What is an artist? How does it relate to being a professional? Can you be both? What is the distinction between an amateur and a professional?
These are some of the most intriguing questions. I put them up there with “What’s it mean to be credible?” and “How do you cultivate credibility?” These are such entrenched social constructs, yet we often take them for granted and fail at realizing their fluidity.
The con artist realizes their fluidity. That’s how they manipulate. A masterful con artist can quickly hit all the right cues so you trust them to perform. Then, of course, they pull the carpet.
It’s because of Steven Pressfield’s revelations surrounding these questions that I fell in love with his book The War of Art. There are many definitions offered. Here is the one that has stuck with me most:
A PROFESSIONAL ACCEPTS NO EXCUSES
The amateur, underestimating Resistance’s cunning, permits the flu to keep him from his chapters; he believes the serpent’s voice in his head that says mailing off that manuscript is more important than doing the day’s work.
The professional has learned better. He respects Resistance. He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow.
The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished. The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work.
I’ve thought about this every day since reading it. It’s so easy in theory though so difficult in practice: a professional doesn’t even pick up the phone. I encourage you to try to remember that line the next time you want to turn to a familiar vice.