Lee Davy continues his confessions series by talking about the inspirational book The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield, and the inspiration obtained from the James Altucher blog.
There is blood on my toilet paper.
Dread, followed by an intense period of maudlin self-pity.
I hope it’s my fissures.
I hope it’s not cancer.
Maria Ho told me that James Altucher was the business. At least I think it was Maria Ho. This is how my world works. I ask someone to describe someone who is inspiring. They do that. I then look into this inspiring person. I learn from them. There is another cross-examination. I find another source of inspiration.
In 33 Unusual Tips to Become a Writer by James Altucher, he writes:
Bleed in the first line. We’re all human. A computer can win jeopardy but still not write a novel. You want people to relate to you, then you have to be human.
I bled in my first line.
He also had this to say in that same blog post:
Read a lot. You can’t write without first reading. A lot. When I was writing five bad novels in a row I would read all day long whenever I wasn’t writing. I read everything I could get my hands on.
I knew that. I had been given that advice before. I did read a lot, but I wasn’t sure it improved my writing. I grabbed a seat in the orchestra. I listened to the book sing its tune. But it would be lost, floating around in the ether, mere moments later.
Then he wrote this.
Read before you write.
I read six different books before I write. Six! Are you nuts! Let me explain the process.
I read a book about alcohol & addiction, business, health, nutrition or relationships, effective altruism, the mind of philosophy, a fiction book or biography and any random choice.
This is what I am currently reading:
• Alcohol & Addiction: The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is not a Disease by Marc Leis.
• Business: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Valance
• Health, Nutrition & Relationships: Finding Ultra by Rich Rolls
• EA, Mind and Philosophy: Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
• Random: The Art of Taking Action by Gregg Krech
• Fiction & Bio: What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg
I find a quiet place and I note down sentences, phrases and words that inspire me. I have an A4 notepad full of scribbling.
Here is a piece of advice from me (sorry James).
Watch a single episode of a TV show per day. Watch it with your A4 notepad at your side. What do you see? What do you hear? Write down the things that inspire you.
Then when you have finished reading, start writing.
I select a portion of my A4 book and create the challenge of using those words and phrases in my article. This makes writing fun, creates a more vivid experience for the reader and you learn to become a better writer.
I spend more time thinking about my first line than anything else. Once I have my first line the rest pops up in my head as I type. Occasionally, I will look at my notepad and sentences will naturally appear with parking spaces for the notes I have made.
But isn’t that cheating?
Steven Pressfield is a brilliant writer. The War of Art and Turning Pro are masterpieces when it comes to advice on how to beat procrastination. I started reading The Authentic Swing the other night. I was only going to read a few chapters. I couldn’t put it down. It kept me up all night. By the end of it I slumped into my chair like Rocky at the final bell.
John Steinbeck’s Journey of a Novel inspires the book. Pressfield takes you through his thought process as he wrote his first successful novel: The Legend of Bagger Vance.
There is a chapter called: Ripping Off Krishna where he talks about reading a book called The Bhagavad Gita. It’s essentially a mentor-protégé story that is often referred to as ‘The Hindu Bible’.
He talks about a section called ‘The Field and the Knower’ where a troubled warrior, who has had enough of killing, lays down his bow and refuses to fight. Krishna – God in human form – lays into the warrior and tells him to stand up and fight.
This is what Pressfield wrote next:
I thought, “I’m going to steal this. I’m gonna use the structure of the Gita to write a story about golf.”
They all do it.
You can to.
You don’t stink like a skunk because you stole an idea, phrase or structure from someone. Be smart about it. Change things around, play with it. Think like a Chess Grandmaster. What is your next play? What is the play after that? Think moves ahead of everyone else.
Anyone who is interested in writing should read The Authentic Swing. Not only will it improve your writing, but I also love the philosophical point about Bagger Vance, and I don’t think I would have understood it through watching the picture, or reading the book alone (yes I am that thick).
People spend their entire lives trying to be someone else. There are times I try to be like Steven Pressfield. But it’s foolhardy. It’s like trying to kill an elephant with a potato gun.
We can only be who we already are.
Write. Face the permanent sneers. Write. Read. Write. Watch Hannibal and develop a morbid curiosity about disemboweling with a spoon. Write. Learn from Steven Pressfield. Write. Fuck up. Write. Fuck up again. Write.
And only then, after years of practice, will you find your Authentic Swing.
PS: The words and phrases that I needed to cram into this piece today were:
• Trying to kill an elephant with a potato gun
• Grab a seat in the orchestra
• As busy as a Chess Grandmaster figuring out his next move
• Permanent sneer
• Slumped into his chair like a fighter at the final bell.
• Morbid curiosity
I stole them all from: What Makes Sammy Run? by Budd Schulberg (another cracking book, and an awesome writer).