Steven Pressfield

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[0:00:00.2] TG: Hello and welcome to the Story Grid podcast. This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better writer. I’m your host, Tim Grahl, and I am a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne. He is the creator of Story Grid, the author of the book Story Grid and an editor with over 25 years’ experience.

 

This is a really special episode for me. Steven Pressfield joins Shawn and I to discuss both publishing of Steve’s new book, The Artist’s Journey along with mine, Running Down a Dream. For those of you  that have been following along for so long on this podcast, it’s just really meaningful to have this book finally come out. In fact, it’s coming out today, July 11th.

 

So we just spend a few minutes talking about what it was like to write these books, what we’re trying to accomplish with these books and what it’s like publishing them through Black Irish Publishing. So it’s a really fun conversation. We hit on a lot of topics, and so I hope you’ll enjoy it. Let’s jump in and get started.

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[00:01:02] SC: Okay, guys. So I’m glad you both were able to come today to do this show. I thought it would be great to bring both of you together, because as the editor of both of your books, I found the work that you both did to be extraordinarily complementary. What I thought would be fun would be to talk about sort of the Genesis or the sort of the birth story or each one of these projects.

 

I want to begin with Steve, because I do recall, I think it’s maybe about three or four years ago, Steve, when we had a pile of ideas that we were going through, and one of them was this project that you told me about where you said, “Well, I have this idea about the next iteration of The Artist’s Life beyond the heroic journey of discovering that you should be writing or creating something.

 

[00:01:56] SP: Yeah, exactly.

 

[00:01:57] SC: Then it’s sort of, as I recall, we got overwhelmed with one another project and we sort of buried it.

 

[00:02:06] SP: Yeah. We’re sitting around for like 18 months, yeah.

 

[00:02:08] SC: Yeah. Yeah. Then all of a sudden, I think it was maybe December or January, you emailed and said, “Hey, I’ve been tinkering with that thing and I think it’s ready now.” So my question to you is, first of all, I’m generally interested because I don’t think we’ve ever talked about this, of your motivations or what sort of pushed you into this realm to begin with. What made you want to write about creative’s pursuits and the difficulty of them and how do you see this book as sort of on the stepping stone sort of way of exploring this part of yourself? I know that’s a very vague question, but –

 

[00:02:50] SP: I know what you mean. I think the book, it certainly follows out of The War of Art and that whole opening up that avenue of exploration of what is the negative force of resistance that stops so many writers or artists from living out their dream or their destiny. I was just thinking at that time a lot about the hero’s journey. I was reading Jung and I was watching Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell and it just sort of came to me, the way things come to you, that as a writer you have a hero’s journey that sort of takes you up to the point where you commit to being a writer.

 

But then I was thinking about the Movie Good Will Hunting.  Remember that one with Matt Damon and Robin Williams? Where through the whole movie, the guy has got this tremendous gift, Mat Damon, as a mathematical genius, but he’s running away from it. He’s a South Boston tough guy. He loves to get – A black Irish guy, like you Shawn, jest in bar fights and stuff like that.

 

Then when finally at the end of the movie, the guy kind of commits to what he can do with his gift, and the last scene or the last beat of the movie is him driving to California where Minnie Driver, his girlfriend, da-da-da-da-. So the idea of The Artist’s Journey is sort of what happens when he gets to California?

 

Thinking about you, Tim, in your book Running Down a Dream was really your – That book is really about your hero’s journey. This is the way I see it. As a father, as a husband, as a guy that has his own business that wants to be a writer, wants to be a novelist, wants to write fiction and you’re dealing with all the demons through that. All your own fears and your own aggressiveness and whatever it is. Then at some point the moment when you get in the car and go to California, it’s a moment when you call Shawn and you say, “Shawn, if you’ll help me be my mentor, I’ll help you with your marketing. I’ll make you a trade.”

 

So at that point, your journey changes from the hero’s journey to The Artist’s Journey. Just like Matt Damon, it’s like, “What is he going to do when he gets to California?” He’s going to probably get set up at some university. He’s going to have an office and he’s going to have to sit down and say, “What is my gift? What am I going to do and how am I going to change my life? Am I going to get up earlier in the morning? Am I going go to bed earlier at night? Am I going to change my diet? Am I going to change the people I’m with? Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.” All the stuff that you went through, Tim, and that we all go through.

