I’m not exactly sure why DO THE WORK is a book. It has about as many words as a longish blog post, arranged in the poorest layout I’ve ever seen. Each sentence is a different font size, positioned all over the page, with more white space than words. I bought the hardcover book, so it wasn’t an ebook formatting problem. This was a deliberate design. Some pages have only one word on them, as if the publisher will do anything to stretch the minimal text into 98 pages, justifying a hardcover print run with a matching price.
The entire book is about “resistance,” in other words, the normal human response to doing a hard task. Pressfield compares this resistance to a dragon who wishes the writer’s death. Of course, the bigger the monster, the braver the writer gets to feel. Pressfield imagines writers as “heroic knights” for doing nothing more than putting pen to paper.
Let’s get real. If writing is truly that difficult for Pressfield–for anyone–maybe he shouldn’t be doing it. Most writers (me included) love to write. Sure, the words flow more easily on some days than others, but overall, we write because we enjoy it.
The bulk of DO THE WORK is trite observations like “suspend the inner critic” and “this draft is not being graded.” Pressfield advises writers to make a three-sentence outline of our novels (beginning, middle, end) and then fill in the gaps to have a complete outline. No…really?
Pressfield stands in awe of anyone who finishes a novel of any quality. Awe! He likens it to the difficulty of losing forty pounds, kicking crack cocaine, or surviving the loss of a loved one. Writing must be a truly ghastly experience for him if it equals the pain of daily self-denial, drug withdrawal, or acute grief. If it’s so bad, why does Pressfield write at all? Nobody is forcing him to. Anyone who finds writing that difficult should maybe find another job. I’m not saying that writing isn’t important. It is deeply, deeply meaningful. It takes courage and a lifetime of dedication. But come on! It’s not life or death.
As for me, I will take the title of the book as an invitation, not a punishment. Do the work? I’d love to. Right after I put this little stack of useless paper into the recycling bin.
rating: 1 star