You’re an artist. You know it and I know it. You didn’t need me to affirm that you are an artist. Right?
However, are you a professional?
Perhaps the question would be better phrased: Do you consider yourself a professional? Your answer matters.
If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.
Artists – be it writers, painters, designers or whatever type of art you do – are notorious for their self-doubt.
Too many artists wear doubt on their chest like a badge of honor without ever realizing it.
Let’s be honest with each other – you know how doubt about yourself and your abilities tears you apart.
I know. And you know why I know. I wasted too many years living with overwhelming doubt.
It’s a painful struggle that we all endure and must overcome. You do not become a true professional until you have slain the beast.
It’s a rite of passage.
An internal conflict, really, because most artists are ashamed of their uncertainty and skepticism.
So instead of slaying the beast they call themselves “starving artists” which has become an “acceptable” substitute for the fact they are not being recognized, or, as recognized as they think they should be.
The idea is if you are recognized then you will feel validated.
And therein is the true conundrum:
Want-to-be-professional artists want to be recognized as professionals and too often believe they need to achieve some kind of milestone to be able to officially call themselves a professional.
The milestone can be selling their work, being tagged by a recognized professional in their field, or writing their first book, or completing their first commissioned painting.
But there’s a problem with milestones, and you already know this problem well. No matter how many milestones you reach it will never be enough.
Professional artists do not need milestones.
Professionals are professionals because they have overcome their internal doubt and are doing work that matters every day. At least, they get up every day, put pen to paper and write.
Doubt still exists within the professional, but it does not rule.
A professional does the work, creates the art, and goes to bed knowing he or she will get up the next morning and continue the work.
A professional does not need to tell herself that she is a professional, because she knows that being a professional is the action of working and shipping. It’s a result, and results matter.
The more she works, the more she ships and as a result she is hired for more work. When her work is rejected (all artists have work that is rejected) she gets back to work and does what needs to be done to improve it.
If you strive every day to do work that matters and submit it for publication or for display, regardless if it is accepted or rejected, then you are a professional.
It’s not overcomplicated, so don’t over complicate it.
Consider a professional in your field. Anyone will do. Now let me ask you, does that person need to tell you he or she is a professional?
Then why do you need to tell yourself that you are a professional?
Do the work. Ship. Improve. Repeat. (Tweet This)
If you do the work (all of what work entails), create your art and ship, then you’re a professional.
Once you accept this simple truth your name will become synonymous with professionalism and you’ll never need to tell yourself or anyone else you are a professional again.
You. Are. A. Professional.
When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.
Isn’t it interesting how Picasso didn’t say he wound up a professional painter?
Have you struggled with considering yourself a professional? Share your story in the comments.