As I write this, I am sitting perched above a gorgeous home in the Hollywood Hills. I’ve got a great view of the city – of Santa Monica and Century City and the palatial homes sitting above the 101 freeway.
It’s really the perfect environment to write. It’s quiet, save for the soft hum of the freeway. It’s absolutely beautiful. I have a block of time squared away for just this – writing.
And yet I’m struggling. I’m finding it so hard to focus and get words on the page
I recently read Steven Pressfield’s “Turning Pro”, in which he speaks at length about the difference between professionals and amateurs. More specifically, he notes the different habits between the two groups.
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I know I still sit squarely in the “amateur” camp. I don’t take my desire or whatever talent I may possess very seriously most of the time.
In the book, Steven talks about the moment he turned pro. And the moment Roseanne Cash turned pro. And a few other examples of those key, pivotal times that people who knew they had a greater obsession, a fervent passion, went from being amateurs to being professionals. Steven notes that you’ll remember the moment you turned pro in the same way that you remember the moment you first heard about the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
I was so fired up when I finished the short book (and I highly recommend it!). I was almost sure that reading that book may have even been my “turning pro” moment; that perhaps I had suddenly made the internal switch from amateur to pro and would magically have the habits to support it.
It’s been a few days and I still think I have work to do. I suppose every day, even as a pro, you have work to do, but I know I haven’t yet rid myself of my amateur habits.
Last Friday night, I had the perfect opportunity to write. It was the first time in a long time that I had nothing to do and nowhere to go on a Friday night and it felt incredible. Freeing. There were so many things I wanted to do: I wanted to do laundry, I wanted to organize my room, I wanted to pack for a weekend trip to Palm Springs, I wanted to finish writing our wedding thank you notes, I wanted to wash and restraighten my hair, I wanted to read some of Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit”, and most of all, I wanted to write.
But I didn’t do any of it. Seriously, not any of it.
I had three (at least) glasses of wine, looked at way too many pictures on Facebook, half-watched TV, and passed out in bed around 11pm. Not exactly the activities of a professional writer.
And it’s hard not to get down on myself when this happens. It’s hard not to wonder if I just don’t have this in me and I will always be the amateur on the outside looking in.
But I know I am smart and I know I am capable and I know I can get things done when I need to: I do it every day at work and in many areas of my personal life as well.
I may not yet be the “professional” writer, but I know that I want to be. I know that I want it so bad, it’s all I can think about for a good portion of my day, every day. And I am acutely aware of the difference between where I am now and where I want to be. I can make up that difference. I can make greater strides and try harder and do better. And sometimes, I’ll drink three glasses of wine and spend way too much time looking through the Facebook photos of someone I barely knew in high school instead. That’ll be unfortunate, and I’ll be pissed at the opportunity squandered, but it won’t be an indication that I need to stop; that I need to give up.
I fear I may always have some amateur habits, or that I’ll sometimes still slip back into them. But from what I learning, the professional in me won’t see that as an opportunity to stop. I won’t turn back.
I want to write. I am a writer.