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Turning Pro: An interview with Steven Pressfield

Turning Pro

On page 6 of Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield said I would remember where I was when I decided to turn pro. I would remember the day like people remember where they were on 9/11. I was in a coffee shop. I wrote down the date and the time on page 6 of Turning Pro. 2/12/2013. 11:49 a.m. I felt confident and powerful. I walked out of the coffee shop a new woman. I was no longer afraid.

What we get when we turn pro is, we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.

Steven Pressfield, page 5, Turning Pro

I didn’t have to take a course or buy a product. I had changed my mind. I had only read six pages in Pressfield’s book, Turning Pro and already I was a new woman. I felt like Mark Wahlberg in the movie, The Fighter; I was Mickey Ward in the ring, fighting Shea Neary. I won the WBU Light Welterweight title with a TKO in round 8.

As I kept reading Turning Pro I realized I couldn’t just say, “I am a Professional.” I had to change my behavior.

Every morning, since I read the book, The War of Art,  I have battled the dragon Resistance and sat down in front of my computer to write.  But, after reading Turning Pro, I realized I was creating a shadow world. I was fighting the dragon Resistance to live as an amateur.

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.

Steven Pressfield-  Page 23, Turning Pro

I set the book down and didn’t pick it up again for over a month. I stepped out of the ring. I stopped reading Turning Pro because I didn’t want to change my habits. I didn’t want to do the work.

Several weeks ago, I picked up Turning Pro again, and finished reading it, all 132 pages. I made the commitment to stop being an amateur on 3/12/2013 at 5:12 p.m. I was back in the ring.

After I interviewed Mr. Pressfield about The War of Art, he graciously offered to be interviewed for Turning Pro when I finished reading the book. You can read the interview Waging the War of Art here. I wanted the questions to be good questions, so I read Turning Pro twice and watched the movie “The Fighter” before I wrote my questions and sent them to Mr. Pressfield. I asked him questions I wanted to know the answers to myself.

1. After you made the decision to turn Pro, how did your behavior change?

It took me a long time, years and years, with many fallings-off-the-wagon.  But the overall thrust was always to simplify my day-to-day life so that I could get three or four hours of work in every day.  This meant a lot of struggle trying to support myself financially, many stops and starts.  I began to make money as a writer for the first time, as a screenwriter — first partnering with an established writer, then going off on my own.  By then, I had a very strong system of self-discipline, good work habits, a strong work ethic, so that I had my day’s routine down to a science.  I didn’t need any outside reinforcement or motivation.  The work itself brought enough satisfaction.  All I had to do was make enough money to keep going.  In many ways the process, for me anyway, was like opening your own business — opening a restaurant, say, or a start-up manufacturing operating.  You get up, you do the work, you don’t let anything stop you.  You train yourself to be self-motivated, self-reinforcing, self-validating, and you try each day to strengthen those habits of professionalism.

2. Were you ever tempted to quit; to go back to New York and drive a taxi?  If you were tempted to quit, what kept you from going back to being an amateur?

 Never.  Once you cross the line, there’s no going back.
3. What is the biggest obstacle to turning Pro?
Awareness, number one.  Simply grasping the concept that you’re living your life as an amateur and getting onboard with the idea of switching that style to becoming a professional.  Most people (I include myself) are in denial of their amateurism, or have never even thought about it.  That mental breakthrough is the biggest step, I think.
After that the biggest obstacle is fear.  Turning pro is a move from the known to the unknown, and that’s always terrifying.  Often we can see that we’re wasting our lives (see “Awareness” above) but we can’t raise the courage to make a change.
Third is the mundane, day-to-day logistics of making it work.  It’s what I mentioned in #1 above.  How do you feed yourself and your family?  Can you actually succeed?  Is the art you love feasible economically?  If so, how do you have to change your life to make it work?  Move somewhere else?  Send your spouse to work?
Sometimes the spirit is willing but the numbers just don’t add up.  Then what?  Do it part-time?  Nothing wrong with that!
It took me years to make the day-to-day-stuff work.

It took Mr. Pressfield years to change his habits. I have only been working on my new habits for 32 days, or 768 hours, or 46,080 minutes, or 2,764,800 seconds. I want to make every second count. I don’t want to quit. Actually I will say, “I won’t quit.” Wanting to do something is not the same as committing to do it.

