Going pro

Over the last week, I’ve seen a lot of conversation about being professional. In part this was from a writer’s perspective, but it also came up in the broader context of reading Steven Pressfield’s new book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, which is a book for “artists, entrepreneurs, and athletes whose ambition is … to pursue their heart’s calling and make it work.”

If I had to pick one role model to follow, I’d be hard pressed not to choose Steven Pressfield. He’s inspiring, practical, and amazing, and a man after my own heart. If I stand for anything, it’s about helping you get out of your own way and do what you were put here to do.

Do the work

What I love about Steven’s work is that he doesn’t say that it will be easy, that you should do what you love and the money will follow, or any of that.

What he says, instead, is that doing the work is hard. That we have to face our fears everyday and get our butts in our seats no matter what to do the work — whatever it is.

Passion is a misnomer

I also read yesterday that passion is a misnomer (I’ve written about this subject before myself). In this guest essay, Joshua Fields Millburn points out:

“Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy every aspect of it.

“In fact, I’ve found the opposite to to be true. While writing my first masterpiece, Falling While Sitting Down, it was a miserable experience 80% of the time. Seriously, much of the time I wanted to put my head through a wall. But the other 20% was magical and exciting and made all the suffering and drudgery well worth it.

“The key is pushing through the tedium of the 80%, so you can find the beauty beneath the banality; it’s there, plentiful in that remaining 20%. You have to tolerate the pain, if you want to pursue your dream.”

Turning pro means being a grown up

When I talked with Elaine yesterday about writing, we agreed with Joshua. Pursuing anything meaningful is hard, a lot of the time. It takes being a grown up and facing the hard sucky parts to get to the other side of completion. It means surfing the waves of pain and self-doubt, sitting on the throne of agony, and doing the work.

It’s time we started telling the truth about that.

Remember, even Ray Kinsella went through his own kind of hell before people came to his field of dreams.

What if we loved even the crummy parts?

And while it’s tempting to pursue one’s calling with the focus on the magical 20% — the epiphanies, sudden insights, and flashy Elvis moments — I can’t help wondering, isn’t it worth it to enjoy ALL of it?

In my post yesterday, I asked you to share your questions for me (which I’m having fun answering — come post one if you haven’t already), and Mary asked, “What’s your story of ‘turning pro?'”

Here’s my answer: The day I turned pro with my writing was the day that I realized that if someone offered me $10,000,000 with the condition that I could never write again, I would turn them down. I knew with incredible conviction that I want to write — I must write — and I will allow nothing to stop me. Not even the bad days where I think I can’t write myself out of a shoebox let alone put a whole script together.

Now the only questions about my writing are: What to write, what to write next, and how to make my writing better and hone my craft. And then what to write after that.

That was the day I turned pro.

When you just can’t do anything else

Steven Pressfield tells a similar story. He talks about how despite his doubts and failures, he knew that he simply couldn’t do anything else but write, and when he tried anything else, he couldn’t stand it. So he had no choice but to keep writing. And he did.

I’m with him.

Bottom line

Dr. Phil talks about making “life decisions.” These are unalterable, no-turning-back decisions where you are all in. To me, that’s what it means to turn pro. What about you?

Your turn

Share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.



Coming Attractions

~> July 5th. Last day to register for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle. For serious writers and for writers who want to get serious about their writing. http://JustDoTheWriting.com

~> July and August. It’s almost time for the next Life Purpose Breakthrough Group. Are you interested in grabbing a spot before we sell out? Email my team and we’ll put you on the advanced notification list. Find out more at http://LifePurposeBreakthrough.com


What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth through ScreenwritingU.

~> September 18 to 20th. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU event to meet with producers and agents.

~> September 21st to 22nd. Staying on in Hollywood for the InkTip Pitch Summit.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> Reading Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix with my little boy and Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey on my own. Still in the queue: (500) Days of Summer, Another Earth, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, while we’re finishing up watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones. Amazing! (Yep, I read all the books too.)



  1. Hi Jenna,

    You pump out these great articles! Writing has always been one of your brilliance points. Each one draws from a variety of sources and weaves them into something new.

    Just love “sitting on the throne of agony.”

    Professional is one of those words that makes me crazy or maybe it’s the conventional definition that makes me crazy. It has always been implied that we somehow put on a different face when we are professional, one more in control of our emotions, one that’s hiding the various parts of our personalities. For that reason, I’ve tried to eliminate that word from my personal dictionary.

    To answer your question without using the word Pro, what has made my life kick ass is to follow through on my ideas, to know that I can do anything I set my mind to, that all I need to do is start. I recently orchestrated a photography show. Never did that before. But, I just went with my gut and it turned out fantastic. I do that constantly. It’s amazing what you can do if you just do it.

    Thanks! G.

  2. Thank you, Giulietta! I always love your perspectives. You’re so right about that use of professional — where we’re being fake. At least in this context, what I’m meaning is taking our work seriously and committing to it. And that’s what you’re talking about too — taking your ideas seriously and following through on them. That rocks. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Cynthia says:

    Hello Jenna,
    First I would like to thank you for all you’re encouraging posts. From a very young age I have always had this incredible intuition and inner knowing of things that I could not explain. But I went to a very small parochial school and church and when I shared things that I knew the nuns and priests told me it was evil and from the devil. From that fear they instilled in me I always hid it and tried to run from it. All that did was cause me emotional distress and extreme anxiety.
    On both sides of my family there has always been conflict about it. I am Puerto Rican and Italian and both cultures have different ways of defining it. Only a few really accept it. Some would say its voodoo and evil and others say I’m just crazy lol. Now that I am peri menopausal I can no longer run from my true self and who I really am. I completely embrace it and from that it has empowered me in a way that my life has changed for the better. Knowing who I really am is a blessing that I cannot describe. I know now that I am an Empath and now use my ability to help others because to me that is what it is meant for.
    Through all of your encouraging posts I have now started to write a book from my journals for my grand children. I already see that they have the same ability as myself. I just wanted to leave something for them to understand what is going on inside them and help them understand what it is and how it can develop stronger. If I had something like that to reference as a child and young adult my life would have been so much easier.
    I also have started a home based business. I sew and make various things but quilts are my specialty. You helped give me the courage I needed to start that business and now it is doing very well.
    You are a true inspiration to me and I am completely grateful. Everything happens for a reason even when we don’t know what that reason is immediately. I feel I was meant to find you on the internet because I learn something every time I read one of your posts.
    Thank you so much,
    Cynthia xoxo

    • Dear Cynthia, WOW. What a wonderful note to receive! I’m sorry it took me a little while to respond — I’ve was writing from out of town for a week and I’ve gotten behind, but I’m so grateful to hear from you. Your story of the religious upbringing conflicting with your inner knowledge is one I have heard before and is challenging to so many of us. Even for others not raised in religious environments there are pressures not to say what we really see is going on and shaming that goes around our knowing. It is very confusing. I’m so pleased to hear you are using your gifts and writing a book for your grandchildren. It sounds like something many people would benefit from! I love knowing that my work is inspiring you to do what you love. Thank you for commenting! xx

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.