Professionals show up every day.
If they are exhausted, or it’s raining and the new season of Stranger Things just came out on Netflix, professionals wake up and work on their craft.
Many aspiring writers and artists only write and paint when it is convenient. That’s the first step to transition from amateur to professional.
Treat your art like your job. On Sunday nights, after you’ve worked through your weekend choices, make your plan for the week with a few concrete goals. What three things do you want to get done this week to move your craft forward? This should be even easier than your job because it’s fun, and you don’t have to incorporate your co-workers’ thoughts.
I would recommend taking a few hours to read the book “War of Art”, by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield shares in the book that “there's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write.”
Set aside at least an hour each day to write or paint. The popularized phrase that says “it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert” isn’t completely true. The study Malcolm Gladwell cited said that it takes 10,000 hours to get to the top of a very competitive field in a specific topic. In order to get good at something, the research says that it only takes 20 hours.
That is only ~45 minutes a day for one month. You could spend that time signing up for Geico three times a day for a month. Or you can spend it writing or painting. Your call.
If you know your days get busy and unpredictable after 4pm, then wake up an hour earlier than you normally would. If you are normally bored when you get home from work, set aside some time before dinner.
Just like you tell your boss how important it is to go to a rooftop bar to “network” for deal flow, it is just as important to network for your art. If you are an aspiring comic, reach out to other comics and bookers at clubs. If you are an aspiring painter, walk into galleries and talk to the curators. For writers, send your favorite author fan mail and reach out to publishers.
John Maxwell said, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything”. Setting clear goals for the week makes it more difficult to procrastinate.
After you spend a month working on your art, you can determine if writing articles you know The Onion should pick up is just a fun escape from the real world, or if you can and want to take it to the next level.
I am a 25 year-old venture capitalist and amateur stand-up comedian living in NYC.