It’s broken into three parts or “books”. Book one is The Amateur Life, book two is Self Inflicted Wounds, and book three is The Professional Mindset. Pressfield says that he can “divide [his] life into two parts: before turning pro and after. After is better.” This book, through a series of short vignettes (often only a part of a page long) that make up each “book”, helps you explore the mindset of an amateur, what we do as amateurs and what we do to stay amateurs…and how we break out – and turn pro. A couple of quick quotes give you a glimpse of the essence of this book. “Becoming a pro, in the end, is nothing grander than growing up”, and a favorite of mine… “The amateur tweets. The pro works.”
Turning Pro is well worth the read, and if you intend to be a professional writer (of any genre), I recommend this book.
Ron’s memoirs start with his actual suicide attempt, and then go through his journalistic recording of five wars in ten years. In most of these wars, he was not a front-line combatant, but an observer, recorder and reporter of war – both as an Army officer and as a State Department foreign service officer.
I am telling you, from personal experience as a combat Marine, and later as a diplomat (Dept. of Homeland Security Attaché), that this is an authentic depiction of the results of war – physically, and for many veterans, emotionally.
The inciting moment in Ron’s book is when he first sees war dead (“Yellow. Their skin was yellow. They had dirt under their fingernails and their feet were dirty. There were six of them, all women…”). That is a defining moment for all who experience war – it becomes sickeningly real.
The journal follows Ron through Central Africa, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur…and most tellingly, his “War at Home” afterwards. The accounts he gives from his field notes in those locations is brutally honest, and accurately documents the same conditions I saw when I was in several of those places myself (I was in Kosovo and Bosnia at the same time he was in Kosovo, back on active duty during Op. Enduring Freedom at the same time he was in Afghanistan, and was in Iraq 2005-2006, one year after he was there).
There are a lot of war books out there, and a lot of war movies – usually from, or enhanced by, the imaginations of those who may never really understand. If you want a glimpse of what the effects of war really look like, and the toll it took on one real veteran – from the inside – then this is a book you should pick up today.
"Just Do It" philosophy came from similar experiences. It's like when I heard another Marine telling a woman (friend) who was talking about how early their group was meeting for breakfast, "Quit yer whinin' and just suck it up...Ma'am".
Combat in the arts was a wild concept for me, until I read and understood the depth of this book. Unlike "The Authentic Swing", this book DOES have some very specific how-to's, but again, they are not just rock-hard instructions. They're couched in terms that allow the reader to not only have a checklist, but to understand why those things are so critical, and through understanding, make them part of their own core ethos. From what I read here, Steven's own experiences that lead to his core beliefs are not just from the Marines, but from the battlefields of commercial writing, artistic creation...and most of all, from the battles to overcome his own internal Resistance. You really have to read this one...
I’m a golf duffer, but was raised around the game, my father having won a Bob Hope Pro-Am, and my mother having won a Regional while we were stationed in Turkey. I always liked it, but never really took it up until I was stationed in Hawaii – and I only took it up to pass the time. I really fell in love with the game, but as all golfers know, I never really understood the almost mystical fascination of the game. I don’t think I ever will.
The Legend of Bagger Vance takes a hard run at revealing some of the underlying forces. The book equates “The Authentic Swing” with a person’s own True Self, which oftentimes gets lost in the press of life. When someone loses or walks away from themselves, they often lose sight of their own purpose, who they actually are. This is book is ostensibly about golf, but moreover, I saw it as a book about being true to yourself, to your life, and the people in it.
This is a very good book. It makes me at once want to read the classics (Wordsworth – “trailing clouds of glory” – pg. 70), and go out on the course (evolution of the swing, the Self – pgs. 71, 72). The feeling of being out in the open air, in nature, striving hard to relax into yourself is almost addictive.
The character development, narrative device, plot, and just good storytelling brought me deep into the world of Rannulf Junah, Bagger Vance, and the world of Golf and Self, as seen through the eyes of the young Hardison Greaves.
For most of the book (first and last parts), it is an enthralling book that completely drew me in. I was on the links with them, watching the external, and more interestingly, the internal struggles. I could see them, feel them, I was one of them. As a combat vet myself, I completely empathized with Junna’s struggle to get past all the horror of war and try to come to grips with himself in the rest of the book, but the center part of the book goes too far down the metaphysical rabbit hole for me. It distracted me from what I saw as the main theme, and pushed me back out of the pages into just reading a book. The departure into a realm wherein the characters were not just in a mystical, internal place during their struggles, but actually regressed through time, space and reality into the distant past and other spiritual or cosmic planes completely threw me off the story, and reminded me of some ‘60’s trip in the middle of a ‘20’s struggle for self.
Despite what appeared to be a distracting departure, this book is well worth the read. Thoroughly enjoyable, deeply introspective, and a strong reminder of the constant struggle with the adversity of life and trauma to retain – or find – your one, true Self.
Before folks get bent out of shape, I'm not comparing this book to Go Rin No Sho, which is an international classic spanning centuries of dedicated readers and serious students of life and strategy. What I am saying is that this book has a similar dynamic. Read it once, and it is a good read, and you get a lot out of it. Read it again, and you see another set of meanings and a deeper layer. Read it again...
Unlike most books I've read, I will read this one again - a few times. It is not a list of things to do, a formula to follow for aspiring writers - it is a concept and way of thinking that takes you much deeper than that.