In the same vein as his other books “Do the Work” and ”War of Art” - but a message that needs to be said again and again to really get through. It's all about the resistance, avoiding distractions, getting serious. Here he dives more into the mindset shift of thinking of your art as a hobby versus a real career. This stuff shakes me to the core, every time.
Ambition is the most primal and sacred fundament of our being. To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.
When we're terrified of embracing our true calling, we'll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, but a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us. Like getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you're afraid to write. Ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.
I could hang with the locals and shoot the breeze - but I always thought that, while they were trapped, I was free. In a few minutes I'd be clear of town and rolling down the highway. Of course this was all self-delusion. The road was taking me nowhere. I wasn't writing books. I wasn't facing my demons.
The longer we cleave to this shadow life, the farther we drift from our true purpose, and the harder it becomes for us to rally the courage to get back.
There's not a big difference between an artist and an addict. What's the difference? The addict is the amateur; the artist is the professional.
When I say "addiction," web-surfing counts too. So do compulsive texting, twittering and Facebooking. Distractions. Displacement activities. When we're living as amateurs, we're running away from our calling - meaning our work, our destiny, the obligation to become our truest and highest selves.
To follow a calling requires work. It's hard. It hurts. It demands entering the pain-zone of effort, risk, and exposure.
When you turn pro, your life gets very simple. The Zen monk, the artist, the entrepreneur often lead lives so plain they're practically invisible.
The amateur is an egotist. He takes the material of his personal pain and uses it to draw attention to himself. He creates a "life," a "character," a "personality."
When we turn pro, the energy that once went into the Shadow Novel goes into the real novel.
Addicts are boring because they never do the work. The definition of boring: something that's boring goes nowhere. It travels in a circle. It never arrives at its destination.
Addictions embody repetition without progress. They produce incapacity as a payoff.
Distraction and displacement seem innocent on the surface. How can we be harming ourselves by having fun, or seeking romance, or enjoying the fruits of this big, beautiful world? But lives go down the tubes one repetition at a time, one deflection at a time, one hundred and forty characters at a time.
Resistance wants to keep us shallow and unfocused. So it makes the superficial and the vain intoxicating.
Every Monday morning I walked into the village to the Bank of America and took out $25. That sum lasted me for the next seven days. I didn't talk to anybody during my year of turning pro. I didn't hang out. I just worked. I had a book in mind and I had decided I would finish it or kill myself. I could not run away again, or let people down again, or let myself down again. This was it, do or die. I had no TV, no radio, no music. No sex, no sports. I didn't read the newspaper.
That year made me a pro. It gave me, for the first time in my life, an uninterrupted stretch of month after month that was mine alone, that nobody knew about but me, when I was truly productive, truly facing my demons, and truly working my shit.
The habits and addictions of the amateur are conscious or unconscious self-inflicted wounds. Their payoff is incapacity. When we take our M1903 Springfield and blow a hole in our foot, we no longer have to face the real fight of our lives, which is to become who we are and to realize our destiny and our calling.
The amateur is terrified that if the tribe should discover who he really is, he will be kicked out into the cold to die.
The amateur's self-inflation prevents him from acting. He takes himself and the consequences of his actions so seriously that he paralyzes himself.
The sure sign of an amateur is he has a million plans and they all start tomorrow.
The tribe doesn't give a shit. There is no tribe. Just a conglomeration of individuals who are just as fucked up as we are and just as terrified. Each individual is so caught up in his own bullshit that he doesn't have two seconds to worry about yours.
Our lives are entirely up to us.
When we turn pro, everything becomes simple. Our aim centers on the ordering of our days in such a way that we overcome the fears that have paralyzed us in the past. We now structure our hours not to flee from fear, but to confront it and overcome it. We plan our activities in order to accomplish an aim. And we bring our will to bear so that we stick to this resolution.
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. Twelve-step programs say "One Day at a Time." The professional says the same thing. Each day, the professional understands, he will wake up facing the same demons, the same Resistance, the same self-sabotage, the same tendencies to shadow activities and amateurism that he has always faced. The difference is that now he will not yield to those temptations. He will have mastered them, and he will continue to master them.
Carl Jung said that a person might have five "big" dreams in his life - dreams that provoke a shift in consciousness.
Qualities that the professional possesses that the amateur doesn't:
1. The professional shows up every day
2. The professional stays on the job all day
3. The professional is committed over the long haul
4. For the professional, the stakes are high and real Further:
5. The professional is patient
6. The professional seeks order
7. The professional demystifies
8. The professional acts in the face of fear
9. The professional accepts no excuses
10. The professional plays it as it lays
11. The professional is prepared
12. The professional does not show off
13. The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique
14. The professional does not hesitate to ask for help
15. The professional does not take failure or success personally
16. The professional does not identify with his instrument
17. The professional endures adversity
18. The professional self-validates
19. The professional reinvents herself
20. The professional is recognized by other professionals
Krishna said we have the right to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor. He meant that the piano is its own reward, as is the canvas.
When we project a quality or virtue onto another human being, we ourselves almost always already possess that quality, but we're afraid to embrace (and to live) that truth.
The professional refuses to be iconized. Not for selfish reasons, but because he knows how destructive the dynamic of iconization is to the iconizer.
What is a practice? To follow a rigorous, prescribed regimen with the intention of elevating the mind and the spirit to a higher level. A practice implies engagement in a ritual. A practice may be defined as the dedicated, daily exercise of commitment, will, and focused intention.
A practice has a space, and that space is sacred.
In the end, the enterprise and the sacrifice are all about the audience. They're about the readers, the moviegoers, the site visitors, the listeners.
In the hero's journey, the wanderer returns home after years of exile, struggle, and suffering. He brings a gift for the people. That gift arises from what the hero has seen, what he has endured, what he has learned.