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Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It

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There's a mantra that real writers know but wannabe writers don’t. And the secret phrase is this:


Recognizing this painful truth is the first step in the writer's transformation from amateur to professional.

From Chapter Four:

“When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs—the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with ev­ery sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? Is she following where I want to lead her?"

191 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2016

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About the author

Steven Pressfield

95 books4,993 followers
I was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1943 to a Navy father and mother.

I graduated from Duke University in 1965.

In January of 1966, when I was on the bus leaving Parris Island as a freshly-minted Marine, I looked back and thought there was at least one good thing about this departure. "No matter what happens to me for the rest of my life, no one can ever send me back to this freakin' place again."

Forty years later, to my surprise and gratification, I am far more closely bound to the young men of the Marine Corps and to all other dirt-eating, ground-pounding outfits than I could ever have imagined.

GATES OF FIRE is one reason. Dog-eared paperbacks of this tale of the ancient Spartans have circulated throughout platoons of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since the first days of the invasions. E-mails come in by hundreds. GATES OF FIRE is on the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Reading list. It is taught at West Point and Annapolis and at the Marine Corps Basic School at Quantico. TIDES OF WAR is on the curriculum of the Naval War College.

From 2nd Battalion/6th Marines, which calls itself "the Spartans," to ODA 316 of the Special Forces, whose forearms are tattooed with the lambda of Lakedaemon, today's young warriors find a bond to their ancient precursors in the historical narratives of these novels.

My struggles to earn a living as a writer (it took seventeen years to get the first paycheck) are detailed in my 2002 book, THE WAR OF ART.

I have worked as an advertising copywriter, schoolteacher, tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout and attendant in a mental hospital. I have picked fruit in Washington state and written screenplays in Tinseltown.

With the publication of THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE in 1995, I became a writer of books once and for all.

My writing philosophy is, not surprisingly, a kind of warrior code — internal rather than external — in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I have labeled "Resistance" with a capital R (in THE WAR OF ART) and the technique for combatting these foes can be described as "turning pro."

I believe in previous lives.

I believe in the Muse.

I believe that books and music exist before they are written and that they are propelled into material being by their own imperative to be born, via the offices of those willing servants of discipline, imagination and inspiration, whom we call artists. My conception of the artist's role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of "where it all comes from" and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox.

There's a recurring character in my books named Telamon, a mercenary of ancient days. Telamon doesn't say much. He rarely gets hurt or wounded. And he never seems to age. His view of the profession of arms is a lot like my conception of art and the artist:

"It is one thing to study war, and another to live the warrior's life."

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5 stars
1,029 (45%)
4 stars
809 (35%)
3 stars
347 (15%)
2 stars
68 (2%)
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24 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 311 reviews
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,376 reviews1,431 followers
September 23, 2020
Steven Pressfield shares the applicable lessons he's learned from a lifetime of different writing jobs. The most important one is the title of this non-fiction, self help book.

"Sometimes young writers acquire the idea from their years in school that the world is waiting to read what they've written. They get this idea because their teachers had to read their essays or term papers or dissertations. In the real world, no one is waiting to read what you've written. pg 16, ebook

Along the way, Pressfield discovered the importance of writing for yourself rather than as a ghost writer, the necessity of structuring each piece whether it is a screen play or a novel, the enduring popularity of the hero's journey and more.

He also addresses the inner demons that may prevent fledging writers from finishing what they begin, a topic that Pressfield also discusses at length in his other book, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

"I did not know that there existed inside my head an invisible, insidious, intractable, indefatigable force whose sole object was to keep me from doing my work, i.e., finishing the book I had been trying to write for seven years- and ultimately to destroy me, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. All I knew was that I couldn't finish anything." pg 49

I found all of his advice helpful, and the manner in which Pressfield delivers it as both approachable and entertaining.

"The writer must know what genre he is working in and the conventions of that genre, just as the bridge builder must understand the science of foundational integrity and the means of mitigating stress on strung steel." pg 66, ebook

He closes the book with a humorous anecdote about writing for a pornographic film. Even in that tale, Pressfield managed to teach me something about story construction and storytelling. I only mention it in case any potential reader finds such things offensive. Here's your warning.

Highly recommended for writers at any level. Pressfield knows his stuff.
Profile Image for Macy_Novels at Night.
23 reviews50 followers
February 11, 2019
Absolutely loved this, especially the last few chapters. No nonsense, and tells you how it is! Some words that he said I will never forget, and if you want to hear them you better read book! If you want some quick tips and good pointers on writing, this book is worth your time.
Profile Image for Sleepless Dreamer.
852 reviews220 followers
June 29, 2016
3.5 but okay.

