Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Turning Pro: A Long and Winding Road in the War of Art

Wonder of wonders:  at a recent business conference, a young fellow spoke about entrepreneurship and the importance of what he called "turning pro" being "greater than being an amateur."  In a few of our early posts last year, we debated the meaning and relevance of taking a professional approach to our writing, but we didn't dig too deeply into exactly what made one a pro instead of an amateur.  (BTW, I like the word "amateur" as opposed to beginner or neophyte or dilettante ...or worse.)

At any rate, the bright young speaker made several links between being an entrepreneur and the arts, and he recommended a number of books, including one that really caught my attention, Turning Pro, by Steven Pressfield, who also wrote The War of Art.  Pressfield tells the story of his journey to become a published author--a long and winding road in his case--and he recognizes a point at which he moved from being an amateur to approaching his writing as a pro.  He lists his discoveries along the way, and comes up with twenty traits of being a pro, among them:

The pro comes to work every day.  Ideally, that means setting and respecting a time and place for writing each day, but even if we can't always do that, at least the pro is thinking about her work, planning, considering, repeating dialogues or running scenes in her head.  Nothing is more important to becoming a pro than making that level of commitment.  

The pro is committed over the long haul.  Instant gratification isn't on the pro's agenda, and she recognizes the importance of the long view, of failure and rejection as signs of progress.  Nothing is harder for the new writer than this one.

The pro acts in the face of fear.   This one may be the hardest to achieve for some writers, overwhelmed by that inner critic, but if one can manage to keep at it, Pressfield notes, that's a strong sign of being a pro.

The pro accepts no excuses.  Need we say more?

The pro does not hesitate to ask for help.  We've chatted in our Fiction Forge posts a good deal about the importance of getting feedback from trusted readers, and I'd add that giving critiques is just as crucial to a writer's progress and becoming a pro.

Finally, the pro reinvents herself.  No ruts for the pro!  Write and write and experiment with ideas and keep writing.  Free that perfect voice but don't expect to easily find it again once you've fully lathered it and turned it loose.

Pressfield gives lively examples and scenes from his own journey and the book is a quick read.  Well worth a look as you journey toward turning pro.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent points. It's good to see at least some of the things we have mentioned here or at our larger group. It warms my heart to know the habits the group has taught me. I could never have gotten as far as I have without the support of the Writer's Center and especially you David and your group. It is as if Pressfield is there with us each meeting.