Of Amateurs, Addicts, and Artists

Yesterday the Digital Book Club over at talk.desk.pm started reading Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. Over 10 days we will read the book together and share our thoughts via our respective blogs.

Today’s reading covered a range of topics from the amateur life, the shadow life, addiction, habits, to the two sides of addicts and artists.

“Addict” is a loaded word, filled with many connotations. Most of us immediately think we are not an addict because our addictions are socially acceptable. However, Steven reminds us that addictions can take many forms.

Of course, you and I can be addicted to any number of things — to love, to sex, to worship of our children or our parents, to dominance, to submission. We can even be addicted to ourselves


(When I say “addiction,” by the way, I’m not referring only to the serious, clinical maladies of alcoholism, drug dependence, domestic abuse and so forth. Web-surfing counts too. So do compulsive texting, sexting, twittering and Facebooking.)

This is a direct challenge to each of us to examine ourselves and admit our addictions. This is important because Steven’s point is that the addict uses his addiction to hide from his true calling. Whether it be alcohol or Facebook doesn’t matter.

Also interesting is his argument that addicts lead shadow lives. Lives that resemble a true calling, but in word only. The hard work of living ones calling isn’t happening.

The truth in this cannot be overstated.

For two decades I lived a shadow life. The whole time thoroughly believing that I was living my calling, but in fact it was two decades wasted. Perhaps there is something good to come out of it…

So here’s to blackouts and divorces, to lost jobs and lost cash and lost self-respect . Here’s to time on the street . Here’s to years we can’t remember. Here’s to bad friends and cheating spouses — and to us, too, for being guilty of both.

Becoming a pro, in the end , is nothing grander than growing up.

It is only in the last few years that I feel like I have been growing up. When we parted company with those who would have us remain amateurs and addicts, that is when I began to grow up.

The thing is, the amateur life, the shadow life is insidious. I didn’t experience any of the travails above. I have held the same job for 18 years, and have had a continuous, successful career for 25 years. I am married to my high-school sweetheart. But, during these years I would look in the mirror and didn’t see an adult. I didn’t feel grown-up. Being referred to as a man was surreal. I was a boy in a man’s body, going through all the motions I had learned in order to be successful. While I was cultivating an appearance of success, I was in fact failing.

Until tomorrow.