in the arena perspective as we’re navigating life. It’s a mistake, I think, to take things too personally, to be so totally engaged in something that when an endeavor fails, it’s like we have failed as human beings and as souls, which is not the case at all. It’s just an endeavor that’s failed. We’ll dust ourselves off, we’ll get up again, we’ll try again.
Brett McKay: In the novel, the protagonist, he’s is his late 20s, thereabouts, and the book ends with him leaving for California in a van with his beloved cat. You actually had a cat, right, at this time period in your life? Yeah. I love how you love the cat. He has the knowledge about overcoming the resistance. I’m curious, what happens to this protagonist when he gets to sunny L.A.? Does he experience wild, immediate success, or does it take time even after you acquire the knowledge of the resistance and turning pro?
Pressfield: That’s another great question, Brett. I’ll tell you what really happened. I left New York in my late 20s having given up on writing novels. I just figured, I just can’t do it, it’s beyond me. I’ll be like Peter; I’ll end up killing myself if I keep doing this. I said, “I’m going to reinvent myself. I’m going to go to L.A., I’m going to try to be a screenwriter.” At that point, I had flipped the switch to being a professional, but the bottom line was it took me like another six or seven years before I made the first penny.
There was plenty of struggle and plenty of lessons learned, almost like getting a PhD in a field that doesn’t have an actual college. In the real world, it took a long time. I would think, even if you would imagine what would happen to that fictional character in The Knowledge, that probably the same thing would happen to him. Success is not just going to come immediately to him, but at least he’s turned the corner and is operating as a professional now and not as an amateur, even though he isn’t making any money yet.
Brett McKay: At what point in your life did you start trying to write a novel again?
Pressfield: Ah, another great question. Let me see, the novel was The Legend of Bagger Vance. It was like another 15 years after I left New York and went to L.A.
Brett McKay: Why do you think it took that long? Do you think there was some resitsnace going on there, like you were using screenwriting, like that was the resistance to writing the novel, you think?
Pressfield: I worked for maybe 13 years trying to write novels, supporting myself doing these crazy jobs, and they all failed. I was just totally traumatized by that, and pretty much had made up my mind I was never going to try it again. Working in the movies was a real college education, PhD, in learning about the principles of storytelling, and learning about how to conduct yourself as a professional and how to manage your emotions. I think at some point, that seed that had been planted 15 years earlier, that I had put away 15 years earlier, it just sort of stayed dormant through that time and then it just popped up. It popped up when I had the idea for The Legend of Bagger Vance. It kind of just popped into my mind fully formed as a book, not as a movie. I sort of knew, okay, I’ve got to switch. I’ve got to go back into this arena that I had failed in so miserably.
Oddly enough, it was a piece of cake. The book came out of me fast, and got bought fast and got made into a movie fast.
Brett McKay: That’s the muses in action there, right?
Pressfield: Yeah, I guess so. It’s the unconscious, it’s the goddess inspiring us, it’s things we can’t explain. We’re trying to find the knowledge of that, but it’s beyond us.
Brett McKay: Steven, do you still struggle with the resistance today even though you have this pro mentality?
Pressfield: Oh yeah, absolutely. It never goes away. I always say, you have to slay the dragon again every morning. It never goes away, never gets any easier. The only thing – I’m sure you know this yourself, Brett, from all the work that you do – is you’ve had enough success. You’ve faced it down enough times, that you know you can do it now, which is different from when you were first starting out and you didn’t know if you could defeat it at all. Now at least you know, I’ve done it 10,000 times, so I guess I can do it again today. It’s always there, and it’s always ready to kill you, and it will kill you if you let it.
Brett McKay: Steven, this has been a great conversation. There’s a lot more we could talk about, but where can people learn more about The Knowledge and the rest of your work?
Pressfield: Everything is on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but I also have a blog that’s just my name, www.stevenpressfield.com. Everything is there, and every Wednesday I do a post called Writing Wednesdays. It’s sort of like an ongoing chapter in The War of Art, and it’s about the craft, and it’s about professionalism, and it’s about overcoming the demons of self-sabotage within us.
Let me thank you, Brett. Thanks for having me on the podcast here, and thanks for the great questions. It’s always fun to get into this studio with you.
Brett McKay: Thanks so much. Steven Pressfield, thank you so much for you time. It’s been a pleasure.
My guest today was Steven Pressfield. His latest book is called The Knowledge. It’s available on Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. You can find more information about Steven’s work at StevenPressfield.com. Also check out our show notes for this episode at aom.is/theknowledge, where you can find links to resources, where you can delve deeper into this topic.
That wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com. If you enjoy this show, I’d appreciate if you’d give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. That would help us out a lot.
As always, thank you for your continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: April 5, 2017