How about you? Will you take Mr. Pressfield’s advice? Will you change your behavior? Will you get up, do the work, and not stop? Will you not quit and battle fear? Will you decide to be a professional and stop being an amateur?

I will be giving away three copies of the book, Turning Pro. This is what I want you to do for a chance to win.
1. Leave a comment at the bottom of this post, and answer the question below.
2. Please share my post with your friends on Facebook , Twitter,  Google+, send e-mails, call a friend.
3. In 24 hours I will use a Random Number Generator to see who gets to read an amazing book. If you already have the book, maybe you could give it to a friend.
Turning Pro
What about you? Are you an amateur or a professional?
Disclosure: The above link is an affiliate link. It won’t cost you any more to buy the book here and if you do, you will help me buy kitty litter for my four cats. 
Update: The contest is now over. Congratulations to the winners: Peter F. Mornealt, Amy Young, and Shelley Dupont.



About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

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  • Jay Warner

    I’m a pro. That is, I’m a pro-crastinator. I’ve made a little money from writing, I’ve had people ask me for more. For some reason I don’t always follow through. I’m working two “more-than-part-time” jobs with no benefits and it looks like it will stay this way forever if I let it. Spinning my wheels doing everything to make ends meet and pay bills except for the one thing that I really want to be doing, writing. I think the Story Cartel Course is going to bring me that “aha” moment where I remember that I said “I am a pro”. I get closer every day I work on my lessons. My mindset is changing. I’m about ready to jump off the cliff into “pro”. But this time it will be “Professional”. And I won’t put it off for another day.

    • Great news Jay. Yes, don’t put it off another day. Change your mind. Professional, not pro-crastinator.

  • Lee J Tyler

    I know I’m past the ‘picking point’, but I just wanted to let you know how much I loved this interview and article. Terrific post! I’m a pro. 😉 It’s in the attitude which drives everything. Now I’m off to read your War of Art interview (a book I love). Thanks so much.

    • Hello Lee J Tyler. You are so right. The attitude drives everything. I have been having a battle today with my bad habits. I would love to read something you have written.

  • Well done, Pamela! Love this.

  • Barbara McDowell

    Fantastic post, Pamela! From the discussion, I’m a “decided to be pro” who has succumbed to bad habits. I remember my decision to become a pro when I put aside my fear and applied to do show recaps for a site. It was me committing to put myself and my writing out there. I got the gig and my daily writing time, project focuses and the quality of my fiction went to the next level. Now I feel like I’m fighting back from losing some of that focus. I need to read both of these books.

    • Hello Barbara. The battle against bad habits must be fought on a daily basis. I thought I could just make up my mind to be a pro in my writing and the bad habits would go away. I have to fight them off with a stick. My worst habit is staying up late. I will go to bed early tonight. Another day to work on my habits. I am grateful for the sunrise.

  • Pamela, Thanks for sharing another insightful and challenging post.

    Writing is one facet of two of the four major roles that I play: Wife, Mother, Businesswoman, Life-giver. For me, Writer (and when I publish my manuscript, Author) fits into my Businesswoman role, which also includes Manager of the Cochran Household. Writer also fits into my role as Life-giver, because I understand the power of the words; thus, I choose to write words that give life to people.

    Pamela, my goal is to ever-become excellent at each of these roles. So I will answer, yes, I am committed to being a Pro in these roles. Cool thing to me–these, ONLY I CAN BE/DO/PLAY THEM in the context of my unique sphere of influence.

    I am the wife to my husband–Do you think he’d get mad at me for going pro in bed?

    I am the mom of my children–Do you think if I embrace my role professionally, teach/train and discipline them consistently, they’ll benefit?

    I am the manager of my home, the author of my book–Volunteers? Anyone want to take over my laundry (before it takes over you)? Dishes? Floors? Nobody? Hmmm . . . you mean that you’re a writer too, but you don’t know the message that burns in my heart until I . . . Oh, I need to write those words in my heart in the book I’m writing for you. Only I can write my book. Yeah. 🙂

    I am a life-giver–you can be one too and you probably are. I know Pamela gives life to others. She wants to live. She wrote it down for me to witness when I read her blog post about the “M” word. The habits you, Pamela, and Stephen Pressfield have committed to improve yourselves–these disciplines prime and ready you to be effective writers. They help you to manage, well, your other roles as Mr. Pressfield shared in his interview.

