Lessons from Steven Pressfield to Help You Write Something Worthwhile

Have you ever wondered why you write and write and … you don’t get the traction you want? Your dreams of readers flocking to you just don’t happen? You wonder why nobody wants to read your shit?

Well, Steven Pressfield, wrote an aptly titled book called Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, to try to help everyone write stories that are worth reading.

Much like all of Pressfield’s non-fiction books that I’ve read, there is a very loose structure to this book, but it mostly feels like a collection of essays that was later put inside a structure that seemed to fit.

You can find an audio version of this post here. Make sure you don’t miss a book that matters by subscribing to Should I Read It

Pressfield starts off with some of his early writing and artist experience that lead to one of the most important lessons on his first day at his first writing job. The lesson that gives us the title of the book.

But of everything I learned, the most important lesson came at the beginning, on the very first day of my very first job. The lesson was, “Nobody wants to read your shit.”

From there, Pressfield’s book is broken up into 8 sections. They loosely cover his life in different fields from writing for adult films, to advertising to screenplays and two different attempts at fiction.

In the beginning we get to see Pressfield as he just started understanding what an artist was and that a writer was an artist. His view was from a friend’s father who was walking around in his pyjama’s at 2pm and Pressfield didn’t like that view.

Flash forward a bit and Pressfield is heading to his first job with palms sweaty and heart racing that he gets to get off at the creative floor. This is where he learns his first lesson, that people don’t want to read your writing, especially in his job at the time advertising.

People hate ads. I hate them myself. I hate TV commercials. Why should I waste my valuable time watching that lying garbage, trying to sell me crap I don’t need or want?

While this is discouraging, it’s also a new paradigm to think about as you write. Are you delivering any value? Is your writing worth the cost for the reader?

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/ reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

I’ve struggled with this in my content on my site and based on this book, and a few others I’ve read recently, my content will be changing to offer much more value to my readers instead of pithy statements.

We’re not going to follow Pressfield’s structure, we’re going to look at some of the key lesson’s he brings us.

You Need a Campaign

Let’s start with a campaign. In marketing a campaign is the overall idea that pulls all your material together. In many business circles this is often referred to as Your WHY or your purpose. Heck, I’ve written about it more than once, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again.

In your marketing, that means you have persona’s, that you know who your customers are. That all your writing, emails, and social posts are inside the same campaign talking about the same ideas.

My big concept is that, you need to work hard and focus to get things done, but work is not everything. If you’ve failed at being a husband and father but have lots of money, you still failed.

Good Content Sells Something

If you don’t ask for the sale, how are you gonna get it?

Pressfield spent some time in the adult film industry, and at least one of the people that he worked with had a rule that every sex scene needs to push the movie forward. At the end of the scene the characters should have had some change happen to them.

This goes for all of your content as well. When your reader gets to the end of your blog post, are they in a different position? Can they do more with their business? Do they better understand what it takes to win at work?

Nobody wants to read your journal that is all about you and inside your head. They want to read something that brings them value. You have to bring value if you want to earn the right to ask for a sale.

What Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit means is that none of us wants to hear your self-centered, ego-driven, unrefined demands for attention. Why should we? It’s boring. There’s nothing in it for us.

You also need to remember, that no one cares about your products. You’re in love with them, but no one else cares.

I have seen a thousand clients be presented with brilliant campaigns for their products or services and have them ruin these campaigns by loading them up with their own lame bullshit.

You need to look at your product as something that isn’t loveable. Something that you don’t care about, and then sell it like that. Can you sell it like that? Does it bring enough value to readers to be sold to someone that really couldn’t care less about your work?

Nice graphics and pretty words aren’t enough. Sure, they catch the eye, but are you convincing your reader with each step that they can be in a better position if they get your product? Will your coaching program help them get to their goals?

Would you spend money on the product?

Maybe that’s why nobody is buying your stuff.

Concepts Bring Meaning to Your Writing

When we looked at Badass Your Brand, we talked about needing to stand out from the crowd. This is where a concept comes in. My concept is that you can’t just hustle, because that brings broken families. Broken families and relationships are still failure.

A concept sets the product in a context that makes the viewer behold the product with fresh eyes—and perceive it in a positive, compelling light.

Pressfield reminds us of the Avis slogan: “We’re number 2 so we try harder”. That was a concept. Recently Apple started calling the iPads “not a computer” in their ads, which means they’re carving their own category in minds that others have to try and market around.

