What Does It Take to Be a Creative Pro?
– A Conversation with Steven Pressfield

Steven PressfieldDoes professionalism stimulate or stifle creativity?

When research is essential for your creative work, how do you avoid it becoming an excuse for procrastination?

What does it mean to ‘turn pro’ as a creator, and what difference does it make?

How bad do things have to get before we finally turn pro?

These are some of the questions I put to Steven Pressfield in this wide-ranging interview about the relationship between creativity and professionalism.

As the author of many best-selling historical novels, Steve knows all about the benefits and pitfalls of research for a writer, and he explains how he resolves this dilemma in his own writing process.

He also shares insights and stories from his latest book Turning Pro, about some of the biggest challenges we all face when we set out on a creative path. (And he keeps me on my toes as an interviewer by getting me to answer my own question at one point.)

You can listen to the interview via the audio player, or right-click on the link beneath to download the mp3. (If you’re reading via email you may need to click through to the original.)

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Download the mp3 here.

And if you’re a creative entrepreneur of any description, you should check out the videos Steve recorded with his business partner Shawn Coyne, about Building a Long Tail Business to support your creative ambitions.

Based on their experience of launching Black Irish Books, the videos are full of useful lessons from two seasoned and successful creative pros.

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

Productivity for Creative People

Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

“Of all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

Jocelyn Glei, author and Founding Editor, 99U

More about Productivity for Creative People. >>

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  1. Brilliant interview, Mr. McGuinness. These are the kind of things, which writers really ought to pay attention to – and admit to themselves, when they’re not productive, when they’re sabotaging themselves, when they’re refusing to break away from their idleness. Idleness is not considered a sin for nothing ^^. And we are our own biggest liars. We have time to do “research” from the moment we can observe, talk, and understand. It’s really important to have the school of life under your belt, otherwise you have nothing plausible to say. I do much of the specific research while I’m writing. Since I was interested as a teen in stories, cartoons, art, religion, anthropology, politics, history, economics – I have a pretty decent background, and can put off parts of the research into the final stage, that of the editing and polishing. I think indie authors should definitely set marketing and promotionals on the sidelines, and focus on improving the quality of their writing.
    “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ¬Confucius

    • Yes, research and marketing are important secondary activities, but they should never displace the primary one of the writing itself!

      And the better you get at writing, the easier the secondary activities become: it’s easier to do relevant research once you have the core of your story (or argument, for non-fiction); and it’s a lot easier to market a great book than a mediocre one.

  2. Morgan Lewis says:

    Really excellent interview – thanks for making it available to us. Having just recently had my own creative/professional epiphany I was gratified to hear Mr. Pressfield likening ‘turning pro’ to waking up in a ditch and realising that you have to make a change. I can’t think of a better analogy, and I absolutely concur with his ‘recovering alcoholic’ simile; once we have made that all-important decision, we must learn to manage and fight off the urge to procrastinate and become distracted, and counter the temptation to fall into amateurish habits, by reminding ourselves that the professional side allows us to indulge the creative side. The two should be mututally dependent – or, to couch it in better terms, symbiotic – rather than mutually exclusive.
    I shouldn’t do this, but as Serban’s excellent comment (above) ended on a quotation from Confucius, I feel I have to end on a quotation from yet another well-known fount of wisdom: “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda 🙂