Steven Pressfield is the author of the hugely successful historical novels Gates of Fire, Tides of War, and Last of the Amazons. His debut novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance, was made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Will Smith in 2000. He lives in California.
Steven Pressfield just released his latest book Do The Work, which goes on sale tomorrow.
What are you working on right now?
Prepping a non-fiction book about Moshe Dayan and the Six Day War.
What does your typical day look like?
I start at the gym really early. It’s still dark when I get there, most days. Correspondence and promotion take up a few hours each morning, particularly now with three books coming out in the next couple of months. I work from maybe noon till four, followed by total collapse. I just try to make it to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.
3 trends that excite you?
Let me pick just one: the way publishing/music/moviemaking is changing so radically these days. It’s absolutely amazing to watch the old ways break up while new ones are being born in chaos and craziness — all wildly democratic and open. I hope someone’s chronicling this because it’s as fascinating as watching an empire fall.
How do you bring ideas to life?
What inspires you?
Any time I see someone take a stand that requires guts and honor.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Being passive and waiting for others — agents, editors, publishers — to act on my behalf. It’s a typical creative person’s error, since we’re all happiest in our rooms, doing our thing. But those days are over. Taking an active stand, even if you go down in flames (or waste lots of money), keeps your head in the game and keeps you positive. Seth Godin warns against “waiting to be picked.” He is absolutely right.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I love this definition of an entrepreneur (from Dan Sullivan and Joe Polish, I’m not sure which one said this first): “An entrepreneur is someone who does not expect compensation until he has created value for someone else.”
What do you read every day, and why?
Mostly stuff I’m researching. Almost all my books are historical or fact-based. I have to steep myself in an era or a place (like, say, North Africa 1940-43 for “Killing Rommel”) until I feel like I know everything, right down to the popular music and the slang.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
Read “Improv Wisdom” by Patricia Ryan Madson. Patricia taught improv at Stanford to SRO classes for twenty-five years. Her principles about how to get up and improvise are tremendous for anyone who has to come up with ideas.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
I don’t believe in gadgets but I confess I couldn’t live without my iPhone (no thanks to AT+T, by the way).
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
I can listen to Seth Godin all day. And Seth keep evolving. Where he was on Tuesday is not where he is on Thursday, and he always has something interesting to say.
What’s the most important business or creative principle you ever learned?
My first job was as an advertising copywriter at Benton & Bowles in New York. I learned on Day One that “nobody wants to read your sh*t.” Everyone hates ads and I don’t blame them. Thus the challenge: present your stuff in such a way that it’s irresistible. NEVER expect that anyone cares what you think or what you’re pitching or what wonderful, helpful stuff you’ve got to share with them. They don’t. They’re too busy with their own lives. Just like you and I are. Keeping that knowledge in the forefront of your mind will help you to work harder and smarter, be more empathetic, put yourself in the shoes of your reader — and help you to come up with something that’s so clever or funny or sexy or entertaining that they’ll be HAPPY to read it. And maybe even pass it along. But it’s NEVER easy. It’s always hard hard hard.
How to you balance personal life with an intense work ethic?
I don’t know. Help!
Contact me via www.stevenpressfield.com or Facebook. I’m on Twitter but haven’t figured out how to use it yet.