Passion, Addiction, and Art

Who you calling an amateur? Huh? Huh?

Author Steven Pressfield

Are You Trapped in a “Shadow Career”? The Artist vs The Addict – Jocelyn K. Glei

A few months ago, a colleague of mine told me about meeting a young woman who was “passionate” about writing. He asked her what she had written recently, and she said nothing. In recounting the story to me, he said, “How can you say you’re passionate about something if you’re not doing anything about it?” Good question.

And yet, this is a common affliction. Many of us feel passionate about a particular job or creative project or cause, but we don’t take action on it. Why? Are we addicted to failure? Addicted to distraction? Addicted to money?Novelist and War of Art author Steven Pressfield gets at the crux of this conundrum in his excellent new book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work. I was particularly struck by his distinction between “the artist” and “the addict,” wherein the former is living out a productive, creative career, while the latter is caught in an endless loop of aspiration and yearning that never gets backed up with meaningful action.

In short, Pressfield calls bullshit on those of us who are passionate about our ideas, but aren’t acting on them. It’s bracing stuff:

Many artists are addicts, and vice versa. Many are artists in one breath and addicts in another.What’s the difference?The addict is the amateur; the artist is the professional.Both addict and artist are dealing with the same material, which is the pain of being human and the struggle against self-sabotage. But the addict/amateur and the artist/professional deal with these elements in fundamentally different ways…


Displacement activities.

When we’re living as amateurs, we’re running away from our calling – meaning our work, our destiny, the obligation to become our truest and highest selves.

Addiction becomes a surrogate for our calling. We enact the addiction instead of the calling. Why? Because to follow a calling requires work. It’s hard. It hurts. It demands entering the pain-zone of effort, risk, and exposure. 

So we take the amateur route instead. Instead of composing our symphony, we create a “shadow symphony,” of which we ourselves are the orchestra, the composer, and the audience. Our life becomes a shadow drama, a shadow start-up company, a shadow philanthropic venture.

Is this for reals? Or merely a matter of definitions? ‘Cuz we’re really getting nervous here. Don’t you hate when you read something that turns out to be a mirror, showing a version of yourself that gives you the shakes?

Anybody Remember Radio?

A message of profound importance for those of us who…listen:

The Best Websites for Listening to Internet Radio and Downloading and Streaming Free Music

When was the last time you listened to over-the-air FM radio? There are so many options on the internet for listening to thousands of different radio stations in many different genres and for downloading a lot of music for free.

We’ve collected some of the best websites for listening to internet radio and for downloading and streaming free music.

Internet Radio

There are many sites that offer many radio stations from which you can pick, in all kinds of different genres. Some are completely free and some have both free and paid options.


Pandora allows you to enter the name of a song, artist, or genre you like and the Music Genome Project scans its entire database of music that has been analyzed using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. Songs with interesting musical similarities to the song, artist, or genre you entered are presented to you, allowing you to discover new music that fits in with your musical preferences and moods. Pandora also offers comedy and allows you to create up to 100 unique “stations” that you can refine over time… is a music recommendation service. Sign up and download their software, The Scrobbler, which helps you discover other music based on the type of music you choose to play. The Scrobbler updates your library with music you’ve been listening to on your computer, phone, or music player and tells what songs you like most, which ones you play most, how often you play a specific artist, as well as other information that helps them personalized recommendations just for you…

Read it all

The article also includes Screamer Radio, Playlist.Com, SHOUTcast, Slacker Personal Radio, Live365, and multitudes more, giving so much info that we have only one question: Where do these crazy geek writers find the time?

Jack London Wanted to Mentor You

So once upon a time the writer of Call of the Wild, The Sea Wolf, White Fang, and tons of other books and stories was just another guy who wanted to write. Here’s his view of what he did to make himself into something more:

Call of the Wild: Jack London’s Advice on Honing Your Creative Craft – by Scott McDowell

Sometimes its hard to know where to start. In John Barleycorn, Jack London’s vivid memoir, he describes a predicament familiar to many an aspiring artist: “My difficulty was that I had no one to advise me. I didn’t know a soul who had written or who had ever tried to write. I didn’t even know one reporter.”

While much of Barleycorn is a grim warning about the slow train of alcoholism, the book also feels like an act of mentorship. Throughout, London describes his approach to being a writer, imparting a wealth of wisdom on building a career and body of creative work.

Not surprisingly, London’s work ethic was formidable. Here are a few gems of insight that I uncovered:

1. Be decisive, choose something, then attack it.

“I decided immediately to embark on my career. I had four preferences: first, music; second, poetry; third, the writing of philosophic, economic and political essays, and, fourth, and last, and least, fiction writing…

“I wrote, I wrote everything…. On occasion I composed steadily, day after day, for fifteen hours a day. At times I forgot to eat, or refused to tear myself away from the passionate outpouring in order to eat…”

2. Be persistent, endure struggle, and hone your craft.

“The trouble with the beginner at the writing game is the long dry spells, when there is never an editor’s check and everything pawnable is pawned.

“I struggled along, stood off the butcher and the grocer…and I worked…. At the end of three working years, two of which were spent in high school and the university and one spent at writing, and all three in studying immensely and intensely, I was publishing stories in magazines such as Atlantic Monthly, was correcting proofs of my first book…, was selling sociological articles to Cosmopolitan and McClure’s, had declind an associate editorship proffered me by telegraph from New York City, and was getting ready to marry.”

3. Develop a routine and be relentless about it.

“As I succeeded with my writing,… I confined myself to writing and typing a thousand words a day, including Sundays and holidays; and I still studied hard, but not so hard as formerly… There was so much to learn so much to be done, that I felt wicked when I slept seven hours…”

4. Settle into a groove and make the act of creating part of your life.

“The program of my ranch life was as follows: Each morning, at eight-thirty, having been reading or correcting proofs since four or five, I went to my desk. Odds and ends of correspondence and notes occupied me till nine, and at nine sharp invariably, I began my writing. By eleven, sometimes a few minutes earlier or later, my thousand words were finished. Another half hour cleaning up my desk, and my day’s work was done…”

Read it all

Jack London died at 40, possibly by suicide. His life wasn’t perfect, but on the how-to-be-a-writer front, the man knew his shit.

Storytelling the Pixar Way

…With a little help from Lego:

See all 12 writing rules!

As far as we’re concerned, the word for these pics is GENIUS.

But guess what. The Pixar version is just as brilliant, maybe more so because it came first and there are 10 more – that’s 22, count ’em – rules. Plus, it’s way more writerly because – yep – no pictures, just WORDS.

Self-Sabotage 101

AKA: Our Inner Depths Don’t Always Help Our Outer Reaches; or ‘It’s All In Your Mind, Dude’

How Our Brains Stop Us Achieving Our Goals and How to Fight Back – by Gregory Ciotti

As admittedly wonderful and fascinating as the human brain is, it definitely can feel like our brain is out to get us sometimes.

Summed up perfectly in the many observations of the “Scumbag Brain” meme, our brain does seem to engage in “sabotage” in terms of how it naturally reacts to situations…

  1. Your brain can hurt your goals by fantasizing too much…
  2. Your brain procrastinates on big projects by visualizing the worst parts…
  3. Your brain will “abandon ship” at the first sign of distress…
  4. Your brain loves mindless busy work disguised as progress
  5. Your brain is not good at “winging it” when it comes to planning…ever!

Read it all and get the details (You know, those things the devil is in)

Reading the specifics of this article made all of us wince. “Ouch!” Too true…but, Mr. Ciotti points out, we can conquer our brain’s negative tendencies. We’re going to follow his advice and let you know.