Steven Pressfield’s latest work about art and writing is Turning Pro, which attempts to help turn your amateur art into a profession. The premise is great but the execution is lacking, simply because the book has no meat. The anecdotes are forgettable and often second-hand while there are only a few passages which motivate. You truly want to get into this book, especially if you’re an artist yourself, but there’s nothing to get into. It’s like diving into a pool that seems deep but is actually rather shallow.
But—it’s such a quick read that I imagine you will get a useful idea or two out of it. It’s a shame that Pressfield’s work is reduced to “well, you’ll get something out of it,” because as a successful writer I do believe he has much wisdom to share, but after writing The War of Art, the bulk of his wisdom was tapped. Nonetheless, Turning Pro did give me some ideas to noodle on, so I reluctantly recommend it for the creative class.
Here are my favorite quotes from the book:
To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.
When we’re living as amateurs, we’re running away from our calling—meaning our work, our destiny, the obligation to become our truest and highest selves.
The amateur is an egoist. HE takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a ‘life,’ a ‘character,’ a ‘personality.’
When we can’t stand the fear, the shame, and the self-reproach that we feel, we obliterate it with an addiction.
Turning pro changes how people perceive us. Those who are still fleeing from their own fears will not try to sabotage us. They will tell us we’ve changed and try to undermine our efforts at further change. They will attempt to make us feel guilty for these changes. They will try to entice us to get stoned with them or fuck off with them or waste time with them, as we’ve done in the past, and when we refuse, they will turn against us and talk us down behind our backs.
Each day, the professional understands, he will wake up facing the same demons, the same Resistance, the same self-sabotage, the same tendencies to shadow activities and amateurism that he has always faced.
Our work is practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days are nothing.
Once we turn pro, we’re like sharks who have tasted blood, or renunciants who have glimpsed the face of God. For us, there is no finish line. No bell ends the bout. Life is the pursuit. Life is the hunt. When our hearts burst… then we’ll go out, and no sooner.
Read More: “Turning Pro” on Amazon