    Achieving the balance between each of these roles, becoming excellent–or pro–at exactly what God crafted and called me to. That’s what I’m committed unto death to do.

    Mr. Pressfield is right–“No turning back.” Too much is at stake. But we must not lose sight that our good habits must align with our good goals in sight, or we will never be excellent at anything, except for “amateurism.”

    Thanks Pamela. Thanks Mr. Pressfield. 🙂

    • And, thank you Shannon. I assume your husband appreciates your attitude of taking your work seriously in all aspects of life. I love your honesty and enjoy your writing.

  • I’m a pro. I became a professional writer “for real” about 5 months ago. I’m still working on the habits, but I write most days, and most of the writing I do now I get paid for, so that’s what makes it feel “real” to me. Also seeing my first book on Amazon was a huge motivator. I’m half tempted to say THAT was the day I became a professional — the day I saw my name as “author” on Amazon.

    • Hello Sandy. Bad habits are hard to change aren’t they? I wake up early, but I still stay up too late. Night time Pamela is not nice to day time Pamela.
      Yes, a book on Amazon would help to motivate.

    • Jay Warner

      I think this would be the case for me as well.

  • I hope I’m not too late to be entered to win. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time.

    I kind of falter back and forth between thinking like an amateur and a professional. Maybe if I win the book, I can finally make the commitment to go pro.

    • Hello Tessa. You are not too late. I won’t draw the names until later today. The nice thing about making the decision to act professional is it doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to take a class or buy a product.

  • Well, right now, I think I am an Amateur with a dream of becoming a Professional one day. I know I should probably be a little more committed to professionalism right now, but a lot stands in my way. So I’m just doing the best I can with what I got. 🙂 I’ll definitely put that book on my list of “Must Reads”.

    • Anastacia, keep writing. Keep writing and don’t give up. The book “Turning Pro” helped me to see how I was sabotaging my own efforts.

  • The toughest battle I have right now, is balancing the necessity to make ends meet, in a dead end job with pursuing a passion of being a professional writer. I am stuck in amateur status, afraid to take the steps to go pro, afraid of the unknown.

    • Peter, I don’ t know how to go from a day job to making money as a writer. I think you wake up early and write before your day job, and eventually make the switch.
      From reading Pressfield’s books I know “Turning Pro” is more to do with attitude than with how much money you make writing.
      I decided to change my habits and stop the activities that weren’t working towards my goal. Getting rid of old craft projects and focusing with a laser beam on writing.
      What book are you writing right now Peter?
      You can do it. Just believe you can.

  • Wow – this book sounds amazing! I love that nothing changed at first but your “mind” about who you were now…a pro! Something I am working on perceiving myself as.

    • Hello Lindsay. Changing my mind was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I fight the battle every morning against my bad habits.

  • Joy Lenton

    Erm… can I be a professional amateur wanting to progress to amateur professional and so on? Take it in easy, manageable stages? Very much at the beginning stages in terms of learning and crafting the ‘proper’ art of writing (whatever that is) though I’ve been secretly scribbling for years. As for being known, making money..way down the line…but a girl (old) can dream! Joining the Tribe Writer course is a step nearer toward achieving that goal, God willing. 🙂 x

    • Joy you can be a professional just by writing every day and not quitting. It is all in your attitude. We are never to old to dream. Keep writing and keep dreaming.

    • Jay Warner

      you can’t jump off a cliff in stages

      • Jay, may I please use that quote on my quote page. I love it. Accredited to you, of course.

  • Great question. I think I’ve been walking the ledge between amateur and pro. Wavering. So I guess right at this moment I’d have to say I’m an amateur. But now I’m faced with the decision head on. Perhaps 4/9/2013 is my day? 😉 I’ve got some thinking to do.

    • Brianna, how did the thinking go? Walking a ledge can be dangerous. It seems so simple to just change how we think. But changing how I see myself is the hardest thing I have ever done. Even harder than hitchhiking in Israel in 1978 or flying to Japan on a one way ticket in 1983.

  • Jamie Avera

    This post really spoke to me. I feel like I have spent the last 15 years or so being an amateur professional. But last night, as I was preparing my tax return, I felt a little something pushing me – like a voice saying, “Man, its time to stop playing at being a businessman get your act together and be serious.” So reading this today seems like serendipity. Time to buckle down, clear away the excuses and get serious. Today is my day- 4/10/2012. Better late than never.

