Do You Love It Enough to Be a Professional?

Synchronicity is a funny thing: one minute it’s nowhere to be found, the next minute it’s everywhere you look, in everything you see, feel and think.

I’ve been reevaluating much of what it is I do, why I do it and why those reasons are there in the first place. I’m discovering more and more that over the past few years I’ve reached a bit of a dead-end when it comes to personal growth. In the pursuit of such things as what I should want, I’ve forgotten a lot of the stuff I’ve always truly wanted. The problem is I’ve done the first so long that the second was almost forgotten, with the only thing reminding me if its existence being that little voice inside saying illogical things like “I’d rather be doing X.”

Most of the time people drown out that little voice by justifying what they’re doing using reason to drown out heart, numbing their brain with television and tying their time up with things like softball leagues and Dungeons and Dragons. On rare occasions they drown out the voice by doing something which, while totally worthwhile, isn’t what they should be doing.

Lately I’ve been thinking about my gifts and talents, how to best use them, and how to best capitalize from them. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how to best unify the things I enjoy with the things I’m naturally good at, while in the process deciding which things I’ll need to cut out of my life. During this time, I’ve (re)discovered some of the areas I have my greatest gifts. For the most part, these are in the areas of artistic expression (story and music writing, drawing, etc) and performance (teaching, writing for presentation, playing music, etc). I’m also good at inspiring and motivating people, but only about those things for which I have a true passion. This is one of the reasons, I believe, why I was successful in the world of Linux during the relatively short time I was in it: I believed (and still believe) in the promise and philosophy of open source and the free-flow of ideas, and I wanted others to believe just like I believed.

With this in mind, I’ve also had to face a fundamental contradiction in the way I lead life, one which I’ve seen there for a while, but have ignored it thinking that admitting it would make me weak. I’m firm in the belief that we are put here — whether by God or the Universe — for a purpose, and that it is up to each of us to find the courage to not only find that purpose, but pursue it to fruition. Strangely enough, I’ve found that sometimes getting to that purpose involves going in what seems to be the wrong way for a while, perhaps to learn a lesson or sixty. On rare occasions we get to the purpose too early, before we’ve learned our lessons. Then we focus so much on the wait that the purpose passes us by with almost no notice: the early arrival becomes a distraction, and eventually a detraction. As strange as this all might sound, if you’ve ever questioned “why am I doing what I do” you’ve probably run across this set of sentiments.

Recently, the question of where to take my writing has been weighing heavily. I’ve come to realize that in order for me to do what I, through my own history and natural tendencies, have been designed to do I have to take steps in what at first seems like a very frightening direction. As mentioned, I’m fairly talented when it comes to expressing myself, performing, teaching and motivating others. I’m also good at spotting long term trends and patterns (when I listen to my instincts properly), and dissecting information in unconventional ways. I tend to be very bad at doing things which I do only for logical reasons (instead of doing them because I want to): I quickly become bored, distracted, and eventually end up feeling disenfranchised and angry, usually at myself for not being as good as others in those tasks.

Given this (and a few other things I won’t mention now) I have decided to begin studying writing much more seriously than before, in many more areas than before. While I am familiar with journalistic writing, instructional writing, non-fiction story telling, and blogging (which tends to combine the aforementioned styles), I find myself deficient in other very important areas, such as fictional story telling and script writing. In addition, I need to study areas related to writing, such as character development, world building, SEO, better networking, and even advertising. These, as you can probably tell, indicate where I would like to see my career go, but they beg a question which has been swirling about in my brain ever since I first asked it: do I love writing enough to be a professional?

Robert Kiyosaki put it best: Amateurs are amateurs because they don’t love something enough to be a professional. All too often we hear from people that amateurs do things for the love of doing them while professionals do things not for the love, but for money. Yet, I can’t help but wonder about the amateur writer who writes only when the inspiration strikes, while the professional writer who writes regardless of whether inspiration has come to him or not. A better example is the amateur basketball player who plays in a local league and spends his time watching games, while the professional is out there practicing day after day, whether he feels like it or not, and doesn’t just watch games, but studies the players. Regardless of whether he’s now getting paid, the point is the professional worked for a very long time without pay to get to where he’s at, and who works for it whether he feels like it or not. Who loves it more?

For the record, I’m a technical writer. I’ve done other types of writing, but for now that’s what I’m doing professionally, as in whether-I-feel-like-it-or-not. Like anything, it has its good days and its bad days, though mostly good. Would I do it without getting paid? I have. If I had a million dollars in the bank would I still do it? Maybe. When I have a million dollars I’ll let you know.

So what’s the point of this? For the most part it’s just so I can get some thoughts down on paper, if you’ll pardon the turn of phrase. However, if you can give me any suggestions or your own stories, all the better. Just so long as it causes both of us to think.

One thought on “Do You Love It Enough to Be a Professional?

  1. I have to say that I love your point on the subject. I personally don’t consider myself a Pro photographer by no means by I often get comments from friends and family members that I should really considering expanding my options with it. I do it as a hobby and because I have an natural appreciation for the craft. Do I love it enough to make it a profession? That is the question.

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