Author Steven Pressfield published a short, powerful book earlier this year, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work. The blurb caught my attention, as he sought to explain how he moved from being an amateur to being a professional.
Addressing anyone with artistic aspirations, Pressfield emphasizes there is a stark difference from being an amateur and being a professional. Accomplishments do not delineate the two, but instead one’s way of life does. Pressfield offers some stories of his life, as he wandered through his mid-thirties as an amateur working in a “shadow career.” Then he “turned pro,” which did not immediately equate to success. Far from it. He suffered numerous failures well after turning pro. Yet, he continued to push, keeping his life professional.
The concepts he offers are simplistic, yet powerful. He cuts to the chase, as points out that amateurs are addicts, looking for something to take up their time and attention until they reach incapacitation. Drugs and booze are the obvious examples, but it can be texting, browsing the Internet, sex, or whatever. Instead, artists need to replace their bad habits of addiction with good ones that push them toward their potential.
Much of this book spoke to me, as the author points out that amateurs and professionals are both faced with crippling fears. However, the professionals seek them out and confront them daily, but the amateurs shy from them, even secretly preferring failure as an easy out to avoid facing them. As he puts it in the shortest chapter, “The amateur tweets. The pro works” (p. 93).
If you are an aspiring artist, writer, or historian, this is well worth the cheap price. The book is short, but it will keep you thinking for days.