I was having coffee with a dear friend of mine the other day and we got to talking about art and music and our shared desire to pursue these avenues. My friend told me that often the problem is, we begin any meaningful pursuit in the arts with an end goal in mind. We believe we are supposed to be like him or her, and we measure our success against theirs. Deep down, we know this is completely unfair since we often judge the end of someone’s career with our beginning, but at the same time, it’s unfair because we are not a carbon copy of that person. As my friend said, “You don’t have to be Bob Dylan.”
Growing up I always enjoyed listening to a good story–I think we all did–but then something happened where I realized I actually wanted to create my own stories. I dreamed in plots and character arcs.
Recently I read Stephen King’s autobiography On Writing and I’ve come to an important conclusion: When I grow up I want to be like Stephen King. I should clarify. It’s not because I want to write about demon clowns or other scary stuff that makes you fall asleep with the light on. I don’t want to do that. That’s not my thing. First off, I’ve never been to Maine, and secondly, the story It has forever ruined the circus for me. (Thanks for that, Mr. King.) What I do want, however, is his work ethic. King knows how to churn it out. Book after book. Year after year. For King, success is finishing one project and getting started on the next. He knows how to keep on running.
I’m slowly learning there is a monumental difference between the professional and the amateur. Take sports for example. The amateur athlete hasn’t been tested yet. He is still raw and inexperienced. He hasn’t discovered his drive or will. Practices are held when he feels like it. Often times, instant gratification trumps dedication to his craft. His level of commitment is shallow. The professional, on the other hand, is time-tested and refined. He’s been to battle. He knows you reap what you sow. Practice isn’t based on feeling or even desire. Rather, he is at it everyday, rain or shine. Come hell or high water. The professional knows what’s at stake. His level of commitment is deep.