I recently reread “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. Just like the first TWO times that I read it, this little powerhouse of a book provided me with much food for thought and a well needed kick up the behind. In fact, it was so darned inspirational that it sent me into a flurry of planning. Postits abound, journal pages galore – washitape, colour coding – I was riding high on a wave of “I can do this. I am a writer” high.
Professional Overwhelm for Writers
And then…. overwhelm reared her ugly, salivating chops at me. Yes I could see that Pressfield was right. I do need to take the whole thing seriously. I need to up my game. I want to GO PRO.
But the thought of all that? Well, it’s a mountain, isn’t it? The Roman Empire took hundreds of years to create. Is it realistic for the solitary writer to think that they too can build that Kindle, indie publishing empire in less time than it takes to grow some seedlings in my vegetable patch? Probably not.
And to enter into this marvelous and creative paradise, I need to ensure that I have the strength and resilience to do this for the long haul. I need to be professional enough to have the patience to build things solidly from the ground up. And that probably means that, like most writers, I need to temper my greed with a savouring for going a little more slowly. I need to take my time a bit, and tell myself that it is not a race. I can do this at my own pace.
Of course, such wisdom does not stand particularly firm in the face of my grand plans. I like a challenge. Every writer does. Why else would we set out on this journey? If it was so easy then everyone would do it, right?
What is a ‘professional’ writer?
And all the info that is out there is pretty clear. You need more than one ‘masterpiece’ if you are going to stand a chance at going “pro”, and, by that, I mean, earning a full-time income. Because that is what ‘professional’ means really. It is about getting paid to do your thing. We can all go a bit crazy churning out vast amounts of content but if the quality of that content is shoddy then the reality is that you are building an empire on dodgy ground and it will inevitably fail.
Do I want to be a professional if that means putting out vast amounts of content that I am not particularly proud of? Well no, not really. Who would?
Reasons to ‘go slow’
So instead, I am taking today to remind myself that it is okay to go slow. Slow is not unprofessional. Slow is steady and measured. Going Slow is about ensuring that the quality standards of your work are the best that you can offer and that you can promise that quality on a consistent basis. Going Slow means that the journey is part of the reward. It is about giving things time to build and develop without pushing them or placing them under too much pressure.
I am coming to the understanding that yes, I do want to be a writer. Heck, look at me – I am writing. This very post is evidence of that. But is this ground-breaking? No. Am I being professional by only committing to producing a few books this year? Yes, if I can promise myself that I will be consistent and productive without compromising my own standards of quality control.
How to go slow as a pro
So, fellow writer, by all means – Go Pro. Create your work with the attitude that this is your life’s work. It is not your ‘job’ (yet)but it is your profession. A profession has longevity, it has standing. In a profession, you commit to constantly learning and honing your craft. You expect it to take a few years to really get into your stride and you commit to doing what it takes in the long term.
But you don’t do that at the expense of your mental health or quality of life. You can avoid overwhelm and burn-out by committing to a realistic daily word count. Record it. Take pride in every small step. Don’t rush or push. Instead be willing to relish every inch of the path and to extract all the lessons that you can from your process.
Be professional in your approach by all means, but don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the ride. Expect some disappointment and remind yourself that this is a long-haul game. No short-cuts here. The more you do, the better you will get.
What are your success parameters?
So I make this commitment to myself as part of my professional development as a writer: I will commit to writing at least 1500 words every day. My target is to create a solid body of work of which I can be proud and confident that it is a good representation of my emerging identity as a writer. I am willing to try some new things and learn as much as I can from the masters of my craft. I am in this for the long haul. I do not set myself a time-frame for success. My success parameters are based on what I have within my control.
So, what are your success parameters? Are you setting goals that are professional and sustainable? Are you balancing going slow with going pro? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.