“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”
- Howard Aiken, computer genius
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
- Pablo Picasso, great artist
Writing is a lot like golf.
Anyone can do it, just a few do it well and there is always plenty of lying involved.
And so it is with The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield, an honest review on the process of writing that led to the book and subsequent movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Pressfield candidly writes about ripping off the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu Bible.
In fact, Chapter 2’s title is: Ripping Off Krishna.
Another is titled What I Stole.
Pressfield often writes about religious aspects of his work. In The War of Art and Turning Pro (both phenomenal) SP gets spiritual when he talks about the Muse, Resistance, and the self-discipline required to commit to your craft.
And why not?
Given Pressfield’s rags-to-riches tale, I’d be spiritual too.
After a few decades of varying success at writing screenplays, Pressfield decided to write a book on golf. To put it mildly, his L.A. agent disliked the idea (“5,000 other starving writers will have passed you in line and I’ll have to remind everyone in town who the hell you even are!”).
The agent then fired his client.
But Lord have mercy… Steven pressed on and the book ended up in the right publisher’s hands in NY. Then it caught the attention of Robert Redford. Bah-dah-boom, bah-dah-bing… it gets green-lit.
The insights here into writing are many, but my primary take-away is how to steal. Far from plagiarize, Pressfield elaborates on the elements of a good story. Because humans have been telling stories since we developed vocal chords, we shouldn’t be naive enough to think we have to think outside the box.
“There is nothing wrong with stealing a great concept. A great concept gives you confidence. You know this kind of story has worked before. Maybe it’ll work for you.”
Stories are templates.
Agatha Christie sold a few billion books with a template.
Act One: the Setup and the Inciting Incident
Act Two: Confrontation
Act Three: Climax and Resolution
Simple and classic.
Bagger is a Mentor-Protege story.
You’ve seen it before.
The Karate Kid
Good Will Hunting
V for Vendetta
Lord of the Rings
King Fu Panda
Each one had three acts and a Mentor-Protege marriage staring you in the face.
Were these constraints detrimental to the films?
There’s still plenty of room for creativity after stealing.
As for the creativity in Bagger the movie, my small-sample straw poll of relatively unbiased humans has informed me Bagger is a bit weak.
I personally guarantee (whatever that’s worth…) The Authentic Swing is not weak.
To borrow a phrase from cinema: It is strong like bull.
Any aspiring author should own this.
Any storyteller should own this.
And hey – we’re all story-tellers.
Some are simply much better than others…
Bottom Line: Rarely do readers get the chance to draw back the curtains to see what actually happened with a successful book and movie. Rarely do authors sublimate their egos to speak so candidly and authentically. In golfing terms, this book is a double-eagle. Buy it here.
40. The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield
Categories: Libro 52 Challenge