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

What Writers Can Learn From “Slumdog Millionaire”

Race to Tibet by Sophie SchillerSophie Schiller and I have been friends for more than two years now, chatting back and forth on email and Facebook, sharing thoughts on writing and life, even politics from time to time. She’s the author of Race to Tibet and Transfer  Day. Sophie has written an article about the writing life – a great companion piece to last week’s post Writing Is Like No Other Career – and has graciously agreed to share it. Many thanks, Sophie!

What Writers Can Learn From “Slumdog Millionaire” by Sophie Schiller

As a writer, I envy people who work in teams. Working as a member of a team is empowering. By collaborating with others, the individual worker becomes a part of something greater, and when they succeed, their success is shared collaboratively. A writer’s success, if he ever experiences any, is one-sided and can never really be shared, making it somewhat hollow.

The team naturally benefits from synergy, the combined efforts that every member brings to the table, causing the team to become greater than the sum of its individual members. But most writers don’t have the option of working as a team. The work of a writer is lonely, frustrating, and many times isolating. By definition, writers work as an individual in a world he has created of his own imagination. There are many days when the writer can’t rely on his sense of humor, because it’s non-existent. There are days he can’t rely on his strength, because it has ebbed. There will be days when he can’t rely on his natural optimism because it has run out.

On days when my positive thinking and physical strength have evaporated, when I have lost my self-confidence and when the spark of inspiration has dried up, I watch an inspiring video that never fails to move me. On YouTube, there is a video that captures the moment when “Slumdog Millionaire” wins Oscar for Best Picture. Each time I watch that video, I cry. The camaraderie, the teamwork, the collaborative effort between the writers, the producers, the director, the actors, the technicians—each one of the hundreds of people who worked on the movie—is right there on that stage. Their mutual effort has paid off stunningly by garnering them the industry’s highest prize and honors.

My happiness for them overwhelms me because when the underdog wins, all of us win. When “Slumdog Millionaire” won the Oscar, they were the odd man out, the underdog, but they broke new ground in film making at a time when nobody believed in them and nobody wanted to give them a chance. Each and every day of his  working life, a writer must do the same. When he sits down at his computer and types, the writer has to believe he is breaking new ground. He must write with the idea that he is creating something new, worthwhile, and monumental.

In the words of “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Producer, Christian Colson: “If you have passion and belief, truly anything is possible.” Dear fellow writers, heed the words of Christian Colson. Believe in yourself and keep your passion for writing alive. But above all, keep writing. Sometimes the strongest team is a team of one.

Watch the video here:

Sophie Schiller researching her next novel
Sophie Schiller researching her next novel

Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ and grew up in the West Indies. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Her most recent novel is Race to Tibet, a thrilling tale of high-altitude adventure and survival set in the Roof of the World. She is currently at work on a historical thriller set in the Caribbean.

How Do Prolific Authors Do It?

This post – taken from my earlier blog One Writer’s Voice – seems just as relevant to me now as it did two years ago. PS: the cover is for his latest book released this month.

two-by-two-nicholas-sparksDuring a writing course I took in 2012, four authors discussed their writing process. Not all four were prolific, but two were; one writing three books every year (adult, YA and young readers) and another writing one book every year. These two authors had different processes, but both involved ‘bum in seat’ discipline.

Last Sunday’s New York Times included a list of Nicholas Sparks’ sixteen novels [now twenty] and the number of weeks each novel remained on their hardcover fiction list. Regardless what you think of his stories, the results are interesting and, some might say, impressive. Sparks has not repeated the success he had with The Notebook (56 weeks), but each subsequent novel has earned between 12 and 29 weeks.

In an interview with Writers Digest, Sparks advises writers to ‘write what readers want to read, which isn’t necessarily what you want to write’. He goes on to say:

I think it’s important to understand that it [the publishing industry] is an industry in which the publisher has to sell your book, and if they don’t think there’s an audience for your book, you’re probably not going to get it published. I also think it’s important to realize that to get published, you’re not competing against me, or Stephen King, or John Grisham—we have spent years developing audiences that we bring to the table. So, you have to write better than we do, or more originally, or have more original stories, or work in a genre that has a need. I think it’s important to realize that readers are forgiving to a point, in that if you don’t put out your best possible work every time, your audience will begin to fall.

In an interview on, Sparks discloses that he writes one book at a time, a minimum of 2000 words a day, 5 or 6 days a week with the first draft typically ready in four months. Apparently, he spends another two months on edits to get it to final completion.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Wish it were so. Comments on Sparks’s approach or anything else related to the topic are welcome.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. 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