We were amateurs living in the past or dreaming of the future, while failing utterly to do the work necessary to progress in the present.
It’s Day 2 of reading Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro in Desk’s digital book club. Following up on yesterday’s post about ambition, I’m going to write about two points in today’s section: the shadow life and habits.
Pressfield describes becoming a pro as “nothing grander than growing up”, whereas the shadow life is “the life of the amateur”. Before we’re quick to dismiss the amateur, though, it is noted that it is essential to our progress in becoming pro. The amateur life is the hero’s journey. The important part, however, is not to get stuck in being an amateur – eventually one has to release the shackles of the amateur in order to become pro; we cannot be both. The shadow life is any calling we pursue but without giving us purpose or meaning to our lives – now, I’m sure you’re wondering (as I was when I first read this book) that surely if one is following their calling, how can it be without purpose or meaning? That is what Pressfield outlines in describing the shadow life: oftentimes, what we think is our calling is but an imitation or false, a shadow, if you will, of our true calling; what makes us tick. This calling can be either professional – we can make it our career – or it can be personal, or both.
In order to move past this shadow life, we must change our habits. The quote at the top of this post is something that I could relate to and it is related to something that I briefly touched upon in yesterday’s post, that “immediate urgency” – it is all fine and well to dream, but dreaming must be combined with action.
The amateur dreams, the pro takes action.
I wrote a lot when I was a kid, then a teen, but it is in the last few years as an adult that I’ve come to realize just why writing is a discipline. I don’t believe in traditional writer’s block (a post for another time, perhaps), but I am fully capable of not writing for days. Does this bring me any closer to my realization as a writer? No. One of my first steps in the right direction to transform from an amateur to a pro is one I’ll be making soon, and that is creating a schedule for myself that balances my writing, personal life, work, and play. It is also big leap for me personally as I have been generally adverse to schedules in the past, though I have slowly realized that it is necessary for me in order to get any of my writing done if I want to be a writer at all. I don’t plan on necessarily scheduling every minute of my day or setting a specific time of day for my writing at this point like some writers have and do but if I can get myself to sit down and write, it’s a start.