Libro 40/52 :: The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield

the-authentic-swing_masthead

 

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.

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 3.03.56 PM

 

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.

 

Three acts.

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

Fight Club

Star Wars

 

Each one had three acts and a Mentor-Protege marriage staring you in the face.

Were these constraints detrimental to the films?

 

Nope. 

 

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.

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com). He considers The War of Art by Steven Pressfield the most influential book he’s read.    

Screen shot 2013-10-20 at 3.06.33 PM

LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

15. The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw

16. The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty

17. The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

18. Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink

19. Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

20. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

21. Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel

22. Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind

23. Makers by Chris Anderson

24. Tales from Q School by John Feinstein

25. The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker

26. 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

27. Drive by Dan Pink

28. Enough by John Bogle

29. Contagious by Jonah Berger

30. Lexicon by Max Barry

31. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

32. A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis

33. The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton

34. Choose Yourself by James Altucher

35. The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig

36. Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg

37. The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

38. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

39. Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier

40. The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield

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  1. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  2. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  3. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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