 

So, anyway, Shawn, this is a long way of answering your question. But I just thought that I hadn’t read anything about that, about anything called The Artist’s Journey or what happens. How does your life change at that moment when you turned pro and you really commit to your calling? You stop running from it, etc. So I thought it would be good to explore that and that it would be helpful to people.

 

Tim, your book just seems something I just fit in just perfectly with that because yours was the saga of the hero in the midst of a real hero’s journey, not an abstract thing, but your actual – Real, the real things that really happened to you.

 

[00:06:12] SC: Well, the other thing that I like about the complementary between your two books is Tim’s book, to me, it’s a very micro day-to-day problem solving exercise.

 

[00:06:25] SP: Granular I think is the –

 

[00:06:26] SC: Yeah, very granular. It’s a single – It’s sort of the evolution of the dream as single project. For me, what really turned the book into sort of this moment when, “Holy cow! I’ve run 13 miles of my marathon. I might be able to make it. I might be able to make it,” and that for me is when Tim in his book talks about the desire that rose within him to write a book. He had written all these blog posts. He had done all these things. He had stabilized his company and then the desire to write a book came to the forefront. So it’s project-based in a granular micro way.

 

Tim, let me just ask you this. When you were sort of in your process by which understanding what it is you really wanted to do, when did the idea of writing come in? Because you went to college and you became a tech professional. It doesn’t seem like an easy leap from tech professional to guy who writes nonfiction and then with the ambition of writing fictions. So was there any particular epiphinal moment for you where you said, “Oh my gosh! It’s writing.”

 

[00:07:52] TG: It’s funny, it was actually – So this was a couple of years ago I think now, maybe just last year, but Jeff Goins, our mutual friend was like, “Hey! That was pretty cool, that article Shawn wrote about you on Steve’s site.” I was like, “What article did he write about me on Steve’s site?” I didn’t know what he was talking about.

 

I went and found it and you had talked about how I had this shadow career. It was interesting because just like all the people around you can often see things in your life that you can’t see yourself, but for me it started where after college I had a job and I wanted to – I got into mountain biking and I didn’t have any money to buy stuff though, and so I was trying to figure out how I could like get my hands on good mountain biking gear.

 

Well, these things called blogs were just coming online. So I thought, “Well, if I start a blog and I start reviewing stuff on the blog, maybe these companies will send me free stuff and I can start having nicer equipment to do my mountain biking.” So that was when I started writing.

 

I would write about – I ended up, of course, going down lots of different paths, but I was just writing about everything around cycling. But to me, I would tell myself it’s an entrepreneur thing. I’m trying to start this thing. I’m trying to get free stuff. Then I’m trying to sell advertising, and writing was just like the way that I did that.

 

Then when I started writing for the marketing stuff for what became my consultant business, I kind of told myself the same thing of like, “Well, I want to eventually grow my own audience and this would be a way to bring in new clients. So I’m going to just start writing this stuff down and putting it on my website so that people will start seeing me an expert and I can bring in new clients.” Then it was like, “Well, maybe I should write this book because it will help my company.” I kept coming up with all these excuses to write besides the fact that I just wanted to be a writer.

 

So you, Shawn, wrote in this article that basically it was like I had this shadow, this thing that I kept doing that somehow kept letting me write. Then lo and behold, I realized one day like, “Oh! I want to be a writer, I think,” even though I’ve been writing for like 10 years at that point.”

 

So it was actually after that that for the first time, I never thought of it that way, that I had been writing for a decade and not willing to call myself a writer, because it was just this thing I did for these other things that were more important than write.

 

So that was actually after that was the first time I ever started calling myself a writer because I was like I’ve been doing this a long time now and that’s really what I want to be. So it was just – I’m now forgotten the question. But that was basically the progression, is I kept trying to do all these other things, but yet I kept coming up with excuses of why to get these other things that seemed important. I had it right as well.

 

[00:11:02] SC: Right. Now, Steve, I’m going to throw that question back on you, because you and I have had a long professional career together and I know you’re in the Marine Corps after college. What was the moment – Do you have an epiphinal moment or did you always just sort of know, “You know, I’m a storyteller and I want to tell my stories and I’m going to sort of bang around and figure it out.” Was there any clear sort of moment where you go, “Shit! I can’t do anything else. So is this what I’m going to do?” What was it for you?

