you are…really [the war of art]

December 2, 2009

This post is the second in what has now certifiably become a series of reflections on The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

In the past few months, our four year old daughter has made the shift from scribbler to conceptual artist. When she draws, she no longer needs to tell us what she’s drawn…usually. Faces, arms, legs, and hair are discernible…even if most people she draws do have a certain Sponge Bob quality.

A few nights ago, she told me that someday she will be an artist. In a response that was intended as much for me as it was for her, I told her she already is an artist. She doesn’t have to wait to be a grown-up.

Of course, what my daughter really means is that, from her understanding, someday she will be a ‘real’ artist because someone will pay her to do it. It is easy for us ‘wise’ grown-up types to think the same way. We tag ourselves with labels like aspiring or wanna-be, assuming we need the validation of another, in the form of a paycheck, to affirm our endeavors.

As Pressfield points out, the only person we really need to convince is ourselves…

If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

As Steven Pressfield sees it, the difference between an amateur and a professional is not how much you get paid. It’s a matter of your approach. The amateur wants to make something, but gets trapped in the land of want by fear. The professional pushes past the fear, moving from wanting to make something to working to make something:

The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.

I think these ideas are helpful…and encouraging to me…because I’m really good at things like aspiring and wanna-being. But let’s not make the term amateur a scourge quite yet. The root of the word amateur is from the same Latin bloodline as the Spanish word amor: love. An amateur is someone who does something for the love of it.

One amateur writer I know, who’s name won’t be found among the published professionals available on Amazon, once wrote some fine words to this effect:

It is love, and not finances, that must drive creativity. It is something we have to get out, a voice that has to be heard, a song that has to be sung, or an image that has to be seen. If your creative outlets help pay the bills, great! If not, remember that an income, or the dream of one, is not what makes your voice worth hearing.

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