Here's the thing- I come from visual art, playwriting, and fiction. I know nothing about advertising, self help, and nonfiction. So those chapters were interesting and enlightening.

My bone to pick with this guy is about his attitude to structure and heroes. The way I see it, our world is overflowing with art. No one wants to read your shit. So what do you do? You make it different. You break out of the structures, you bring something new to the table that no one has ever seen in that light. You don't copy structures and attempt to make a star hero. Give me a hero that fails all the time but I still sympathize. Give me a hero that doesn't solve the problem and a sidekick that does. Give me a villain that has social anxiety and can't give a speech. Give me a story made out of fractures. Give me something that breaks out of Joseph Campell's work. Give me minor characters that desperately want room.

There's something so very flawed with the notion that literature has to follow some type of path in order to be successful. Maybe I'm too much of a young dreamer but I truly believe that if you follow your mind and soul, if you truly tell a story in your way, you'll eventually find an audience. You don't need to make your writing into something it is. I agreed that as an artist, something inside of us yearns to tell something and it's our job to understand what it is and share it in the best way. That's what I think it's about, not recreating the same story over and over again.

So do I recommend this? Yeah. It's interesting. It's a quick nice read.
Profile Image for Alex Linschoten.
Author 12 books140 followers
June 18, 2016
When I first read The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles, I felt like he was explaining something to me ("the resistance") that genuinely changed how I thought about my own work. It's rare that a book does that at such a fundamental level. Since then, Steven Pressfield has written various books but none has really struck me in the same way. This latest work (available for free digital download on his website) comes a little closer to that original benchmark. Pressfield takes a step back from the process of writing to start thinking about the way words are received; if War of Art was all about the writer, this one's mostly about the reader.
Profile Image for Andrea.
151 reviews31 followers
July 11, 2016
First of all, who decided this is a book? It might qualify for a sketchbook, that's how empty most of the pages are. The author talks about writing this piece as a fiction novel. Too bad that there's almost nothing in there. You could read it word-for-word and still finish it in two hours. The author could have written the same exact information in two blog posts and we would have been better off.

Thankfully, I did not buy this sad little ebook, I downloaded it for free from the author's website. For anyone interested in learning about writing, there are way better books out there that actually teach you something, using an actual structure and not the same phrases copy-pasted throughout the book in the one-page chapter.

I understand that recently the attention span of "most people" has reduced to a few seconds at a time, but when you choose as an audience the only people whose attention span for reading is actually measured in hours (aspiring writers, writers in general), you better give them something to read, not a few flimsy four word phrases. That will not do for a real book, sorry.

So no, don't buy this book unless you're really bored and want to read (again) how the author learned to fake writing during the last few decades.
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 1 book28 followers
December 15, 2019
I’ve made a hobby, over the years, of devouring how-to books about writing and storytelling. I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of these kinds of books. This one’s pretty good.

This is a short book that hums along, divided into 119 rapid-fire chapters. One of them, if I remember correctly, was only one sentence long. One odd thing though, chapter 119 feels tacked on. Chapter 118 sure seemed like the end of the book and then along comes one short final chapter that described what the author learned while editing a porn movie. Strange.

For such a short book, it sure covers a wide range of creative writing fields. He includes advertising, movies, novels, and a couple of types of nonfiction, all of which the author has experience with.

In the end, the great take away here is that if you’re going to write to satisfy your own desire to be a writer and gain notoriety, no one will want to read your sh*t. If, however, you persevere and learn your craft and reach that magical point where what you write is for the reader instead of yourself, you might succeed if you’re lucky. That is what I got out of it.

One thing that cost this book a star with me is when he was describing the characteristics of American movies. He talks about the American character and how Americans are a nation of, among other things, inventors and then proceeds to list the invention of the steam engine as an American accomplishment. Well, Mr. Pressfield, I think you should know that James Watt was Scottish and Thomas Newcomen was English. Americans may have had a part in improving the steam engine, but they sure didn’t invent it.

In any case, I enjoyed this one.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,460 reviews12 followers
May 6, 2020
Again, a mediocre book, that uses its title to catch you.

Lots of fluff, little substance, yet well written, just super basic.
Profile Image for Karl Morgan.
Author 23 books36 followers
September 21, 2016
If you are an author or aspiring one, you have to read this book. Pressfield gives invaluable tips about writing stories people want to read. He speaks of the "hero's journey" as a common theme in many, many successful books and movies. When I read that, I was happily surprised to find that same theme was already in many of my works.