 

[00:11:38] SP: It was probably a bit like Tim. It happened in increments, and actually I never thought about writing anything down until I was in the Marine Corps. I remember in boot camp there was so many crazy things happening. I said, “But somebody’s got to write this shit down. This is just too crazy.” But then I forgot about it. I went to work in advertising, and you know this story, Shawn. You’ve told this story. I was like a junior copy cub at a place called [inaudible 00:12:09] in New York and I had a boss named Ed Hannibal and he wrote a novel and it was a big hit and I said, “Shit! I’ll do that too.”

 

So cut to 30 years later, I finally got published, right? But I just thought, “It seems so easy. He just did it.” So I tried to and I just kind of went down a rabbit hole and it took me a couple of more decades to climb out of it.

 

[00:12:35] SC: Exactly. Now, okay. Tim, the big sort of monster in Tim’s book is finishing his first book and how that was this major struggle and he kept saying to himself, “Once I get this project done, everything will be better,” and I don’t want to ruin the story here, but what that project did was give him a great sense of relief and then send him down into a very dark pit that threatened not only his sanity, but his personal life.

 

So the question becomes, and this is the segue into your – The Artist’s Journey, is that I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about, Steve. You’re giving sort of a global macro reason why the hell we’re doing this to people who kind of hit this project-based depression at the end, which we all do. You always say, when you’re just getting to the finish line of another project to have something in the drawer that you can start the day after.

 

I think that’s because you have learned over your career to beat this depression before it seizes you. So what I’d love about The Artist’s Journey is that it’s a way of reorienting and re-grounding the artist so that they can say, “Oh! This is really project-based work that will have some sort of meaningful understanding to me as I progress in it.”

 

So the macro that you’re providing in my estimation is sort of a prescription for those people who are finishing a project and are just about to go down the depression curve and say, “Well, this is why this is important. It may seem like, “Oh! I just finished the project and who cares?” But those projects, as you go through them, have a greater meaning to you and you will discover as you move forward.

 

I know I’m getting very vague, but was that sort of the global idea that you had? After the hero’s journey is done, after you’ve figured out that you’re a writer, what’s next? This is the answer to that question. Is that sort of close?

 

[00:15:15] SP: Yes. But I wouldn’t say it was so much about finishing project A and moving to project B. I think it’s like in Tim’s story, he goes through all of the agonies that he describes in Running Down a Dream, and then at some point he realizes, “I’m turning pro. I’m really going to go for it and be a writer.” At that point, he traded one set of problems for another set of problems, but it’s a higher, problems on a higher level.

 

What I really wanted to do with the concept of The Artist’s Journey is it’s like there’s so many people that read our blogs and stuff, and when they write in, we get a kind of a sense. They write in their comments to us make kind of a sense of where they’re at. It’s easy once you’re an adult, you’re starting on this sort of endless year, year, year, decade, decade, decade and you sort of wonder, “Where the hell am I? Is there a roadmap?”

 

Whereas when you’re like in high school, you have the four years and you have college, you have those four years and you sort of know where you are, right? You’re a senior, or now you switched over, now you’re a first year person.

 

So what the concept of The Artist’s Journey does is it kind of tells you, let’s say you’re dealing with alcohol problems, you’re dealing with self-destructive things, you’re constantly getting into terrible relationships. You’re getting divorced. You’re beating – Then you can pretty much say to yourself, “Okay, I’m in my hero’s journey.” Then at some point you say, “Enough of this stuff. I’m going to commit.”

 

It’s nice if you can say to yourself, “Okay. Now, I know where I am now. Now I’m at the end. I’ve come home to Ithaca,” if I’m Odysseus. “I’ve landed in California,” if I’m Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, “and now my life is changing and I have to shift gears and I have to have a whole other way of thinking at it.”

 

There’s the quote, and I know you know this quote, Shawn. It’s a long quote in The Artist’s Journey from Rosanne Cash from her book Composed, and she talks about how she had this dream where the short version of it is she woke up from this dream and she realized, “I am a dilatant. I may have had a couple of hit albums. I’m Johnny Cash’s daughter. I’m touring, but I’m not doing what I really want to do, which is to be a songwriter and shape the music that I’m doing.”

 

She talks about how she completely changed her life at that point and how she started training like an athlete, paining lessons and singing lessons, and she just totally changed the way she – Her habits, her eating habits and everything. She’s just kind of – What happened at that point was she ended her hero’s journey and she started her artist’s journey and she said, “I’m taking my gift seriously, and now I’m trading the problems of self-destructive actions for the problems of how do I find – Answer the question, “What is my gift? What was I put here to do? What do I really want to write and how am I going to organize my life so I could do it?”

