Are you a professional? Different people define professional in different ways. For some, being a professional means making money from their art. For others it’s more about the attitude they have towards their work. While I have always considered myself a professional by both of these definitions, I had no idea I was making such a big mistake when it came to how I approach my art.
I recently began reading The War of Art. In it, the author calls resistance when we avoid doing something we want to do that could be transformational in our lives. He gives examples of things like writing a book, eating well, studying and so on. We all do this. We make up the most logical and reasonable excuses to avoid doing something we know we are meant to do. Maybe it’s fear of failure, or discomfort, but we talk ourselves out of it and manage to put off something important because we are tired, busy or [insert good excuse here].
Pressfield goes on to describe his concept of a professional. A professional by his definition is someone who takes the creative work seriously – as if it were a job. But not the kind of job where you sit and stare into space for the entire day, the kind of job that you love and are passionate about. When you have a job you show up when you’re supposed to and you work until it’s time to go home. When you have a job you have a commitment and you don’t skip work unless something serious happens. Again, this is assuming that this is a job that you want to work in.
So why is it that us creative types sit around all day and wait for inspiration? We come up with excuses not to write that book or make that photo or paint that portrait. Why do so many of us (myself included) show so little commitment to the work that nurtures our soul? I’m sure fear plays a part in this. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of anonymity and the list goes on and on and on. But if we were professionals, if this was our job (and it kind of is) wouldn’t we do what we’re supposed to do anyway? We’d put in the hours, do the work and go home.
As I read this book I realized that I have not been treating my creative work like a professional. I allow myself all sorts of excuses for not doing the work that I am meant to do. Some people are of the opinion that routine stifles creativity. That you should wait for inspiration to hit you and then begin. It’s an excuse to do nothing – if you try to be creative every day at the same time and under similar conditions you won’t be able to come up with anything original. Well, I disagree and so would Twyla Tharp and Julia Cameron. When you have a habit or working daily on your craft, you remain limber, you master your craft and you will have more creative ideas. Everything you create won’t be genius, there will be plenty of duds, but the chances of good things happening while you’re at work are much greater.
So, as of Monday I began my “job”. Nothing extreme, but I am dedicating 3 hours a day exclusively to my work. Some days I will write, other days I will either take photos or work in the digital darkroom and other days I will work on the business side of things. I’ve scheduled it in my calendar and marked the time off as busy. No social media distractions, no goofing off. Just work. That’s 15 hours a week invested in me and in my art! Now I understand that I have an advantage when it comes to the amount of time I can dedicate, but that’s not the point. Even if you only have one hour a day or if you only have the weekends, making the commitment and treating your passion like a professional is what counts.