Most of all, Pressfield's tome will make you feel great about your desire to write. He mentioned that writers are different from most folks, because we go around all day thinking about people who don't exist (our characters). Others often cannot understand that, but I do. I think about my protagonists and antagonists all the time. I wonder what they would be doing, even though I know I made them up. Somehow, they are real people to me.

Insightful, very well-written and worth your time.
Profile Image for Brittany.
325 reviews30 followers
April 11, 2019
As someone who has "won" NaNoWriMo twice, written a master's thesis, is in the middle of writing a dissertation, and is on hiatus as a blogger this book was nothing short of great. I loved that it began with the harsh reality that nobody wants to read what I have to say, and therefore I need to turn it into something amazing. I think it applies to all types of writing, as mentioned in the book, and I would recommend it to anybody that has to or wants to publish something. My only regret is that I listened to the audible production rather than having a hard copy.
Profile Image for Dustan Woodhouse.
Author 7 books189 followers
January 9, 2018
If you planning to write your own book then this is a book to spend some time with before, during and after.

It’ll help you set and stay the course. And likely wind up a dog eared companion that you lug around in your bag from writing spot to coffee shop.

Also, you’ll really want to catch the movie about Grandma Julia, except you’ll be so inspired by this book that you’ll be too busy working on your own sh*t to find out whether or not that sh*t actually got wr*t.

Bravo Mr. Pressfield

Profile Image for Tony61.
122 reviews4 followers
November 11, 2018
[softcover, purchased]

Okay, last summer I took a course on creative writing at the local community college. Workshopping pieces with 20-somethings is an experience: bad grammar, misspelling, lots of time travel and dream-weaving, free verse about rooftop sex and haikus about smoking dope. Good times. The instructor was admirable: a poet, but still worthy to provide the nuts and bolts.

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” ~~ David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

Steven Pressfield was discovered in a search for popular books on writing and this could be read along with Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat (reviewed separately, 5 stars and highly recommended) and Stephen King’s On Writing. George Orwell’s 6 rules and Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules on writing (Google them) are quick must-reads.

No matter your intention to actually write anything, knowing the rules of writing makes reading and even watching movies more enjoyable and insightful. Trust me on that one. It will make you a better person.

Pressfield started out as a advertising guy who wrote jingles and came up with ad campaigns; he graduated to writing nonfiction and was most famous for his novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, which was made into a movie. He says he wrote Bagger Vance in a fugue state, all at once, ignoring the advice of his mentor and friends, and it was bought by a studio against all odds. That’s how it works: a twenty-year overnight success.

This is a quick and entertaining book with short chapters and pithy nuggets. Writers need to have empathy for the reader. Bingo! Making characters believable and plot that can be followed is compulsory. Edit the sh*t out of everything.

Pressfield delves into philosophy, noting that successful characters follow Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and Carl Jung’s archetypes are hard-wired into our psyches. Good stuff. The story-- and stories are as old as humanity-- is “experienced by the reader on the level of the soul.”

Whether we are commiserating with Ishmael and Ahab in Moby Dick, Luke and Han in Star Wars or Greg Focker in Meet the Parents, the emotional buy-in is similar. The hero’s journey is the touchstone.

Any good story will have a hero, a villain (not necessarily a person), jeopardy and stakes. Once you understand this, the art of storytelling makes sense. Life makes sense.

Read this book, it will take a weekend, tops.
Profile Image for Diana Gole.
51 reviews6 followers
December 28, 2020
Volumul are dimensiuni reduse, doar 191 de pagini, însă asta doar pentru că autorul ține să livreze doar informațiile esențiale și nimic mai mult. Am apreciat stilul său simplu și colocvial care, practic, te făceau să zbori printre pagini. De lăudat este faptul și că Steven Pressfield împărtășește episoade din viața lui de dinainte și după ce a devenit scriitor, iar din aceasta învățăm cât de important e să nu renunțăm la visul nostru indiferent de direcția în care ne îndreaptă destinul.

Însă cel mai interesant lucru la Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t mi s-a părut însăși structura cărții:

Primele 8 capitole vorbesc despre începuturile nu prea roz ale lui Steven în lumea scriitorilor și servesc drept o introducere pentru celelalte capitole grupate în opt „cărți”;
Prima „carte” este despre advertising: cum a fost să lucreze în domeniu și ce lecții despre scris a învățat;
A doua vorbește despre prima tentativă de a scrie ficțiune;
A treia vorbește despre experiența de scenarist;
Cea de-a patra „carte” este despre a doua tentativă de a scrie ficțiune, în vreme ce a cincea vorbește despre cum autorul a scris non-ficțiune, iar a șasea despre cum a realizat un volum ce intră în categoria self-help;
A șaptea „carte” vorbește despre chemarea de a fi artist;
În fine, în a opta carte, ne povestește ce a învățat din experiența de a scrie un scenariu pentru un film porno. Da… și din asta se învață ceva.

