I’ve had a variety of creative pursuits: writing, drawing, music, photography. I’ve dabbled in a lot. But very few creative endeavors were much more than hobbies.
It seems there’s always a roadblock when pursuing something creative, that hump that require practice to overcome. It’s the obstacle that separates the amateurs from the professionals. If you’re just tinkering around, it’s alright never to push past this point. But if you’re trying to make a career of being an artist, this becomes a trial by fire.
When I played the trumpet, it was double tonguing. With the guitar, it’s finger picking. These are skills that take time and a lot of work to develop. They’re necessary for the professional, but aren’t required for the hobbyist. Often it seems skills such as these becomes inflection points, a crossroads where the professional persists and the amateur turns back.
The problem is, with the development of certain technology, we’ve removed a lot of these inflection points from the creative process.
For writing, one of the obstacles was revising your work to the point someone would agree to publish it. For music, you had to work at your songwriting and ability before distributing your music. Nowadays, anyone can self-publish their book or upload their album to SoundCloud.
Don’t get me wrong, I think this is great. But leveling the playing field has had an unexpected side-effect: the proliferation of hack behavior and content of poor quality. With an overabundance of material, sometimes the work that deserves a platform, that bears discussion, gets lost in the shuffle.
You could write To Kill a Mockingbird and self-publish it, only to have it lost amidst a slew of self-published titles in the Amazon marketplace, many of which were by amateurs doing it just to do it. You could write and record “Stairway to Heaven,” only to have it lost in the algorithmic soup of streaming.
As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, the cream doesn’t always rise to the top.
The professional persists regardless. They recognizes the importance of pushing past the inflection point, not because it guarantees recognition, but because it makes the work worth doing.