When I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, I felt like I was in a Bible Revival meeting. After each page, I wanted to yell, “Amen, brother!” I identified closely to Pressfield’s description of the creative process.
I was anticipating a similar feeling when I read his follow up book Turning Pro.
“Turning pro” is the decision you make to overcome the Resistance that is preventing you from practicing your “art”. It is when you stop talking and dreaming about doing something and you settle down and commit to doing your art. Art is anything that you want to create: from a piece of writing to a sculpture or painting or meal or skill or entrepreneurial venture or anything that fuels your dreams.
Like The War of Art, Turning Pro is an easily digested book divided into three books/parts: The Amateur Life, Self-Inflicted Wounds, and The Professional Mindset. Each “book” is made up of mostly single-paged chapters.
I devoured the book, but found myself being annoyed with the short chapters and repetition of some ideas and the inclusion of other people’s work. Come on, I urged, get to the good stuff… There were some snippets that I found useful, but overall I felt a bit cheated.
I decided to give the book another chance and reread it a few weeks later.
I definitely enjoyed Turning Pro more on the second reading! When I read it the first time, I was in the flow of a good couple of weeks of my Genius Project — a good indicator of “turning pro”, I thought — and was feeling the hubris of thinking that I didn’t really need this information.
By the time I read it a second time, I was trying to get back on schedule after being derailed by a week of March Break and getting very little done. Maybe I hadn’t turned pro yet, after all… Much more of the chapters resonated with me this time.
I found myself wanting to highlight sentences, which is unusual because I don’t like to write in books. I love a pristine, unblemished book, so that I discover new things when I reread it and not be drawn back to the things that attracted me the first time. Or at least leave it that way, so that someone else reading the book can be drawn to their own passages.
The book moved me a bit more on the second reading, as well. The pages on “addiction” not only reminded me of myself and the distractions I use to avoid my art, but also of loved ones that became consumed by their addictions. Sometimes turning pro can save your life.
Because the content is so succinct, it seems a shame to talk about it too much. It’s much better to discover it for yourself, so I’ll let Mr. Pressfield have the last word: “Turning pro is like kicking a drug habit or stopping drinking. It’s a decision, a decision to which we must re-commit every day.”
© 2015 Peter Gruner