recenzia completă aici: https://dealedianei.ro/2020/09/14/nob...
Profile Image for Terguunjargal Jane.
98 reviews63 followers
January 28, 2020
Энэ номыг уншихгүйгээр ном бичнэ гэдэг утгагүй хэрэг.
Аргагүй бичээч үг урлаач хүн далд концепттэй бичиж үгнийх нь ард үг нуугддаг. Цаагуураа жинхэнэ writer болон wanna be writer 2г ялгаж өглөө.
Урт байсан ч болоосой гэж бодсон.
Америкт олон жил хөгжсөн кино урлаг уран зохиолын систем тогтолцоо байгаад нь жаахан атаархал төрсөн.
Маш олон удаа яаж ингэж гоё зэвүүн бичдэг байнаа гэж бодогдлоо.
Номыг задалж унших задалж бичих тухайд суралцлаа.
Төгсгөл хэсэгрүү бүр тавьмааргүй санагдаж байлаа.
Бүх номыг нь унших хүсэл төрлөө.
Түүний The war of art бол гарцаагүй 5од учраас энэ номд 3.7-4 од өглөө.
Profile Image for David Rhoades.
17 reviews
January 27, 2020
Pressfield's self-help voice is the supportive, working-writer father you've always wanted. His style is candid, to-the-point, and accepts no excuses (while remaining compassionate).

In short, he's a writer whose had the same excuses and failures as the rest of us, and makes no pretensions otherwise.

It’s a quick read, has a lot of great little gems in it, and ultimately accomplishes it’s goal—get you fired up about writing without any illusions about how hard it can be.

Big recommend! This and Turning Pro are worth a read.

P.S. Steven Pressfield comes from an old-school Hollywood way of thinking where doing work for free, having bosses take advantage of you, and paying your dues is part of the writer’s journey. It only comes up a couple times, but it’s...not everyone’s cup of tea.

Still, the guy knows what he knows, so I’m not gonna argue it. Just know that your mileage may vary on that front.
Profile Image for Fernando Suarezserna.
Author 12 books56 followers
September 2, 2017
Great book for writers! At first I loved the micro-chapters format, although I felt the author's message became a bit messy by the end of the book. I believe the author tries to tackle too much (some chapters are about mindset and discipline, and others are tactical tips on how to structure a story, build relatable characters and the like... Both kinds of chapters are great, but they do feel a bit unorganized). I would've loved an actionable blueprint at the end of the book, a kind of recap of the tips the author offers throughout the book. Anyways, it's one of the best books on creativity I've read; I will definitely read other books of Steven. There are some golden nuggets here that made the it a great investment.
Profile Image for Sari Venäläinen.
23 reviews2 followers
January 4, 2021
Tunnustan, että luin tämän väkisin loppuun vain, koska olin ostanut tämän, ja olisi ärsyttänyt liikaa lopettaa kesken siinä kohtaa, kun huomasin, ettei ole ollenkaan minua varten: siinä about 10 ensimmäisten sivun kohdalla. All in all, en suosittele kenellekään. 😂
Profile Image for J.S. Frankel.
Author 71 books230 followers
August 5, 2016
Anytime someone starts off with a title of "Nobody wants to read your sh*t", immediately, my thought is "Well, why should I read YOUR sh*t?"

However, I shall avoid giving such a response as that would be a lie. This is a very nice primer on how to write, penned in an easygoing, laid-back style. I usually don't read how-to books, as I feel in some cases it's best to express yourself naturally as opposed to being forced to, but Pressfield makes his points without being pushy, without judging or condemning. That is a cool thing, indeed, and his no-nonsense way of breaking things down is welcome.

What prompted a "Son, I iz disappoint" moment was that the book was so brief. It's very basic...and that's about it. But I guess that was Pressfield's point all along. Give the basics, and let the writer find their own way. Recommended. This is a 3.5 star effort, IMO, but since Goodreads doesn't have a half-star option that I'm aware of...
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 4 books35 followers
June 19, 2016
A fast read, and the section on writing non-fiction is pretty good (basically, Pressfield's advice is to write non-fiction like it's fiction, with the hook, build-up, payoff, etc.), but overall, it felt like a rehash of other, better books. There's a bit about the Hero's Journey, some Save the Cat thrown in, and a lot of focus on the idea of "concept." I'm probably not the ideal audience for this book because I've read all the screenwriting books out there, and studied screenwriting as an undergraduate, so none of Pressfield's advice regarding storytelling was new.