 

[00:18:18] SC: Right.

 

[00:18:19] TG: This is interesting to me, because I remember a lot of the like arc of my stories in the book, but like these really tough moments when like I couldn’t make payroll. I was worried about paying all my employees, bringing enough clients, and then people like Seth Godin would talk about like doing your best work and taking the time to follow your dreams and like all that kind of stuff. I’m like, “Well, dude, I’m just – It’s great. I’m really happy for you, Seth, that you’ve had so much success. Truly am. I need to pay my bills next week.” So if it’s between working with this asshole or like doing a dream, I got to work with the asshole.

 

As you were just describing that transfer from the heroic journey into The Artist’s Journey, I think about this book Running Down a Dream I just wrote, because there’s like – I’ve had this conversations with Candice where I’m like, “I don’t really understand why I had to write this book. It doesn’t really help me all that much. Now I’m in this situation where it’s like, “Well, am I the book launch guy, or am I the Story Grid guy, or now I wrote this book that has nothing to do with either.”

 

So I know I got – It’s like causing me trouble and it was hard and it doesn’t really fit anything that I’m already doing that like, “Writing another book on book marketing is what I should do to make more money.” But yet it was time to write the book and I found myself in that position where I’m like, “Well, I’m not struggling anymore and I actually can’t think about what it is I’m trying to bring into the world.” Is that the kind of like transition you’re talking about?

 

[00:20:16] SP: Yeah, and I also think, Tim, it doesn’t – I know just what you mean about Seth Godin, or I know I write that kind of stuff too. So people say, “Gee! It’s great, Steve, that you can talk about the muse and all that, but I’m trying to make payroll.”

 

But if you think about a guy like James Patterson who – The super bestselling writer, right? He used to work — He was a big advertising honcho at J. Walter Thompson. So he would come in in the morning two hours early into his office and every day he would bang out two hours of fiction. Then when the bell rang, he became Mr. ad guy and he worked and did his thing. So that’s kind of a way of doing it on two tracks, where he still had to deal with the assholes all day long to pay the bills, send his kids to college and all that, but he also, on the other side of his brain, he had committed. He was a committed writer. He was the real deal even though he had not been published yet. So you’ve done that too, Tim.

 

I mean, one of the great things about your book, a lot of times when I read, I see movies or I read fiction about people’s struggles, I think, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. They made this up and it’s great. There’re guns and there are spies and there’s all kinds of –” But what about what happens in the real life? Tell me what really happened.

 

What’s great about your book is you tell everybody exactly what happened. When you talk about sitting in your parked car and crying, I mean, my heart broke at that because I thought, “This guy is really – That’s true. That’s the shit that people really –” If Matt Damon is in the movie, we’re cutting that scene. He’s not crying in the car. But that’s what makes Running Down a Dream I think so helpful to people, because they’ll come to scenes like that and they’ll go, “That’s me, man. I wasn’t crying in my car. I was crying at – Wherever it was, at the supermarket. I stopped beside the cantaloupes and I’m weeping into my produce basket.” But that’s the hero’s journey. It happens in real life and kind of dumber ways than it does in a Joseph Campbell myth, but that’s the hero’s journey too.

 

[00:22:26] SC: I want to bring up one sort of very mysto, as you would say, element, Steve, because back when we did the Story Grid Seminar in New York about a year and a half ago. I boonswagled you into standing up and giving a little bit of your global –

 

[00:22:48] SP: I never heard that word before, boonswagled. That must be a Harvard word, I guess.

 

[00:22:53] SC: No.

 

[00:22:54] SP: Sort of like boondoggle and hornswoggle.

 

[00:22:56] SC: That’s right. That’s exactly right. So you got up and you talked about something that I think was very, very on point, especially for everyone in the room, and that concerns sort of the big global collective unconscious sort of sensibility of Carl Jung and you had this really great take on it, where you used Jewish mysticism to sort of explain something that I had always heard as a Jungian kind of philosophy. But the idea I’d like you talk about a little bit is this notion that there are things out there in the unknown that we can’t communicate with that are somehow trying to get our attention.

