Professional or Pretender? writing as a JOB

Professional: n, 1. one who is engaged in a particular occupation for pay;
2. one who has great skill or competence in a particular field

Pretender: n, one who simulates, claims or alleges falsely.

I get paid to write articles on health issues, newsletters, reports and the like. This makes me a professional by the first definition – although as a free-lance gig the work is spotty and the pay paltry.  While I enjoy these assignments when they’re DONE, they don’t engage my heart.

For years I said I would “Write a Book,” because that’s what writers are supposed to do. Unfortunately I have yet to focus on one topic long enough to spin it into a book, and furthermore I habitually hit the wall somewhere around 3000 words for a piece.

When I read Steven Pressfield‘s The War of Art, it became clear that in this area of my life – writing something lengthy about what I wanted to write about – I was a pretender, an amateur. I was not a Professional Writer.

He claims we all know how to be a professional in one area: our jobs – the ones we do successfully in our workaday lives.  He suggests we apply these qualities to our artistic aspirations:

1. We show up every day.

2. We show up every day no matter what, whether or not we feel like it.

3. We stay on the job all day. Our minds may wander but our bodies remain at the wheel till the whistle blows.

4. We’re committed over the long haul. We may change jobs, but until we hit the lottery we’ll be working.

5. The stakes are high and real. We’re feeding ourselves and our families.

6. We accept remuneration for our labor. We’re here for the money.

7. We do not over-identify with our jobs.  We may take pride in our work, but we recognize we are not our job descriptions. The amateur takes his work so seriously it can paralyze him.

8. We master the technique of our jobs.

9. We have a sense of humor about our jobs.

10. We receive praise or blame in the real world. If you’re praised for your work by your best friend, that’s not real-world feedback. A friend won’t send you a rejection slip. The real world will.

Pressfield’s a hard-ass.  He wants those of us with creative aspirations to put up or shut up. The War of Art is really about Resistance as the implacable enemy of the artist. I wish Resistance were a P word, because I experience it every day (thanks Mom!) and it deserves a long post of its own. Read the book and you’ll see what I mean.

365 P Words has provided the self-discipline I’ve needed to get my ass into the chair to write every day. Knowing others are out there reading this helps too.  Who knows, my new-found commitment to writing what I want to write might lead to something…

What keeps YOU on the job?

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