“Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield – Book Review

DO THE WORK!: Overcome Resistance and get out of your own way”, by Steven Pressfield (The Domino Project, Do You Zoom, Inc., New York, 2011, 98 pages, price?: cheap!) follows his wonderful book “The War of Art” by a few years of time and wisdom gained in, well, overcoming resistance and doing the work!  I highly commend both to you – in any order that intrigues you – just act!

Do The Work, by Steven Pressfield

Do The Work, by Steven Pressfield

DO THE WORK is a short little book that follows the development of a writing project from beginning to end, illustrating each positive step and each setback along the way as an example to readers.  The lesson is not just for writers but for ALL creative people, and as a writer, Steven Pressfield does most what he does best.

As in “The War of Art”, Pressfield’s antagonist – and ours in whatever creative endeavor that we attempt – is “Resistance”. 

Without any false empathy (after all, we’re the problem blocking the solution), he provides simple yet profound insights into our self-chosen barriers to carrying an idea forward to fruition, whether they are internal or blockades thrown up by others that we choose to embrace.  When we make that choice, we “own” the resistance – or does it own us?

Steven Pressfield tells how that enemy manifests itself, along with other enemies to the process, rational thought, friends and family.  He also illustrates their principal allies, stupidity, stubbornness, blind faith, passion, and assistance.  He is the “case study”.

He breaks down the illustrative project’s development into four simple steps, beginning, middle, middle (yes again, after you “hit the wall” and break through), and end.

Significant barriers can be overcome at the beginning of a project by defining what the “end” of it is, and how you will know it, not being overwhelmed and therefore sidetracked by monumental research before your idea has “legs” and, as many established authors tell us again and again,…

“Re-Writing is Essential to Writing.”

There is no “middle” without a “beginning”.  Even with a well-grounded start – not too much, not too little, and there is never a “too soon to start”, Resistance does not leave you alone, but escalates.  Pressfield sets forth key tenets for work and overcoming set-backs during this critical phase.  For me, the one that resonates most is a clear-eyed understanding that “ideas do not come linearly”, for creativity is an iterative process.  One of the deadliest forms of Resistance in mid-project is self-judgment.  Suspend it!  Instead,

Act > Reflect > Act > Reflect

Why two “middles” to a project.  For Steven Pressfield, and many of us, the middle is “when you hit the wall” – and you will hit the wall!  What happens to him – and us – when we find ourselves flattened against the wall and sliding down toward defeat?  Don’t fall victim to the “failure is good” siren songs.  You haven’t failed, but have discovered the opportunity to learn from your experiences in the “first half”.  That analysis allows you to engage in what he calls “creative panic”, and move to a higher plane in your work (in writing, that usually means re-writing, again and again and…), learning from the lessons that Resistance has unwittingly revealed to you, and that YOU are not the Problem

“The Problem is the Problem”… “Solve It (!) By Working the Problem!”

Seth Godin is a good friend of Steven Pressfield.  Steven asks us to clearly comprehend  Godin’s emphasis on “shipping”, the critical part of a project.  If you cannot finish and deliver, you’ve wasted your time, talent and treasure… and everyone else’s expectations.  Many times, he points out, the problem is fear of success.  Therefore, he echoes one of Seth Godin’s mantras:

“Always Finish.  Always Deliver.  Always SHIP !!”

Of course, Pressfield warns, Resistance is still not done with you!  He has found through hard experience that, after you SHIP… “Start (again) before you’re ready” on the next project.  Ship, celebrate, then tomorrow get back to work on the next project.  Remember to trust your gifts, talents and experience, to get the juices flowing again before ennui sets in, and do not over think and rationalize why you cannot achieve the next project’s goals.  As we often remind readers of this site, including on every page, right at the top …

Action is the New Competence!

(P.S.:  Get Back to Work !!!)

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About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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One Response to “Do the Work” by Steven Pressfield – Book Review

  1. Yvonne says:

    Argh! May I have some wine before I get back to work!?

    Randy, I bought an excellent little reference book today, on some of the “domestic” architecture in Castello and Dorsoduro. When you folks come back here, you might like it. It’s Venetian Domestic Architecture, by Trincanato and Salvadori. I’m cranky I didn’t buy it 10 weeks ago.

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