Steven Pressfield: From Struggling Writer to Inspirational Teacher


Steven Pressfield’s life is a captivating story of resilience, self-discovery, and the unwavering pursuit of creative expression. It’s a testament to the power of embracing one’s calling, even when the path is fraught with challenges and setbacks.

Early Influences and Education:

Born in 1943, Pressfield’s early years were marked by a deep fascination with the classics. He devoured the works of Homer, Virgil, and other literary giants, igniting a lifelong passion for storytelling and mythology. This passion led him to Duke University, where he earned a degree in Classical Literature, a foundation that would prove invaluable in his future writing career.

Turning Points and Early Career:

After graduating from Duke at 22, Pressfield embarked on a series of unexpected turns. He served as a Marine Corps officer, an experience that instilled discipline and a profound understanding of the human spirit under pressure. Following his military service, he worked as an advertising copywriter, honing his skills in persuasion and storytelling.

In the 1980s, Pressfield’s career took another turn as he ventured into screenwriting. He contributed to films like “King Kong Lives” and “Freejack.” While these projects didn’t achieve critical acclaim, they provided valuable lessons in narrative structure and audience engagement.

Wrestling with Resistance and Finding His Voice:

Pressfield’s path was not without its struggles. He battled alcoholism, writer’s block, and a pervasive sense of creative stagnation. He called this internal struggle “Resistance,” the universal force that holds us back from pursuing our passions.

In 2002, at the age of 59, Pressfield published “The War of Art,” a raw and honest exploration of Resistance and how to overcome it. This book struck a chord with readers worldwide, becoming a cult classic among creatives from all walks of life.

Unearthing His Calling and Literary Triumphs:

With “The War of Art,” Pressfield found his true calling as both an author and a mentor. He continued to write, publishing a series of critically acclaimed historical novels, including “Gates of Fire” (1998) and “Tides of War” (2016). These books, meticulously researched and beautifully written, showcased his deep understanding of history and the human condition.

Mentorship and Guidance:

While Pressfield largely charted his own path, he acknowledges the influence of mentors and colleagues throughout his journey. He sought guidance from experienced writers and editors, and he openly shares his knowledge with aspiring authors through workshops, seminars, and online resources.

Unique Experiences and Enduring Legacy:

Pressfield’s diverse experiences—from military service to advertising to screenwriting—have enriched his writing and given him a unique perspective on the creative process. He draws inspiration from classical literature, Stoic philosophy, and his own personal struggles, offering readers a powerful blend of wisdom, humor, and motivation.

Today, Steven Pressfield is a celebrated author, speaker, and mentor. His books have sold millions of copies and have been translated into numerous languages. His work continues to inspire countless individuals to pursue their creative dreams, overcome obstacles, and live a life of purpose and passion.

This deep-dive into Pressfield’s career is a testament to the power of perseverance, self-belief, and the willingness to embrace one’s calling. It’s a story that resonates with anyone who has ever faced the daunting challenge of bringing their creative vision to life.

Career Timeline

19430Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
196522Graduates from Duke University with a degree in Classical LiteratureThis foundation in storytelling and the humanities played a crucial role in his writing career.
196623Serves as a Marine Corps officerHis military experience, particularly the discipline and understanding of the human spirit under pressure, significantly influenced his writing, especially in works like “Gates of Fire.”
1970s20sWorks as an advertising copywriter in New York CityThis role honed his skills in persuasive writing and storytelling, proving invaluable in his career as an author.
198643Writes the screenplay for “King Kong Lives”This marked his entry into screenwriting, providing valuable experience in storytelling for the screen.
199249Writes the screenplay for “Freejack”Another screenwriting project that further developed his storytelling abilities.
199552Publishes his first novel, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”This breakthrough novel marked his emergence as a successful author and opened doors for him to write full-time.
199855Publishes the historical novel “Gates of Fire”This critically acclaimed novel solidified his reputation as a skilled writer of historical fiction.
200259Publishes “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles”This non-fiction book became a cult classic among writers and artists, offering guidance on overcoming creative obstacles.
201673Publishes “Tides of War”This historical novel about the Peloponnesian War further established his mastery in storytelling about the ancient world.
2020s80sContinues to write, publish, and mentor aspiring writersNow in his 80s, he remains a prolific writer and active member of the creative community, mentoring aspiring writers.