20 Aug 2013

Why Turning Pro Must Be a Solo Process

Last Tuesday, as part of MarieTV's Summertime Special by Marie Forleo, I enjoyed the re-run of her interview of seasoned American author Steven Pressfield, back in November 2012, based around his self-published book, Turning Pro.

During the interview, Steven identified the difference between an amateur and a professional, and dispensed a few tips on how to cut it like a pro, using his female wannabe-golfer friend as a fitting example. Although a terrible golfer, she had made the commitment to improve her skill and equipped herself head to toe with all the pro-golfer gear in order to be in a winner's frame of mind, which eventually worked in her favour.

Steven also described how he came to realise one day he just didn't want to be a dilettante anymore and decided to up the ante as a full-fledged writer. The change was cathartic and involved discipline, routine, perseverance and strength of character, which might scare the amateur a mile off! Imagine moving places like Steven did, to live in isolation and spartan accommodation with a cat as sole companion, no distractions, no excuses.

Faced with his own fears and doubts looking him up straight in the eye, devoured by demons and possibly nagged by the appeal and (apparent) security of the comfort zone (the unchallenging 9 to 5 job, the normality of the suburban life, etc.), his focus 'forced' upon his writing and nothing else, letting his inspiration wander constructively and taming the muse onto paper, concentrating on those thoughts and ideas that lead to words that string into sentences that develop the narrative and enrich the tone, no matter how painful, solitary and uncomfortable this new 'pro' lifestyle exercise might be to adjust to. This part of the interview actually captured my interest the most, as someone contemplating the big leap and still tottering on the edge but chickening away as yet not so sure of it!

It is clear to me though that my lifestyle as it currently stands is not compatible with a pro's choice and something needs to give. I currently live at my parents (long story!), and two strongwilled generations try to cohabitate happily... There is a protocole to follow, unspoken rules to abide by, spoken rules to not question and sometimes these just get jarred in. I mean things can go crazy up in my head, and inspiration doesn't strike on cue. It hits me on a sleepless night, but that means I might not be up first thing in the morning after that (discipline not being my forte as yet!), which might be frowned upon.

Besides I might fancy the idea of a heavy punching bag in the garage that I go kick whenever I need to release some tension. I might skip lunch for a brisk walk down the beach to clear the cobwebs, and I might want to play Bullet For My Valentine at full blast when I get back to get those creative juices flowing (Oh yeah, it can get even stranger!) but these are things I can't do at my parents! Oh and I might fancy a dish of fried quinoa and nuts instead of mum's classic Sunday hotpot, and a glass of persimmon juice in lieu of black coffee, and jet off on a whim across the Channel for a few days to see my peeps, but those little liberties are not erm democratically embraced... and I respect that.

Part of Eliza Cerdeiros's Motivational Monday

There is no beating around the bush: turning pro is a solo process, you can't drag in family and friends like it's some picnic down the park. You need thinking time, me-time, a structure that you can navigate around and not impact on others. You need to find yourself, grow into your own, shape and fit into your pro lifestyle, before you can share and become social again. I'll leave the conclusion to Steven Pressfield:

"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 live out."


  1. Such beautiful writing.

    Richard Walter once noted that writers write. However he also noted that they are procrastinators, each and every one of them. They make time to sharpen their pencils, lay out fresh bond paper, order their environment in every way and then... promptly proceed to clean out the refrigerator...

    1. Thank you so much Rob! Richard Walter indeed nailed it on the head, as we writers are only human after all... ;-)