 

The artist’s role in that process of moving, creating brand new things from a very large complex unknown mystical dimension that we just really do not have the capacity to consciously reach out to. Because the reason I’m bringing this up is that this is one of the things that really struck Tim when he told me Tim has a tape of that thing and he uses it when he gives talks to explain the importance of the work that we’re doing so that it gives people a larger understanding of the importance of creation and art. It’s not just it’s in the very least to selfish act, really, when it’s done well.

 

So I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but what is it that you feel about the creative act as sort of a spiritual calling?

 

[00:24:48] SP: Okay. That’s an easy one. Let me go back to what Tim just said a couple of minutes ago where you said, Tim, here you are, you just wrote this book Running Down a Dream. You don’t know why you wrote it. It doesn’t really fit into your marketing plan for your life and is really wasn’t the book you sort of were hoping that you were going to write when you started talking with Shawn, right?

 

But I would say, if you look at it from the perspective that I’m about to talk about, that book, your artistic soul brought you that book and that book is exactly the one you should have written even though you have no idea why. That’s certainly true for me. I can go back to practically every book I’ve written and I go, “Why did I write this thing? I’m not really interested in it that much. I don’t know where it fits in. Nobody is going to buy it.”

 

One of the things that I did in The Artist’s Journey is I took certain people’s career like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and I put down a list of all their – Like Bruce Springsteen’s albums, bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum, one right down the other. So you can look at that list and you sort of see the course of their career. When you look at that and you see, you can’t help but say, “Something is guiding this somehow. There’s a pattern in there.”

 

I think, Tim, when your career is all done and you got a bookshelf or a movie shelf or whatever, you’ll see Running Down a Dream will fit right in and you’ll be kind of amazed, “Wow! How did I know how to do that right at that place?” Of course, you didn’t know. There was a second you, that inner you, that writer’s soul that presented that to you.

 

But to go back to what you’re saying, Shawn, to sort of give a nutshell version, a Jewish mysticism version of it, what I was saying in that room in New Work was that I believe that life exists on at least two levels. We’re getting mysto here we might as well do this, right?

 

[00:26:45] SC:

 

[00:26:46] SP: The one level is the level we live on, the material level, where we’re in a body, we’re going to die, we need money, all that sort of stuff, right? But above that level is a higher level. In that level, if we were thinking in terms of Greek mythology, it would be Mt. Olympus, where the gods are immortal and we can travel from swift as thought. There is no death, etc, etc.

 

In Jewish mysticism, they call that level the Neshama, the soul. The soul according to the Kabbalists is constantly trying to communicate to us. It’s not inert. It’s not passive. It’s very active. It’s trying to beam down to us messages that help us. They say in Jewish mysticism that above every blade of grass is an angel saying, “Grow, grow,” right?

 

And we on the material level are trying to reach up to that soul and ask it, “What do I do next?” Tim, I would say that the idea for Running Down a Dream came to you from that other level, from the Neshama. Whether you know it or not, whether you realize it or not, and it had your best interest at heart. Not to mention the best interest of everybody that’s going to read it.

 

Of course, in Jewish mysticism, there is a force between the soul, a negative force between the soul and between us that’s trying to stop us, trying to stop us from communicating to the soul and the soul to communicate with us, and that’s the force I would call resistance. In Jewish mysticism, it’s called the yetzer hara.

 

So I forgot what the question was too, but the point is that as we are living our lives on this material plane, we’re not really sure what we’re doing or why we’re doing this. On a level above us, another force, a very highly positive force, the Neshama, our soul, has our whole body of work waiting for us. All of Bob Dylan’s were there waiting when he was still Bob Zimmerman back in Minnesota or wherever the hell he comes from.

 

Our job as artists is open the channel to that level and let it speak to us. A lot of the times, Tim, I think what you’re saying about Running Down a Dream where you say, “Why am I writing this?” A lot of times these inspirations come to us and they’re total surprises and they don’t make any sense to us, because, again, it’s sort of our second self that we don’t even know that second self is tell us to do this.

 

So we do need – I know this sounds mystical — that’s why it’s kind of a leap of faith every time you start on a new project. You have to trust that this higher part of yourself knows what it’s doing.

 

[00:29:43] SC: Well –

 

[00:29:47] SP: Is that mystical enough?

