Training = Turning pro

[Special thanks to Maxima Kahn for bringing back one of my favorite posts. And even more special thanks to Rosanne Cash for inspiring it. Here it is:]

Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have professional habits.

How does the pro acquire professional habits? 

By training.

(The amateur by contrast either trains like an amateur or doesn’t train at all.)

The passage below comes from Rosanne Cash’s wonderful 2011 memoir, Composed.

Rosanne Cash, post-training

From that moment I changed the way I approached songwriting, I changed how I sang, I changed my work ethic, and I changed my life.  I sought out Marge Rivingston in New York to work on my voice and I started training, as if I were a runner, in both technique and stamina. I started paying attention to everything, both in the studio and out. If I found myself drifting off into daydreams–an old, entrenched habit–I pulled myself awake and back into the present moment. Instead of toying with ideas, I examined them, and I tested the authenticity of my instincts musically. I stretched my attention span consciously. I read books on writing by Natalie Goldberg and Carolyn Heilbrun and began to self-edit and refine more. I went deeper into every process involved with writing and musicianship. I realized I had earlier been working only within my known range–never pushing far outside the comfort zone to take any real risks. I started painting, so I could learn about the absence of words and sound, and why I needed them.  I took painting lessons from Sharon Orr, who had a series of classes at a studio called Art and Soul.

There’s a word for the changes Rosanne incorporated into her life.


And another one: Turning pro.

I remained completely humbled by the dream [that had precipitated these external changes] and it stayed with me through every waking hour of completing King’s Record Shop … I vowed the next record would reflect my new commitment. Rodney [Crowell, Rosanne’s then-husband] was at the top of his game as a record producer, but I had come to feel curiously like a neophyte in the studio after the dream. Everything seemed new, frightening, and tremendously exciting. I had awakened from the morphine sleep of success into the life of an artist.

When we take ourselves and our artistic aspirations seriously, we resolve to move from working like an amateur to working like a pro.

We ask ourselves, “How can I get better? What do I have to do to become a worthy vessel for my gift? How can I elevate myself from where I am now to the higher, truer, more realized artist I know I can be?”

There’s a word for that answer.

It starts with a “T.”


Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.

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A short book about the writing of a first novel: for Steve, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Having failed with three earlier attempts at novels, here's how Steve finally succeeded.



Steve shares his "lessons learned" from the trenches of the five different writing careers—advertising, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, and self-help. This is tradecraft. An MFA in Writing in 197 pages.



Amateurs have amateur habits. Pros have pro habits. When we turn pro, we give up the comfortable life but we find our power. Steve answers the question, "How do we overcome Resistance?"



  1. Jackie on December 1, 2021 at 3:10 am

    Loved and needed this post today. Back to training. Thanks.

    • Kirby on August 23, 2023 at 8:47 am


  2. Joe Jansen on December 1, 2021 at 4:18 am

    Favorite Rosanne Cash song: “A Feather’s Not a Bird” (

    A feather’s not a bird
    The rain is not the sea
    A stone is not a mountain
    But a river runs through me

    And there’s a line in there: “I’m going down to Florence just to learn to love the thread,” which fits with Steve’s description of her training in multiple artistic disciplines (voice, writing, painting… and textiles).

    The line was inspired by her friend Natalie Chanin, who runs a clothing company called Alabama Chanin. Rosanne and her husband/musical partner John Leventhal stopped in to see Chanin during their trip to the South. “She was teaching me to sew,” Rosanne said, “and she said this great line: ‘You have to love the thread.’ I started thinking about it in a bigger way. And of course the music of the South and Appalachia were deeply embedded in both of us, and John was getting really inspired as well.”

    I guess artistic training takes many forms, yeah? And learning to sew maybe opens the same channels of creativity that learning to wield a paintbrush or an ink pen opens. It’s the channel (“a river runs through me”).

    • Regina Holt on August 25, 2023 at 10:31 am

      Joe, That’s one of my fav Roseanne songs too!😎

  3. Rick Matz on December 1, 2021 at 5:56 am

    There’s a difference between wanting to do something and deciding to do something. In the post, Rosanne Cash decided to do something, and she did.