I was kinda hoping this one would go deeper, that it would delve into techniques and strategies for engaging the audience, but it's very broad and very basic. Not a bad book, but not a book for anyone who has already seriously studied the craft of writing.
Profile Image for Serge Bouvet.
18 reviews
April 27, 2019
How to write simply for people who will no longer have the courage to read Umberto Eco, Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoevsk, Marcel Proust or James Joyce. How to write consumables? How to write briefly and get to the point? How to captivate the reader from the very first minutes? Steven Pressfield, drawing on the work of these elders, such as the American mythologist Joseph Campbell, is trying to give us tips on how to write the winning story in an American way. The recipe: that of an American hero who wins. In short, a beautiful story is necessarily that of the American dream according to Steven Pressfield. It's a little reductive. The author knows this. It is a sum of summary sheets that has the advantage of being read quickly and easily memorable. His book begins with a story, an effective storytelling trick to captivate the audience from the very beginning. Successful operation.
Profile Image for Jenn Klee.
47 reviews
May 18, 2019
The title grabbed me and I had to read it. Steven Pressfield's subversive take on writing intrigued me and it makes a lot of sense. The advice is packaged into very short chapters and snippets making this a fast easy read and an easy book to take notes on. Moreover just reading the chapter headings serves as an excellent review/memory jogger. He uses the same principles to talk about advertising, movies, novels, non-fiction, and essays/academic work. The repetition meant it was easier to internalize the teachings by being reminded of it over and over. It also meant I was able to skim the end of the book, but still keep the good info. It's a worthwhile title if you want the basics and you want them fast. It's like the Chipotle of writing books. Fast food, but good substance.
Profile Image for Daniel Willcocks.
Author 85 books71 followers
July 5, 2016
Received a free copy of this from Steven's mailing list, and after the hype that I have heard from the Art of War, felt I had to read.

A great motivation read giving the insight into a long and successful career from Steven Pressfield. Loads of messages in here to take away for any budding creative. Although the whole thing is quite brief, there's something unique and stylish in the compact chapters.

Would loved to have given 5 stars for this, but was littered with typos. Maybe a clean up and that final star will be there.
Profile Image for Fraffee.
214 reviews
June 29, 2016
I have a feeling that if I read this book along with Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, my mind will explode. I'd probably be rolling on the floor, screaming to the top of my lungs and chanting "truth!" the whole time.

What an eye-opening book! It touched on all the realms of writing that I love - advertising, screenwriting, fiction, non-fiction, and self-help. WONDERFUL! *claps* *claps some more*

I am going to recommend this book to all my creative friends - and even the not so creative ones. Surely, they will get something out of this book.
Profile Image for Moritz.
28 reviews
May 20, 2020
“Sometimes young writers acquire the idea from their years in school that the world is waiting to read what they’ve written. They get this idea because their teachers had to read their essays or term papers or dissertations. In the real world, no one is waiting to read what you’ve written.”

How to write shit people want to read (knowing people don’t want to read your shit). Bit heavy on fiction but overall a complete and helpful book for anyone who writes (everyone). Pressfield is a master storyteller.
Profile Image for Alexia Purdy.
Author 128 books1,090 followers
July 16, 2016
This was more of a motivational book to kick your butt into gear about writing and ways to get your book out there. It's not meant to be a how to, but more of a guide to get the most out of your writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the tough as nails, in your face inspiration. If you need to figure out things about why your writing isn't doing well or how to kick things up a notch, this is an awesome book to get going.
Profile Image for Scott Wozniak.
Author 14 books74 followers
October 30, 2016
It's rough and vulgar, but it's very, very useful for any artist--doubly so for writers and triply so for writers of movies or novels. So if you won't be distracted by his sailor-speak then this book is a must read. To be clear, I've read tons on writing and story, I've published two books and thousands of short stories and articles and blog posts--and this book took me to another level as a writer.
Profile Image for Noam.
41 reviews3 followers
June 16, 2016
An *excellent* thought provoking action driving read, essential for anyone looking to write, teach, motivate, inspire or move- mainly themselves...

This book is about creating, storytelling and doing it the best way possible. Be it in the classroom, pitching your startup, writing a novel or inspiring your kid- this one's for you.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Ties.
471 reviews24 followers
July 7, 2016
Found this book through Seth. For free. But it's worth paying for, I'll probably order it tomorrow in print form. That's how good it is if you have any aspirations as a writer and enjoyed the war of art. I did and enjoyed this one just as much.

Are you a writer? Read this, even if it's just to feel connected with someone going through the same struggles you are.
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