 

[00:29:48] TM: No. It’s just interesting, because, yeah, there’s just so many – Because there are other points where like I’m writing down, because Dan, who’s helping us with a bunch of Black Irish stuff, he’s the Dan in the story that was in the office down the hall. So when he read the book, he’s like, “I didn’t even know this was going on.” I’m like, “Well, these aren’t things I’m proud of, you know not, “Hey, here’s the pictures of the sheriff from our front door,” putting that on Instagram. So it’s like – It was that moment of just like I’m writing it. I’m thinking this is so stupid. Why am I putting this down for other people to see and yet that was what I was supposed to do.

 

It’s just interesting that – Because I think that all the time that the – Because when I first heard and you say it about the angel being over a blade of grass, I think about that all the time. It’s like always in my head. Yeah, it’s just interesting to see it now looking back, because it often feels like it happened to somebody else. Not that it happened to me. It’s like it happened with this other person.

 

[inaudible 00:30:56].

 

[00:30:59] SP:  Definitely. I’m sure, Tim, you’re going to look back 20 years from now at the moment when you reached out to Shawn for help, to be your mentor, to be your Obi Wan Kenobi and you’re going to say to yourself, “Wow! How was I smart enough to do that? Where did I get the guts to do that? What a crazy thing to do.” You’ll say, “But thank God I did it, because that changed everything.”

 

[00:31:23] SC: Well, I do want to point out and I think this is an important point. Steve and I, before we got on the podcast, had our weekly call and one of the things that is it’s very difficult for, let’s say, somebody my age who has reached the point of some sort of accomplishment, is it’s my instinct to want to help people, but you cannot help anyone who is not ready for the help. They have to seek you. You cannot sort of pass on your wisdom or whatever it is, and that’s to Tim’s credit, and I think that’s a very big part of his book, is that he really explains why you have to come to an understanding of yourself before you can really help other people.

 

The book has an arc of sorts where he learns about self-hatred, he learns about self-sacrifice, he learns about all different kinds of things. What’s funny to me is as the editor of both of your books, Tim originally came to me with an idea and he said, “My idea is to take The War of Art, which is a very inspiration and make it blue collar micro detail. This is how you’re going to win The War of Art and these are the tools that you use.”

 

Now, that was him speaking as the book launch guy, the marketing guy and it was my job as sort of the conduit to move away from what he used to be and aspire to something larger. So I didn’t say that to him, “Tim, why don’t you write something deeper than that?” He had to go through and I had to learn how to help him go through a process by which we talked about story.

 

Tim had recently sent something about how – My initial reaction to his first draft was, “Everybody’s going to forget this book the minute they put it down,” and that was the first draft of his book. What I meant by that is there was no story inside the marketing tools and it took a while to learn how to tell that story. But now when Tim actually got the realization, “Oh! I just have to bleed on the page and dump everything that really was excruciating on to the page. Then that story will work.” Then the book flew for him writing it.

 

So I think it’s like that resistance element that you were talking about earlier, Steve, between the Neshama and the artist. We had to work together to grind that sucker down so that a little tube could open and that thing could pop into his head. I’m wondering – Because, obviously, Steve, you’re at a more advanced creative level or writing level than Tim is and I don’t have to do that with you so much as –

 

[00:34:35] SP:  Oh, yes. You do.

 

[00:34:37] SC: No, but in a far different way, which is interesting. So I forgot what my point was going towards this other than the different tracks of thinking are really interesting for me as the editor of both books. This is why I wanted to publish them at the same time, is that it’s almost as if the work that you were doing in The Artist’s Journey and The War of Arts, Steve, is sort of this right brain fantastical big picture abstraction idea of the importance of the artist’s life.

 

It’s not a joke. This isn’t like to make pretty things to make people smile. The artist’s responsibility according to Jung and Jewish mysticism is to actually have the courage to go into that Netherland and bring back what is supposed to be on earth. Now, I know that sounds very spacey, but that’s really sort of what it is. It’s a courageous act.

 

So the big question is, “I want to be courageous. I want to be that guy who goes into the ether. How do I do it?” So Tim’s is like, “Hey, yeah! You can do it, but there’s going to be a lot of pain and suffering and difficulty here too.”

 

One of the things that all three of us talk about are these very easy to follow prescriptive advice that does not ever tell you about the sheriff knocking at the door demanding 20 grand. That was really the fun part for me is the editor of both projects. So, Tim, for you, when you first read The World of Art, I think you were still working at a company or something, right? I mean, what was it that sort of got you – First of all, I want to hear the story like how did you ever hear of The War of Art? I thought Steve and I were the only guys who would never know about it.

