Beginning with Pressfield's groundbreaking The War of Art:Break Through Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and continuing with Do the Work, the acclaimed author helps readers identify and prevail against the psychological BS--everything from procrastination to perfectionism to mindless, destructive behavior--that prevents us from doing the work we sense that we were born to do. Both books, especially the former, are so helpful in framing the struggle to create in understandable terms that they have become a word-of-mouth sensation, as well as a tool that I recommend in every writing workshop I teach.
Pressfield's latest, Turning Pro, elaborates on the behaviors that differentiate an amateur/dilettante from a professional and, most helpfully, in my opinion, on the addictions and distractions that prevent all too many writers (and other creative producers) from reaching their potential. He talks about would-be creatives embracing--and often excelling in--less risky "shadow careers" that never fully make them happy, or, far more destructively, careening into negative behaviors to escape the pressure to produce.
In addition to the usual drug/alcohol addictions that you might think of, many creatives, according to Pressfield, become addicted to sex, to drama in their own lives, to getting into trouble. (No one expects a thing of you when you are broken, or in prison. The pressure's off, though the addiction might actually kill you.) Writers also become dependent on approval from without, which makes us so desperate for feedback from an editor, agent, judge, or mentor that we forget how to trust our own readers'/writers' instincts. Distractions, too, become addictions, robbing us of the ability to focus for more than a few minutes without checking our e-mail, Twitter feed, Facebook or sales rankings, and consigning us forever to the shallow end of the creative pool. (Favorite line of the book: "The amateur tweets. The pro works." Though, ironically, I'll probably Tweet this post once my day's work is complete.)
Speaking candidly of his own writer's journey (from the failures of nerve to the screw-ups to the suicidal moments), Pressfield doesn't set himself up as a guru (in fact, he warns against "gurudom," for both the guru and the follower) but as a scarred veteran of the creative wars who's sharing a few hard-won lessons. But through his examples and his wisdom, he might very well steer would-be writers from their most dangerous addictions. With this slim volume, he might save their physical, as well as their creative, lives.
Along with The War of Art and Do the Work, Turning Pro is very highly recommended.
Read Boxing the Octopus's 2009 interview with Steven Pressfield here.
For my review of Do the Work, click here.