Certain things turn me into a kid at Christmas time.
That describes my mood as I waited for my ARC of Steven Pressfield's The Authentic Swing. I'm a longtime reader of Pressfield's blog and have benefited from his sage advice many times. Also, his fluid, inviting, writing style makes his work a pleasure to read. I feel we're sitting comfortably over two steaming hot mugs of caffeinated goodness chatting about the art and craft of writing.
The Authentic Swing is more about writing as art than writing as craft. This came as a surprise to me, but not an unpleasant one. After all, there are hundreds--thousands!--of books on the technical side of writing but precious few about finding your path, yourself, your soul, as a writer.
Finding Your Writing Soul
I have a confession: I've never golfed. Not once. Ever. Yet I found Steven Pressfield's account of the game riveting. He gave me new ways to think about it.
It turns out that golf is a lot like writing. Here are a few excerpts:
"[G]olf is not a team sport in the way that basketball is, or football, or baseball. You don't pass the ball in golf. There are no "plays." You don't celebrate a victory with your teammates.
"In life, you're born alone, you die alone, and most of the time you live alone.
"Golf is just like that.
"In golf, the competitor is on his own."
"[I]n golf, your opponent is not allowed to impede you.
"He can't tackle you or punch you or even try to rattle you by jingling the change in his pocket. ...
"In golf, no one can hurt you but yourself."
"[T]he struggle of the golfer ... is the same as the struggle of the writer.
"It's the struggle of any artist or entrepreneur, any athlete or warrior, anyone engaged in a spiritual pursuit, as meditation or the martial arts, yoga, dance, calligraphy; any person, male or female, in any creative or ethical field.
"What is this struggle? It's the quest to connect with one's true ground. To become who we really are.
"It's the search for our true voice."
And that's what The Authentic Swing is about, it's about finding yourself as a writer and then having the courage to trust yourself. For example, Pressfield writes (and this is a paraphrase):
The struggle of the golfer is the same as the struggle of the writer or of any other artist. We must connect with our true ground. We must "become who we really are". In other words, writing, like golf, like any other artistic pursuit, is nothing less than "the search for our true voice".That's not the entirety of Steven Pressfield's writing advice, but it does tie into his instructions for how to write a first draft.
First Drafts And How To Write Them
In a word: Quickly!
All Steven Pressfield's advice resonated with me, but his advice about first drafts made me want to spring out of my comfy reading chair and do a happy dance. "Yes!" I thought. "Someone else who thinks like I do." It's always nice to know you're not alone.
Here's Steven Pressfield's advice for first drafts: Don't stop, don't think. Write.
He holds that "our supreme priority is to get SOMETHING down from Page One to The End--no matter how incomplete and imperfect".
He also writes that:
"The enemy in the first draft is not incompleteness or inexactness or imperfection. The enemy is resistance. The enemy is self-sabotage."
You have to dig deep, trust yourself and then dive in. As Steven Pressfield says:
"You start with instinct.
You plunge in.
Good things happen."
The Authentic Swing is a slim volume of only 144 pages, with the lines widely spaced. But that's okay. No complaints. It's not about how many pages a book has, it's about what's on them and this one is bursting with writerly goodness.
The Authentic Swing is a quick, enjoyable, read and a valuable addition to any writer's library. Five stars.
Photo credit: seeking meaning in the rorschach sky" by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.