 

[00:36:39] TG: Whatever. Come on. No. I mean, I don’t remember how I originally heard of it. I feel like it’s one of those books. Like it’s one of those books that almost every book you read you don’t even bother asking somebody, like, “Hey, have you heard of this book? Have you heard of this author?” Because it’s like the answer is no. If it’s not John Grisham or Patterson or Stephen King, people are like, “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”


But The War of Art is like legitimately one that I can be like, “Hey, have you heard of this book?” and probably half the people have at least heard of. So I feel like the book is – Especially because I was like in the creative space and working with authors and that kind of thing, it was just like in the ether. So, yeah, you hear about it enough times. You pick it up and read it.

 

I just remember thinking as I read it, thinking like when I go to therapy and especially like early on, one of the things I realized is you can’t ever fix a problem until you can label it, until you can give it a name. I always almost picture like those old label makers where you like type in and it like spools it out and you like peel it off and label it. That’s what it became, is like you have all of these just like shit broiling in you at all times. Until you can actually grab a hold of something and set it out and be like, “This is what I’m dealing with,” you can ever start to move past it.

 

So reading The War of Art the first time, I’m like, “Oh! That’s what this is. All of the issues of getting my work done and wasting time and avoiding my work and avoiding everything I was afraid of. I finally had a name. I finally could call it resistance, talk about what it was, then I could take the book and like give it to somebody, give it to Dan and say, “Read this book.” So when he read it, we could say, “Okay. Now, we have a common language that we can talk about this thing.”

 

So, for me, that is what has stood out and it’s one of those books I read very year at least once. It’s up there with like another one of my favorites of yours Steve, is Authentic Swing. It’s always right there on the shelf. I love that book. It’s one of those that I just read on a regular basis because it reminds me what my work is. It helps me continue to label and find new areas of resistance.

 

I realized when Shawn – When I finally found this book, it was – For me, I realized my resistance was I wanted to stay up on the mountain top as the cool guy that understands things that’s now delivering my goodies down. That was another – Because that’s how I had always written. That’s what I was used to doing, but that become my own form of resistance, is like Shawn kept trying to like bring me down to like really talk about the real stuff and I kept trying to keep this emotional distance.

 

So, for me, that’s what was so meaningful about The War of Art that, again, I don’t – I remember specifically where I left it on my desk 10 years ago or 12 years ago when I first read it. I don’t remember how I found it, but it’s just become, to me, like everybody who’s doing creative stuff, if they haven’t, they should read that book, because now we can talk about it. You’re like, “This is the thing we’re dealing with,” and I can’t remember the Jewish, so we can’t use that one. So we’ll just stick with resistance. But, yeah. That’s what it was for me.

 

So I think at this point, what’s been so meaningful, because I know that I’m in this enviable position maybe because all of my writer friends tell me how jealous they are of me all the time. So getting to work alongside you, Shawn, so much with Story Grid, and now working with you, Steve, on Running Down a Dream and being published by Black Irish, I think it’s really meaningful for somebody like me who just finished this big project to also see something like The Artist’s Journey and to have somebody talk about what’s coming next, and that as you learned to continue to dive in to resistance and you continue to really do that turning pro of like, “I’m now showing up every day.”

 

So at the beginning of my book, I would go all day without working. Now I can sit down and I can get my work done. But yet, I have a lot of work to do and I know I keep ringing him up, but like Seth talks about how at the end of every major project, he ends up staring at a wall thinking that’s the last thing he’ll ever do.

 

So getting to hear the perspective of what it means to be pro for a long time is just really meaningful and it helps me kind of settle a little bit more into that space of like trusting – Like you were just saying, like trusting that my soul knows where it’s going and I don’t have to push so hard or pull or try to steer so hard and just like wait for the next thing and just trust that it’s coming from a good place.

 

[00:41:59] SP: Which I think is absolutely true and it’s like the way that I sort of live my life, is I always have sort of my mental radio on and I’m kind of scanning the broadcast waves for the next idea. I can’t prove this of course, but I think what happens with a lot of people when they have trouble, aspiring artists, I mean, and writers, is that their soul, their Neshama, their muse is talking to them, but they haven’t yet learned to sort of keep the radio on, or an idea will come in to them in the shower. Again, I’m just guessing, and it will pass through one ear and out the other, and it’s a great idea.

