I have spent the last few days reading a book for a book review I promised, and so my own personal reading and writing has taken a hit. However, I have managed to spend a little time reading The Warrior Ethos, by Steven Pressfield.
Steven Pressfield is the author of The Gates of Fire, The War of Art (my personal favorite), and many other books. In his writing, Pressfield has spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a Warrior. In his book, The Warrior Ethos, Pressfield does just that.
I’m writing about this, because his insight has been invaluable to my writing. He details the difference between warrior cultures and citizen cultures, the values and ethics of the warrior system, and the different between a tribe and a band of warriors. He also discusses the internal war, and the struggle we all have with the world around us.
Some of these concepts can be applied to us as writers, two that I would like to mention specifically.
One is a story about Alexander. A soldier of Alexander’s came upon an old man and asked him about his past battles and what parts of the world he has conquered. The old man replied “I have conquered the need to conquer the world”, and Alexander approved of the man.
Don’t focus on writing the greatest novel ever conceived or being the next Franzen,you need to conquer that need. Conquer your insecurity.
The second is the need for adversity. Life can be a pretty simple thing. We have air-conditioning, running water, pillows, etc. Most of our problems are self-invented, or are natural cycles that we have decided constitute problems. Warriors, even modern day warriors, thrive on adversity. Strength comes from a difficult life. I am not advocating living in a windowless cabin to write, even though that does sound a little appealing. I am saying that you should challenge yourself daily. Leave your comfort zone. experience and wisdom come with struggle.