Was recently skimming through Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Seems like just about everyone has quoted from this book, but then one nugget really stopped me.
It was in a section about professionals versus amateurs, and he created a list of “promises” that professionals make to themselves. Everything seemed pretty good until his explanation of Number 7.
Here it is:
7. We do not overidentify with our jobs.
“We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. he defines himself by it…The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.
You’d think that the professional is the one paralyzed, but no, it’s the amateur.
That seems unlikely on the surface.
Professionals are the ones putting it all out on the line. Their lives depend on it.
But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed true. I overheard some conversations in grad school where the students fought over really trivial techniques or opinions. I’ve seen other writers climb emotional highs that are too high for the publication credit, or writers sink too low when their work is rejected everywhere.
They have no sense of distance. The professional recognizes writing for what it is–a job. It’s an important part of them and they like doing it, but they will not live and die by it.
Professionals won’t take things as personally. When writing is criticized, it’s not an affront, there’s just another way to fix it or another audience to pursue. It’s not a rejection, it’s a challenge to do it differently.
Does this discount professionals from being “true artists” then? Maybe. But at least they’re living off their passion.