Do you want people to pay attention to your creative work? You might want to read this first.
1. Know your shit
Bestselling author Steven Pressfield is a big believer in the value of learning on the job. In his latest book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, he talks about how stints as an ad copywriter and screenwriter helped him hone his craft, and learn skills that apply equally to every field of writing.
As an ad copywriter, he quickly learnt that getting words on a page is only the beginning:
“The pros understand that nobody wants to read their shit. They will start from that premise and employ all their arts and all their skills to come up with some brilliant stroke that will cut through that indifference, that clutter, that B.S.”
2. Do your own shit
Pressfield is also a big believer in maintaining your own, personal creative practice, and putting the work in consistently, as he did with his own novels:
“Then there’s the way you really learn.
Alone at your keyboard. Alone in the dance studio. Alone in the darkroom.
Trying to answer the Eternal Question: “Why is this fucking thing not working?”
Creative work can be hell, but it can be heaven too. What could be better than beating your brains out on a problem, that’s exactly the problem you need to solve to get better?”
3. Get your shit together
When Pressfield’s first novel, the Legend of Bagger Vance, was published at the age of 51, it was based on a foundation learnt over 27 years of working as a writer. As well as fundamental storytelling skills, he’d also learnt:
“The skills necessary to conduct oneself as a professional – the inner capacities for managing your emotions, your expectations (of yourself and of the world), and your time.”
4. Give a shit
Pressfield makes the point that many writers and other creative people are just trying to draw attention to themselves. We all need to get past our egos if we’re going to do really good work that others will care about.
“A real writer (or artist or entrepreneur) has something to give. She has lived enough and suffered enough and thought deeply enough about her experience to be able to process it into something that is of value to others, even if only for entertainment.
A fake writer (or artist or entrepreneur) is just trying to draw attention to himself.”
5. Read other people’s shit
The book shares all of the other key things Pressfield has learnt about writing through a series of short and carefully crafted chapters. Even the structure of the book reflects the advice within – it’s a writing masterclass in more ways than one. And just like his classic book The War of Art, I’ll be re-reading it myself several times.
Buy the book here (It’s not shit.)