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

Second Career Author – Tony Riches

Following on from the questions I sent last November on being a second career author, today I’m talking to British Historical Fiction author Tony Riches, best known for The Tudor Trilogy, all three books of which have reached #1 on Amazon US and UK.

Hi Tony – thanks for agreeing to tell your story. What sort of career did you have before becoming a writer?

After gaining my degree and my MBA from Cardiff University, I held senior roles as a Director of the UK National Health Service, for a major UK Management Consulting Firm and as a Chief Officer of the biggest Local Authority in Wales. I also worked as a specialist Project Manager on significant regeneration projects.

Was there a triggering event that prompted you to begin writing?

I’d always written for journals and magazines, as well as being a Wikipedia reviewer. I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to ‘retire’ on a private pension, ten years earlier than planned, which enabled me to fulfil my lifelong ambition to become a published author.

Do you now write full time or part time?

I write full time and have published at least one book a year for the past five years. As I write historical fiction and prefer to use primary sources, this means spending spring and summer researching and visiting locations, then writing through the autumn and winter months.

What parts of the writing career do you enjoy the most/the least?

I enjoy hearing from readers around the world, particularly when they tell me my books have inspired them to look deeper into medieval history. The least enjoyable aspect of writing as a career is reading reviews where there is no right of reply, (such as the reader who recently said my book OWEN was too short – it is a perfectly respectable 320 pages and is the first book of a trilogy!)

What parts of your former career do you miss/not miss?

I don’t miss my former work at all, although when I first ‘retired’ I felt I should make use of my skills and management experience, so I supported the development of the local community arts charity for a year, which I found very rewarding.

Do you have any regrets?

Sometimes I wish I’d started writing years earlier, but work would almost certainly have conflicted with my writing time. I was also lucky to have started writing when Amazon and eBooks were becoming established as a viable international marketplace. My timing was also perfect for becoming an ‘early adopter’ of blogging and social media, which has significantly helped raise awareness of my books.

What advice would you offer other second career writers?

Read as much as you can – and remember if you only manage to write one page a day, that’s a book a year!

For information about Tony’s books please visit his website  and his popular blog, The Writing Desk at You can also find him on Facebook at and Twitter @tonyriches.

Thanks for sharing your background and experience, Tony. I’m holding onto that one-page-a-day concept!

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

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.