    • Jamie, today is always the best day to start something new. I am glad this interview helped you make the leap of faith. Thank you for commenting.

  • Today, I broke from reading “The Art of War on Writing” to read this post. The connection made me realize I was still headed in the right direction, even though I felt like I was walking without a lot of light on my path. Becoming a writer is serious stuff and definitely not for the faint hearted. David purposed in his heart to love God. He committed himself. I must be the same: purpose in my heart to write. For the first time, I am realizing the demands that are placed on those with a desire to become serious at their craft, especially writing. I will be a purposeful writer.

    • Shelley, you are a purposeful writer. Thank you for commenting.

  • Amateur, most definitely. I don’t want to be one though. I want to be a professional story teller, in the written word. I will watch the movie The Fighter. I think I better read The War of Art and Turning Pro also, they sound really powerful. I agree with Renee Baude–if there had been a moment I turned pro, I guess I would remember it, so it hasn’t happened yet.

    • After you read Pressfield’s books, you will be a changed woman. One day you are must a mild mannered woman with a small dog named Tink. The day after you read the books you will be a Super Hero with a side kick named Tink, able to write daily, with no fear of negative comments. You will boldly go where no no woman has gone before. Said to the tune of the music to Star Trek.

  • You are a pro. I really love the cat picture, that I didn’t win , but really wanted to win. I love how you use research in your posts and how you always make me laugh…even when the day is not too laughable. xo

    • Thank you Nancy. I am sorry you didn’t win the cat. Thank you for telling me you wanted to. I am happy my writing made you laugh. I hope tomorrow is a better day.

  • Hhmmm… I’m an amateur. I haven’t yet reached that turning point. I’m a professional at translating – but not at writing. Not yet. Thanks for sharing the interview and the chance to win, Pamela.

    • Hello Erika, thank you for commenting.
      You are a professional when you take writing seriously. It is not the quality of your writing that turns you from an amateur to a professional, but your attitude. The same approach wouldn’t work for translating. I would not want an amateur translator in a foreign country.
      What language do you translate?

  • I am a professional in the works 🙂 … In the way that Steven is talking about it, I am. I think the moment for me was when i decided to hire someone to redo my blog and “make it look professional … or at least not just a ‘free’ wordpress site.” Putting some money into helped me signify to myself and the world, “hey this lady is here to stay.” Now I’m talking more publicly about finding an agent … that’s a scary step for me! And even if I don’t get one, I’m still a pro.

  • my joking side thought “I am a professional amateur”, but in all seriousness I think I made the choice to work towards professionalism in January 2012 when I created a project for a class on what we spend our time on. The desire was furthered the day I signed up for Tribewriters and a whole new world of writers joined my life. I have written many articles for free to develop my skills. Now, I am ready to turn pro. Did I mention I worked for free? C’mon random number generatorrrrrrrrrr……

    • If you are ready, then you are a pro now. Just don’t quit and you always will be.
      If you don’t win I will lend you my copy.

  • Way to go Pamila! You are doing a great job.

  • Pressfield said, “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits.” Being a professional doesn’t guarantee success, it just means you have changed your habits. Pressfield lists the habits of amateurs and professionals in his book “Turning Pro.”
    Dave, you can’t be an amateur and a professional. Completing 10,000 hours isn’t the ticket to the Professional Writers Club. The only way in is to decide you belong. Just change your mind. Change how you see yourself.

  • Pamela–when I read that “you will remember the moment you turned pro” I thought to myself–I must not be a pro yet . . . if I haven’t had that “moment.” With writing. I thought about my purpose, my passion, by God-given talents and I’m still not sure that I have “turned pro” but what I do know is that I do my best each and every day. I may not be a pro writer–but I’m a pro wife, pro mother, pro chef, pro planner and organizer . . . so maybe it is just a matter of time before my writing goes pro.

    You are a blessing and I love coming here!

    • Thank you Renee for reading my interview with Mr. Pressfield.
      I made a conscious decision to think of myself as a professional writer. My writing wasn’t any different than it was the minute before I decided. I didn’t publish a book, or get a golden ticket.
      Your writing doesn’t suddenly go pro. You could be a professional writer and never publish a book.
      You are a pro when you decide you are. Simple as that. Just say it, “I am a professional writer,” then change your habits. Pressfield lists over 20 Qualities Of The Professional in his book, “Turning Pro.” My two favorite are: show up every day and don’t quit.