Book Review: Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

I’ve been in a writing slump for a while.  I thought I was out of it during September. I had written two short stories, an article for a newsletter, and added words to my novel.  But then—nothing.  So I reread Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro.  It’s a quick read, but every time I reread one of his books, I take away something different.  

This time I took away his five things you should always do when you write. 

1. Write over your head. 

I remember the first magazine article gig I got, years ago.  I had pitched a business related article and the editor called me and asked if I’d do a piece on the value of a college degree instead. Apparently the writer who had agreed to do it backed out at the last minute and she needed the article in four days.  I was on vacation in a beach town when she called.  I said yes faster than a hummingbird’s wings.  Then I hung up the phone and thought—just because I had a college degree, I was no expert on its value.  Plus, this was when tuitions were skyrocketing and people were questioning the value.  Result—wrote the piece, it was published, and I went on to write monthly for that magazine. I was published—I wrote over my head. 

2. Write what you don’t know.  

This tenant reminds me the power of research, be it books, internet, magazines, or interviews.  Not only will the research provide information for your project, but it also sparks other ideas for future projects.  

3. Take what the defense gives you. 

When things go wrong, when the defense keeps blocking you, shift your offense.  Take the small wins, take whatever you can, and be patient.  Not every day is a good day, but put in the work and your muse will eventually reward you. 

4. Professional athletes play hurt.

Write even if you’re tired, even if you don’t feel like it, even if you’re not inspired.  Write. Write about how you’re not inspired. Write about what it feels like to be tired. Just write. 

5. Sit chilly.  

Another sports analogy, but this one relates to horse back riding.  The more you tense up, the more you worry, the more you freak out—the more the horse will too.  Sit chilly.  Focus on your process, do the work and keep your seat.

Other works by Steven Pressfield


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Denise Todd