A good concept makes the audience see your product from a very specific, sympathetic point of view and by its logic (or faux logic) renders all other points of view and all competing products moot and impotent.

The first question you need to ask yourself in your business marketing is, what is your concept? How are you going to stand out? What makes you worthy of attention?

Stealing and Ideas

I get asked regularly, how I write so much. How I have three podcasts1 and still run a web development business. I do this in part because I steal and remix.

I read and then use the quotes and ideas in my books. I’m remixing Pressfield’s book right now building my own content out of it and I feel no shame in that.

As you look for more work to do, steal what others are doing and put your spin on it. Make it fit into your campaign and fit your concept. Then it’s your work.

I know that makes it sound easy, but sitting around all day coming up with ideas is far from easy. It’s hard hard hard. It’s emotionally draining and physically exhausting.

Don’t be surprised that a creative day leaves you feeling done.

And when you’re feeling done, take a break because continuing on leads to bad ideas. You start draining the well dry and have crappy ideas.

When you try too hard, you have bad ideas.
When you work mechanically, you have bad ideas.
When you follow formula, you have bad ideas.
When you’re desperate or panicky, you have bad ideas.

In Rest, by Alex Pang, we see this idea supported:

Over the course of decades, across professions, in one industry after another, Sonnentangs, findings have been consistent. Workers who have the chance to get away mentally, switch off, and devote their energies elsewhere, are more productive, have better attitudes, get along better with their colleagues, and are better able to deal with challenges at work. They’re also better able to focus intensely on work tasks. – Rest

If it’s your job to find solutions to problems, you better have the right problem defined and that means you need to have a brain ready to generate ideas. That means you need one that’s ready to work hard, that’s not drained by going 100% all the time.

Work Hard

Pressfield did a lot of stuff before he got his big breakout success with The Legend of Bagger Vance. He was 51 and had 27 years in the trade of writing. He worked himself to the bone. He had many novels that never sold or never got any traction.

While that may not be what you want to hear, it takes lots of hard work to become a master on your field. It’s not just guesswork and luck, you show up every day and do your craft. You work hard and focus and then things start to happen.

In Perennial Seller, Ryan Holiday, says:

The more you do, the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get. – Perennial Seller

If that means that you work in a field that’s not 100% your dream for a while, do it. If you want to write, find any writing job to start. Then continually refine the jobs you take until you’re doing what you want. This may take a decade, but it’s a decade of learning.

Don’t fall to the mistaken belief that pervades so many today. The idea that they are a special snowflake and that simply by existing they should get to do exactly what they dream they want to do.

It won’t happen. You have to work hard to build that life you want.

You will not just sit down and write an amazing book. You will not build a blog that can sustain yourself overnight. Your development business will take time to get off the ground, and then it will take time to continue to maintain it so that it doesn’t die due to neglect.

Are you ready for that hard work?

A novel will take you two years to write. Or three or four or five.
Can you do that?
Can you sustain yourself financially? Emotionally? Can your spouse and children handle it?
Can you maintain your motivation over that length of time? Your self-belief? Your sanity?
If necessary, can you scrap your first eighteen months’ work and start over from scratch?

Anything that is valuable takes time to build. A strong marriage is a decades long pursuit with many setbacks. A great relationship with your kids is something you cultivate in every moment you interact with them.

If it was easy to build things of value, everyone would do it. Will you put the hard work in? Will you kick your idea down the road just a bit every day?

That’s what it’s going to take?

Should I Read Nobody Wants To Read Your Shit by Steven Pressfield?

Initially, I left the rating of this book out because I didn’t know how I wanted to rate it until I’d had a chance to write the full review. My initial thoughts were similar to my other looks at Pressfield’s work. Almost non-existent structure and only an okay book.

Now that I’ve dug back through the book, I view it much better. While the ideas are scattered around there is much good in here and it’s a fairly quick read.

If you’re looking for a short read to help you structure your writing better, then Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit is a worthwhile read.

Purchase Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit on Amazon

Photo by: julochka


  1. 5 in truth but two aren’t related to my main business so I don’t talk about them much. They mostly allow me to write off my outdoor gear. 

To get a head start, join thousands of other men and Stop The Struggle.

Get my free eBook to help you stop working all the hours without traction.

You’ll also get a weekly email with good resources to help you do family with the same intention you do your work. Both need to run well if you want to win.

%d bloggers like this: