The Authentic Swing

Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance, The War of Art) just published a new book; The Authentic Swing (Black Irish Entertainment, 2013) examines the twin tracks of golf and writing.

Here’s the deal: golf and writing (and probably every other artistic expression) come from the same place – our unique design by God. They are just part of who we are. Just as my eyes are green and I cannot change that, so are my golf swing and my writing. God gave them. They are authentic, part of the bundle called Ed Chinn. I can work on improving both, but I can’t change the original design.

Pressfield’s most profound insight is the very simple line, “The golf swing is not learned, it is remembered.” We get in trouble when we try to become something or someone else.

He also writes, “The philosophy that underlies…the Authentic Swing contradicts the Western ideal of education, training, and evolution. It rejects the axiom that ‘you can be anything you want to be.’ …we can only be who we already are.”

Pressfield really camps out in that mysterious realm of art and creativity. To write or sing or act or sculpt or dance is to live in the intersection of flesh and spirit, heaven and earth. The biggest part of the art seems to come from another realm. The writer is a scribe. That’s why I’ve never been able to really identify with anything I’ve written.

It may have passed through me, but it certainly did not originate in me.

My song-writing friend Morris Chapman said that being a songwriter is much like being an oil refinery. God makes the “oil;” Morris is just a place where it gets boiled, distilled, etc. Nothing possessive (or glamorous) about that.

Finally, Pressfield writes, “…you think you’re crafting a story, but in fact the story is crafting you. The story is like a dream, in that it bubbles up from some deep internal source. The story is wiser than you…it is trying to tell you something about yourself. That’s why it hooks you…You think that your story is private, unique, idiosyncratic. You believe that no one will be interested in it but you. But the more deeply you enter into your story, the more you perceive its universality. The story is never about what you think it is. It’s never about someone. It’s always about everyone.”

He also knows what all writers know: “You have not chosen the story. The story has chosen you.” That is so wise. When I read this (and other lines) I found myself thinking…Pressfield, you are not far from the Kingdom of God. (Mark 12:34)

This very short and readable book also serves up very nice insights on caddies, why golf is so hard and harassing, movie making in general and the making of The Legend of Bagger Vance in particular.

If you write or golf, The Authentic Swing will find traction in your heart. If you pay attention and take notes during your walk through the earth, you may be startled to hear this book whisper your name.

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