Do the Work! by Steven PressfieldSteven Pressfield’s The War of Art is considered a classic among creative types, including bloggers. This thin book argues that the biggest enemy to productive work is Resistance, which takes the form of self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, perfectionism, and so on. The War of Art is a call to ignore Resistance and to do the work you’ve been called to do.

In his 2011 book, aptly titled Do the Work!, Pressfield again assaults this monster called Resistance. This time, however, he offers a step-by-step method for slaying the beast.

Before I left for Turkey, I spent a Sunday afternoon reading and taking notes on Do the Work! What emerged was a sort of workflow for accomplishing creative goals:

  • Don’t prepare. Begin. Allow yourself, at most, to read three books related to your subject.
  • Stay primitive. Don’t get fancy. Don’t try to be sophisticated.
  • Swing for the seats. Aim high. Go big or go home.
  • Outline your project on a single piece of legal-size paper. Your entire novel, business idea, or whatever should fit on one page.
  • Use a three-act structure: beginning, middle, end. Start at the end. Climax first. Then beginning. Then middle.
  • Get the idea down. You can polish and rewrite later.
  • Fill in the gaps. Once you have your outline, fill in the blanks. Have 7-8 major “sequences” (equivalent to 7-8 major scenes in a film).
  • Now allow yourself to do research, but only early or late in the day, never during prime working time.
  • Get your shitty first draft done ASAP. Don’t worry about quality. Act, don’t reflect. Momentum is everything. Do not judge yourself or your work at this point.
  • There are two components to writing (or any other act of creation): Acting is putting words on paper (writing) and reflecting is evaluating what’s on paper (editing). Never act and reflect at the same time.
  • Keep working!
  • The most important question is: “What is this about?” Once you have your theme, write it down. Post it. Nothing off-theme goes into the project.
  • Ask yourself what’s missing, then fill that void.
  • The two tests of Resistance are: “How badly do you want it?” and “Why do you want it?” You must be totally committed. You must want it for fun or beauty — or because you have no choice.

Getting work done is no longer a problem for me — though it used to be. If anything, I have the opposite problem: I’ve become a sort of work-a-holic. (Actually, I work like crazy from Monday to Thursday so that I can completely relax Friday through Sunday.)

That said, I love reading books like Do the Work! They show me how other creative types get things done. More than that, they provide added motivation. After I read these sorts of books, I come away energized and ready to do Great Things.

In fact, Do the Work! is one of the reasons More Than Money is up and operational today. If I hadn’t read the book, I’d probably still be trying to come up with the perfect blog name and design. I’d probably still be agonizing over what sorts of things to write about. Instead, I’ve simply begun. I’m doing the work. I can worry about perfectionism later.

Related reading: In a way, this book reminds me of George Leonard’s Mastery, which is the best book I’ve never reviewed. When I talk to people in Real Life, I often say that Mastery is the best book about personal finance I’ve ever read, even though it’s not a book about personal finance. Maybe I’ll get off my butt and review the book for More Than Money.

9 Replies to “Do the Work!”

  1. Yup. One look at my website confirms my assent. No logo, no ads, no nothing. Just a ribbon trail of “do the work” at the bottom. Swinging for the seats hopefully comes soon… 🙂

  2. My husband shared that book with me a few months ago and I was definitely inspired. We both were.
    Unfortunately though, since then I’ve allowed myself to slip back into the over-preparing stage.
    Thanks for this reminder to get back on track and and just Do the Work!

    Great stuff, JD– thanks!

  3. Thanks for the recommendation of the two books. Will show them to my hubby. I’m my own worst enemy in getting things done.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for the dose of inspiration, J.D.! National Novel Writing Month starts soon and for the first time, I’m thinking of giving it a go. I think I’ve been waiting too long for the perfect idea to hit me when what I really need is to carve out time and dive in.

    I remember an artist once telling me that the worst thing you can have is a blank page. He used to put a random mark somewhere on his paper or canvas just to give himself something to work around/against/on. I liked his “just do it” approach.

  5. Fantastic — just getting started is often the hardest step!

  6. I’m glad you’ve decided to start up your newest blog More than Money and I’m looking forward to reading about your life experiences.. You have contributed so much good to the PF landscape through GRS so it’s good that you’ve decided to continue blogging.
    When starting my blog, I didn’t prepare much. Rather I just dove into the idea of sharing my thoughts for my own personal pleasure and hope that others would eventually take notice and get something positive out of the blog. Already this has happened so I’m glad I didn’t wait to take action.

  7. Our 8th grade English teachers were right! “What is this about?” (Content) “Why do I want it?” (Motivations) And how hard am I willing to work for my dream? Great Qs that keep this Ninja Baker stalking the sweet stuff of life AND finding inspirational bloggers like J.D. Roth!

  8. I believe that successful people usually have a propensity for action.

  9. Mark Powers says:

    One of my favorite reads last year. You remind me that it’s time to pull it back out and review all of my highlighting. Great recommendation, J.D.!

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