On page 6 of Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield said I would remember where I was when I decided to turn pro. I would remember the day like people remember where they were on 9/11. I was in a coffee shop. I wrote down the date and the time on page 6 of Turning Pro. 2/12/2013. 11:49 a.m. I felt confident and powerful. I walked out of the coffee shop a new woman. I was no longer afraid.
What we get when we turn pro is, we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.
Steven Pressfield, page 5, Turning Pro
I didn’t have to take a course or buy a product. I had changed my mind. I had only read six pages in Pressfield’s book, Turning Pro and already I was a new woman. I felt like Mark Wahlberg in the movie, The Fighter; I was Mickey Ward in the ring, fighting Shea Neary. I won the WBU Light Welterweight title with a TKO in round 8.
Every morning, since I read the book, The War of Art, I have battled the dragon Resistance and sat down in front of my computer to write. But, after reading Turning Pro, I realized I was creating a shadow world. I was fighting the dragon Resistance to live as an amateur.
We were amateurs living in the past or dreaming of the future, while failing utterly to do the work necessary to progress in the present.
Steven Pressfield- Page 23, Turning Pro
I set the book down and didn’t pick it up again for over a month. I stepped out of the ring. I stopped reading Turning Pro because I didn’t want to change my habits. I didn’t want to do the work.
Several weeks ago, I picked up Turning Pro again, and finished reading it, all 132 pages. I made the commitment to stop being an amateur on 3/12/2013 at 5:12 p.m. I was back in the ring.
After I interviewed Mr. Pressfield about The War of Art, he graciously offered to be interviewed for Turning Pro when I finished reading the book. You can read the interview Waging the War of Art here. I wanted the questions to be good questions, so I read Turning Pro twice and watched the movie “The Fighter” before I wrote my questions and sent them to Mr. Pressfield. I asked him questions I wanted to know the answers to myself.
1. After you made the decision to turn Pro, how did your behavior change?
It took me a long time, years and years, with many fallings-off-the-wagon. But the overall thrust was always to simplify my day-to-day life so that I could get three or four hours of work in every day. This meant a lot of struggle trying to support myself financially, many stops and starts. I began to make money as a writer for the first time, as a screenwriter — first partnering with an established writer, then going off on my own. By then, I had a very strong system of self-discipline, good work habits, a strong work ethic, so that I had my day’s routine down to a science. I didn’t need any outside reinforcement or motivation. The work itself brought enough satisfaction. All I had to do was make enough money to keep going. In many ways the process, for me anyway, was like opening your own business — opening a restaurant, say, or a start-up manufacturing operating. You get up, you do the work, you don’t let anything stop you. You train yourself to be self-motivated, self-reinforcing, self-validating, and you try each day to strengthen those habits of professionalism.
2. Were you ever tempted to quit; to go back to New York and drive a taxi? If you were tempted to quit, what kept you from going back to being an amateur?
Never. Once you cross the line, there’s no going back.
Awareness, number one. Simply grasping the concept that you’re living your life as an amateur and getting onboard with the idea of switching that style to becoming a professional. Most people (I include myself) are in denial of their amateurism, or have never even thought about it. That mental breakthrough is the biggest step, I think.After that the biggest obstacle is fear. Turning pro is a move from the known to the unknown, and that’s always terrifying. Often we can see that we’re wasting our lives (see “Awareness” above) but we can’t raise the courage to make a change.Third is the mundane, day-to-day logistics of making it work. It’s what I mentioned in #1 above. How do you feed yourself and your family? Can you actually succeed? Is the art you love feasible economically? If so, how do you have to change your life to make it work? Move somewhere else? Send your spouse to work?Sometimes the spirit is willing but the numbers just don’t add up. Then what? Do it part-time? Nothing wrong with that!It took me years to make the day-to-day-stuff work.
It took Mr. Pressfield years to change his habits. I have only been working on my new habits for 32 days, or 768 hours, or 46,080 minutes, or 2,764,800 seconds. I want to make every second count. I don’t want to quit. Actually I will say, “I won’t quit.” Wanting to do something is not the same as committing to do it.
How about you? Will you take Mr. Pressfield’s advice? Will you change your behavior? Will you get up, do the work, and not stop? Will you not quit and battle fear? Will you decide to be a professional and stop being an amateur?