I think this is a skill that every aspiring artist needs to kind of develop, is to just sort of be aware so that when that little idea clicks into your head that you go, “Hey, that’s something. I better write that down.” The way it sort of works for me is I’ll have an idea and I will write it down. I’ll record it or something like that and then I’ll forget about it. Almost invariably, I forget it for like three or four months.

 

Then somehow I’ll stumble on it again. I’ll go, “Wow! That’s really a good idea. Where did that come from?” And at that point you sort of – It moves from a passive side of your brain to the active side of your brain. You sort of put it on the table and find it and you go, “Okay. This is something. I’m now going to start thinking about this. So I’m putting this on the front burner. We’re going to work on this.”

 

So when I look at you, Tim, I can’t help but see all the books and all the stuff you’re going to write in the future. I just sort of see that. I’m sure, Shawn, when you look at Bleecker, or Waverly, or Crosby, your kids, that you don’t just look at them as little kids, right? You see Crosby when he’s 24, when he’s 48, right? I think it’s very helpful for us as artists if we can look at ourselves that way.

 

Particularly, Tim, being a young guy like you are, not an old geezer like me and Shawn. So you’re a kid too. But to think of yourself that you’ve got a couple of books behind. You’re going to have 30. You’re going to have movies. You’re going to have whatever and it’s just a matter – And they’re all lined up. They’re all there in some cosmic schedule in the sky. I think it’s great. It’s very encouraging if you can believe that. Believe me, it’s true.

 

[00:44:27] SC: If you can believe that – I absolutely agree about potential. Whenever you see somebody, you see the potential in them that they cannot see. So I think you’re right, Steve. I think one of the great things about both of your books is that they allow people to be able to see the potential of their lives in the future. Tim’s book is about how do I make payroll and still carve out a little bit of time to move my hero’s journey further until I can reach a point where I’m stable and I can now call myself a writer, or a painter, or a dancer, or whatever, and then The Artist’s Journey is this is the thing that will keep you on track. Because your potential is so large, and the body of work, that is your future, is absolutely yours for the taking.

 

The Artist’s Journey clearly makes of crystal clear argument for that point in many, many different arenas. So that’s why I am proud to be part of both books, is that you’ve got the abstractions of the right side of the brain with Steve and the micro detail and the granular life forces of the left brain with Tim. So between the two of you, you have a full brain.

 

[00:45:55] SP: Cut! Brilliant.

 

[00:45:57] TG: Yeah. I think that’s good.

 

[00:45:59] SC: All right. Well, good! I think it went well.

 

[00:46:02] TG: Yeah. Yeah, I think it was good.

 

[00:46:04] SP:  Great! Good jobs you guys.

 

[00:46:05] SC: You too, Steve.

 

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 

[00:46:06] TG: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Story Grid podcast. Now, what you need to do right now is go to blackirishbooks.com, because we put up a special bundle pricing for The Artist’s Journey and Running Down a Dream where you get both of those books, the e-book and the audiobook for one special price. Now, that’s only available for a few more days. So if you want to get your hands on that, go to blackirishbooks.com. Of course, you can buy Running Down a Dream and The Artist’s Journey on Amazon as well if you want an individual paper copy. So make sure you go pick up a copy of both books. We really appreciate your support of the show and your support of our writing.

 

Now, for everything Story Grid related, you can check out storygrid.com. If you’d like to check out the show notes for this episode or any past episodes, all of that can be found at storygrid.com/podcast. If you would like to reach out to us, you can find us on Twitter @StoryGrid. Lastly, if you’d like to support the show, you can do that by telling another author about the show and by visiting us on Apple podcast and leaving a rating and review.

 

Thanks for subscribing and being a part of our work here at Story Grid. We will see you next week.

 

[END]

 

About the Author

The co-host of the Story Grid Podcast and amateur writer.
Comments (1)
Author Tim Grahl

One Comment

Annamarie says:

Hello and congratulations Tim. I bought your book the day it was avaliable and read some every night, ready for the review, especially after this talk.If you were my grndson I would be so proud of you, but instead I wish that you could be “that” proud of yourself. I have enjoyed following you and Shawn for what seems many years now, believing that I had not learned anything. But now I know that I have learned a ton. I’m just still scared to go for it, the reson I joined this course with the story grid. Best wished and thank you for being so brave.

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