I bought The War of Art in February after practically the entire internet suggested it as one of “The Must Reads” for artists. The book is very Hemingway-manly in both its advice and tone. Maybe I should have gathered that from its play on words title. Consequently, there was a lot of the book that didn’t strike much of a chord with me, except…it includes a section called “Turning Pro”. In it, Pressfield talks about the things Pros do. A few of the items from his list have been rattling around in my head since I read it.
Professionals show up every day.
Hey, wait a minute! I’ve been doing that for a while now. That’s one of the two principles of my Make Something Every Day Project. The Every Day part is a big deal. It’s what moved me from someone thinking about being an artist to, you know, actually being an artist. It’s the practice, practice, practice part of the equation. I decided to put the time into my dream. Every day.
Professionals show up no matter what.
Life happens. Kids need to go to the doctor and dogs always seem to need a vet on the weekend. Someone needs to cook dinner. There will never not be a mountain of laundry waiting on me. I’m fortunate that I have a good bit of time outside of those myriad and daily Life Things that I can spend doing something else. I choose to spend it on my art. Even on the days when the Life Things threaten to fill all of my time, I still choose to take at least twenty minutes to work on some kind of art.
Professionals are committed over the long haul.
What constitutes “the long haul”? One year? Two years? Three? I’m edging closer to four years on my Make Something Every Day Project. Maybe five years is the magic number. I’ve been gluing papers together since a was a child. Does that count? I dunno. I’m still thinking about this one.
Professionals do not overidentify with our jobs.
My mom asked me sometime in the past year if it was hard to let go of pieces when I sold them. It isn’t. I’m done with them when I sell them. I may hang onto a piece for a while after I complete it to enjoy it or to process it, but when I sell it, I’m done with it. I’m happy for it to go on its way, bringing joy to someone else. My friend Jessica owns this piece called “World Mandala”:
I was looking in my receipt book the other day for something, read the title, and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what it looked like. I mean, I knew it was a cut paper mandala, but beyond that, nothing. I had to have her text me a pic so I could remember. Part of that is because I make a lot of stuff. Do you remember what you did at your job two weeks during May, June, or July of 2015? Yeah, me neither. The other part is that the work isn’t me. It’s a part of me. I put a lot of me into it. I love it. But it isn’t the whole me, so I can let it go when it’s time for it to go.
Professionals receive praise or blame in the real world.
This one. This one is a killer. While the work isn’t the whole me, I still don’t want even part of me to get stomped on. I don’t want anyone to say that I wasted my time making it or that I wasted their time consuming it. Art is subjective and not everyone is gonna love all the things. I get that. I’m pretty well versed in not needing to wow everyone but dang, being passed over still hurts. Still, I keep putting my work out there because someone is gonna love it. Someone is gonna say, “Wow. This is me. This is how I feel. This explains so much.” Finding a group who gets my work is pretty much the Holy Grail of artistic expression, so I keep putting work out there every day.
So do these things mean I’m a professional now? I’m closer than I used to be. My mindset has definitely gone from “I’ll do my minimum” to “I’m gonna put some real time in.” Part of that is due to having surgery at the end of last year to fix my carpal tunnel in both of my hands. I work more now because I can work more now. I also want to work more now. So clearly there are big changes going on.
What about you? Have you read The War of Art? What resonated with you? What did you wanna kick to the curb? Are you Turning Pro? How are you doing it? Do you wanna chat about another book on creativity? Let me know!