Random excerpt: Turning Pro

This passage is from Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative, an excellent read and podcast listen:

I spent much of my life as a paid amateur. I was doing what I needed to do to get the work done, but I was secretly waiting for someone to come along and “pick” me.  I was saving myself for a marriage that would never arrive, while unwittingly giving myself over to anyone who came along. I worked hard, but I wasn’t a pro. I was auditing my own life. I was a ghost. 

In short, I lacked grit. I hadn’t yet developed the “you will have to pry this work from my cold, dead hands” mindset to which I now aspire every day. My resolve wasn’t yet steeled.

I remember the day it flipped. I went pro. I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to get my work out each day, and to develop my mind for wherever life led. The change was subtle, but it was marked by three little words that I swear are inscribed somewhere on the inside of my cerebral cortex: “Here I Stand.”

Against the turmoil, here I stand.

Against the critics, here I stand.

Against the scoffers and cynics, here I stand.

Against my own fear, here I stand.

Against exhaustion, pettiness, and excuses, here I stand.

Against compromise and short-cuts, here I stand.

Against the seductive love of comfort, here I stand.


Here I stand, and neither your words, nor your threats will move me. I am a pro, and while I may not always produce great work, I produce, so deal with it.[i]


All of us who try to make communities better are creative professionals, in the purest sense of the word.  Our mission is one of the most fundamental and noble: to make human communities better.  We get mired in the details of meetings and projects and personality conflicts and politics, but you know what?  So do people who do more conventionally “creative” work, like artists and writers. Creating is tough, whether it’s a new painting, a new song or a new way of making local economies work.

Fear?  Insecurity?  Rejection?  What else is new?

We need creativity in local governments, organizations, agencies.  We need it more than ever.   We need to embrace our own creativity, and that of our communities, if we are going  to find solutions to those very tough questions, and more and more urgent.  We need to claim our own commitment to working toward those answers within the messy world of everyday distractions and limitations if we’re going to in any way be true to the good intentions of our choice to do this work.

We are conditioned to be part of a team, to stick with the instructions handed down by Them, to avoid rocking the boat if we can help it. If you work with local governments, elected officials, nonprofit boards of directors, etc., you’ve gotten that message over the years in no uncertain terms. It’s no wonder so many of us give up on that first impulse we had, to go into this work because it seemed like doing something that matters.  After a few years of perpetuating a status quo that you know is limping, it’s no wonder so many start counting the days to retirement.

A pro taps his or her own energy and commitment for the good of something bigger.  You can’t get bigger than what we deal with.  We can’t afford be paid amateurs anymore.

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