I read Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art a while ago, and I really liked it. It resonated with me, but I didn't really take it to heart. Then a few weeks ago I was listening to the Being Boss podcast, where they mentioned the book, and I felt like rereading it. I read it on my Kindle, and after I finished it, the kindle suggested other books by the author, and amongst them his follow up "Turning Pro".
Now talk about being at the right place at the right time. War of Art is a great book, it has loads of nuggets about creativity, and getting to work, but Turning Pro is a real kick in the pants when it comes to showing up and doing what you are meant to be doing, even if it might not seem like you are getting anywhere with it.
In the shadows
One of the things in Turning Pro that really hit home was him talking about shadow careers:
"(That) shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk."
It is what we are doing when we don't dare to do what we really feel called to. It is that safe spot we find ourselves in, where we are so comfortable and cared for, that leaving just doesn't seem like an option. For me this is being an in-house photographer for a jewellery company. For a long time I was really fulfilled by it. I had creative freedom, I could experiment, I could pour myself into the work. But now it has become stale, we are too busy, and we only do what we did last time, because it is easy and convenient. No rocking the boat, or playing, or trying something new.
I realised, upon reading, that holding on to that job is just a life raft. I am not fulfilled by it anymore, I have no creative freedom, and I am not involved in any decisions so I don't have any ownership in the work I am doing.
So if being a commercial photographer is my shadow career, then what am I really supposed to be doing? I don't know. I haven't quite figured that out yet, but I am working on it. I know it involves photography, drawing, creative freedom, concept development, and a variety of projects where I can feel I am making a difference to someone. It could be illustration, it could be fine art, art for commerce, or it could be writing.
Just show up
And until I know exactly what I am meant to be doing I am just going to show up every day, do the work I need to be doing, and trust that all the little steps I take will lead me in the right direction. Without being scared of failure, of falling, of looking foolish, of putting myself out there. I will turn pro.