So there’s this app called Desk that I am using for writing and posting these very words and when I went to its support site to ask a question I discovered a community — not a metaphorical one, but an actual community of people talking about things that weren’t all support-related. I am sure this happens in other support communities but this was the first time I had run across one so … open? I felt right at home and I started reading some threads.
One thread was about starting a digital book-club to read and discuss Steven Pressfield’s book “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work” (Open Library), which I had been curious about but never read. My writing partner Matt gave me a copy of Pressfield’s “The War of Art” years ago and I absolutely loved it. I decided to give the digital book-club a shot.
Day 1 we read the introduction through the “My Shadow Career” chapter (if you can call it that, as the sections are very brief in this book). My favourite quotes from this section:
“The thesis of this book is that what ails you and me has nothing to do with being sick or being wrong. What ails us is that we are living our lives as amateurs.”
This reminded me of a conversation that I keep having with the people I know who are professional writers. I’m quick to draw a line between us and say that they’re better writers, and often their rejoinder is that it isn’t about better. There is a fundamental commitment that these people have made to themselves, and I haven’t done it. Yet.
“Are you pursuing a shadow career? 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?”
It’s hard to even formulate a response to this because the metaphor is so unbelievably cutting: I mean, I became a librarian. I do love library work, and I deeply believe in libraries, but there it is. I spend my days in rooms filled with books that other people have written, never believing that I, too, could write a book.
This book-club is going to be a doozy for me.