Steven Pressfield – Do the Work

Early in my writing career, I created a blog called One Writer’s Voice. (I discovered recently that someone has organized it so that if you search for this blog, you end up at a porn site!! Who are these people? But I digress.)

In 2011, I wrote the following post. It resonates now as it did then.


One of our Toronto newspapers published a synopsis of Steven Pressfield’s book, Do The Work. Interestingly, this article appeared in the business section with the heading, What Writers can Teach Business Folk. My ever-encouraging mother clipped it out for me because she thought the messages would be of interest. And she was right.

According to the reviewer, Pressfield says that writers have to overcome resistance by using different strategies as each writing project unfolds.

  • In the beginning stage – use broad strokes to sketch your plot. Avoid the desire to have all the answers before you start.
  • During the middle stage, the time when you are filling in plot details, avoid giving up when your plot or project seems to have a major flaw. Instead, think of it as another challenge and get creative.
  • The final stage, completing your novel or non-fiction work, is usually the toughest. Map your strategy to complete the project and stick with it.

Pressfield’s book includes many exercises and practical words of advice. A few examples:

  • Banish the self-censor.
  • Be fearless.
  • Expect to fail.
  • Habit is a mighty ally. Get in the habit of writing.
  • Sit down and do the work.
  • Don’t over think. Don’t over prepare. Begin.
  • Put yourself on a research diet.
  • Think of yourself as a professional, not an amateur.

Short and sweet. I’ve downloaded the book so I can find a few more bits of advice as I embark on a major edit of Lies Told in Silence.

June 2020 perspective: the advice holds. I think I’m getting better at the process of writing. Now, if only I could get better at the process of getting my novels published.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

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6 Responses

  1. Interesting remembrance from 9 years ago, Mary.

    Regarding your closing:

    I think I’m getting better at the process of writing. Now, if only I could get better at the process of getting my novels published.

    … that’s easy. BE the publisher (via Indie)! 😉

  2. Nice nostalgia trip. I’m familiar with Pressfield and find his advice helpful as well. I’m curious though – what did he mean by “put yourself on a research diet”?

    1. My recollection is that he means stop researching – it’s just a reason to avoid writing. I don’t know about you, but I often keep poking away at research, which is easier to do, instead of getting back to writing!

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