Book Summary: Turning Pro

Turning Pro

by Steven Pressfield
146 pages
Black Irish Entertainment LLC (May 31, 2012)


Where to buy Turning Pro:



This book is about:

The sequel to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art–his popular book about the psychology of being a creative professional–Turning Pro is about the next step in your evolution as a creative professional; what it means to be a pro, how separates a pro from an amateur, and why is it important to make this distinction. The War of Art is why you should turn pro, and how to do it. Turning Pro is about what you do once you are a pro.


What position does it take:

Turning Pro argues that the essential difference between an amateur and a pro is not just the right approach, but the right habits, done for the right reasons. For example, being a pro is about having the right habits and the right approach, and not about doing things that signal pro status and seem important, but aren’t actually about creating anything (e.g., getting a degree in writing versus actually writing). Always argues that even going through the motions of a pro does not make one a pro; being a pro necessitates actual risk and the potential for failure. Says It also explains the paradox that in order to get the rewards of creativity, one must approach creativity for the simple joy of creating, not for the rewards;  the purpose must be authentic or the process will corrupt the results, and no rewards come.


Tucker’s Opinion of Turning Pro:

Love it, amazing, a great follow-up to one of the most influential books in my life, The War of Art.


Notable Quotes from Turning Pro:

“What we get when we turn pro is, we find our power.  We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect.  We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and to live out.”


“Ambition, I have come to believe, is the most primal and sacred and fundament of our being.  To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls.  Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our backs on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.”


“Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside you?  Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music?  Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk becoming an innovator yourself?

If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for. That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.”


“The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits.  An amateur has amateur habits.  A professional has professional habits.

We can never free ourselves from habit.  The human being is a creature of habit.  But we can replace bad habits with good ones.  We can trade in the habits of the amateur and the addict for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur.”


“When we turn pro, the energy that once went into the Shadow Novel goes into the real novel.  What we once thought was real — “the world,” including its epicenter, ourselves — turns out to be only a shadow.  And what had seemed to be only a dream becomes, now, the reality of our lives.”


“Addictions are not “bad.”  They are simply the shadow forms of a more noble and exalting calling.  Our addictions are our callings themselves, only encrypted and incognito. They are a metaphor for our best selves, the coded version of our higher aspirations.

Addictions and shadow careers are messages in a bottle from our unconscious.  Our Self, in the Jungian sense, is trying to get our attention, to have an intervention with us. The question we need to ask of a shadow career or an addiction is the same question a psychotherapist asks of a dream.  “What is our unconscious trying to tell us?””

“Fear is the primary color of the amateur’s interior world.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking foolish, fear of under-achieving, and fear of over-achieving, fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, and fear of death.

But mostly what we all fear as amateurs is being excluded from the tribe, i.e., the gang, the posse, the mother and father, family, nation, race, and religion.

The amateur fears that if he turns pro and lives out his calling, he will have to live up to who he really is and what he is truly capable of.

The amateur is terrified that if the tribe should discover who he really is, he will be kicked out into the cold and die.”


“The amateur dreads becoming who she really is because she fears that this new person will be judged by others as “different.”  The tribe will declare us “weird” or “queer” or “crazy.”  The tribe doesn’t give a shit.

Here’s the truth : the tribe doesn’t give a shit. There is no tribe.

That gang or posse that we imagine is sustaining us by the bonds we share is in fact a conglomeration of individuals who are just as fucked up as we are and just as terrifeid.  Each individual is so caught up in his own bullshit that he doesn’t have two seconds to worry about yours or mine, or to reject or diminish us because of it.

When we truly understand that the tribe doesn’t give a damn, we’re free.  There is no tribe, and there never was.

Our lives are entirely up to us.”


“Turning pro changes how people perceive us.  Those who are still fleeing from their own fears will now try to sabotage us.  They will tell us we’ve changed and try to undermine our efforts at further change.  They will attempt to make us feel guilty for these changes.  They will try to entice us to get stoned with them or fuck off with them or waste time with them, as we’ve done in the past, and when we refuse, they will turn against us and talk us down behind our backs.

At the same time, new people will appear in our lives.  they will be people who are facing their own fears and who are conquering them.  These people will become our new friends.


“The dictionary defines “icon” as an article (a relic, say, that once belonged to a saint or holy man) that serves as an object of worship.

A person can be an icon.

When we make someone into an icon, we give away our power.  We say to ourselves (unconsciously), “This person possesses qualities I wish I possessed.  Therefore I will worship this person in the hope that that quality will wear off on me, or I will acquire that quality by virtue of my proximity to this mentor / sensei / lover / teacher / hero.”

In my experience, when we project a quality or virtue onto another human being, we ourselves almost always already possess that quality, but we’re afraid to embrace (and to live) that truth.”


“The professional refuses to be iconized.  Not for selfish reasons, but because he knows how destructive the dynamic of iconization is to the iconizer.  The pro will share his wisdom with other professionals – or with amateurs who are committed to becoming professionals.”


“In a way I was lucky that I experienced failure for so many years.  Because there were no conventional rewards, I was forced to ask myself, Why am I doing this?  Am I crazy?  All my friends are making money and settling down and living normal lives.  What the hell am I doing?  Am I nuts?  What’s wrong with me?

In the end I answered the question by realizing that I had no choice.  I couldn’t do anything else.  When I tried, I got so depressed I couldn’t stand it.  So when I wrote yet another novel or screenplay that I couldn’t sell, I had no choice but to write another after that.  The truth was, i was enjoying myself.  Maybe nobody else liked the stuff I was doing, but I did.  I was learning.  I was getting better.

The work became, in its own demented way, a practice.  It sustained me, and it sustains me still.”


“The other thing about the changes Rosanne made after her dream is that she didn’t make those changes to earn more money, or achieve greater fame, or to sell more records.  She made those changes out of respect for her craft.  She made them to become a better artist and a more powerful musician.

When we raise our game aesthetically, we elevate it morally and spiritually.”

“In the end, the enterprise and the sacrifice are all about the audience.

They’re about the readers, the moviegoers, the site visitors, the listeners, the concertgoers, the gamers, the gallery-goers — a group which, by the way, includes you and me.

We’re the audience.

In the hero’s journey, the wanderer returns home after years of exile, struggle, and suffering.  He brings a gift for the people.  That gift arises from what the hero has seen, what he has endured, what he has learned.  But the gift is not that raw material alone.  It is the ore refined into gold by the hero / wanderer / artist’s skilled and loving hands.

You are the artist.

I will gladly shell out $24.95 or $9.99 or 99 cents on iTunes to read or see or listen to the 24-karat treasure that you have refined from your pain and your vision and your imagination.  I need it.  We all do.  We’re struggling here in the trenches.  That beauty, that wisdom, those thrills and chills, even that mindless escape on a rainy October afternoon — I want it.  Put me down for it.

The hero wanders.  The hero suffers.  The hero returns.

You are that hero.”