    • Veleka on August 23, 2023 at 3:35 am

      Rick, yes. Commitment.

  4. Tolis Alexopoulos on December 1, 2021 at 6:39 am

    Yes! That’s the mentality. I love her concrete paragraph that you posted, it shows “the Moment”, “the passing of the Membrane” as you’d call it. It’s not a simple and quick moment, a casual moment based on luck, it’s a lifetime’s gathering of experience that precedes, that brings the Big Moment at the surface. That Rebel without a Crew observed that, too. All his life he had been experimenting (in other words, training) with those cameras. I remember I did that too, but I didn’t know back then… 30 years ago.

    What I find interesting is that all through our lives we ‘re training even if we don’t know we are. The question then is, what is the best training ground that each of us prepared, that leads to success (in it’s broad meaning)? And how can we blend all that when the day arrives that we decide to pass through the Membrane? And a negative question to ask is, “what have I trained at, that ruins my life’s mission?” Hmm.

    I will read the memoir, thanks dear Steve.

    • Kate Stanton on December 1, 2021 at 7:32 am

      I just wanted to chime in and say I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on The Defeated Boxer sculpture. It’s amazing to me that a bronze sculpture from so long ago has such an emotive, albeit swollen and bruised, face.

      • Tolis Alexopoulos on December 2, 2021 at 12:57 am

        Thank you so much Kate,

        I am very happy that it touched you too. It is indeed one of the most emotive statues I’ve ever seen. The thoughts are from a member of the team, a wonderful woman, Vaso.

        I wish you a great day!

        • Kate Stanton on December 2, 2021 at 8:11 am

          Years ago, I chose The Defeated Boxer to analyze for an Art History class. His face moves me. I think all of us here have felt like him with Resistance from time to time! Please pass that along to your colleague Vaso–it was touching. Same to you–have a great and productive week!

          • Tolis Alexopoulos on December 3, 2021 at 1:40 am

            Oh I will, she will be very happy to hear. Indeed, this can be our face’s expression when we face Resistance, a brilliant notice! Now that you said, I can find Resistance’s results all over his body, and his will glowing dimly underneath his worked muscles and his wrestler’s stuff. Could be a powerful symbol of the Pro.

  5. Brad Graft on December 1, 2021 at 7:21 am

    Good dig, Joe. Interesting.

    And this simple line of Steve’s packs a helluva punch. It alone is worth thinking and acting much upon:
    “What do I have to do to become a worthy vessel for my gift?”

    • Chuck DeBettignies on December 1, 2021 at 12:17 pm

      I thought the same thing Brad.
      What a line! (What do I have to do . . . )
      Stopped me cold. Had to read it again several times.

  6. Kate Stanton on December 1, 2021 at 7:24 am

    “If I found myself drifting off into daydreams–an old, entrenched habit–I pulled myself awake and back into the present moment.”
    “I had awakened from the morphine sleep of success into the life of an artist.” Love this! I feel a little silly asking this, but I think with training comes the confidence to then share our work and let go of perfectionist thoughts. Training with a capital “T”, indeed! I know exactly where I need to start, too.
    I hope you all have a productive week!

    Thank you, Steve!

  7. Fabio on December 1, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Thank you Steve!

  8. Sam Luna on December 1, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Several years ago I saw a performance at the Magic Castle here in L.A. by a card magician (although he prefers the term “mechanic”) named Richard Turner. It took place in a very small room as he was doing close-up magic. His card tricks were mind-boggling, and about halfway through his set my wife leans over and whispers “he’s blind.” Everyone in the room started to realize the same thing, and the room filled with whispers of “he’s blind, he’s blind.”

    At the end of the set he takes his bow and the usher announces that yes, Mr. Turner is blind. A few months ago we stumbled upon a documentary on Amazon about his life. Long story short, he never doesn’t have a deck of cards in his hands. When he’s working out, when he’s falling asleep, if he is conscious, he is shuffling a deck of cards, sometimes two, and has been his entire adult life. The essence of Training with a capital ‘T.’

  9. Mia Sherwood Landau on December 1, 2021 at 8:12 am

    Another incendiary post, Steven… I finally have enough age on me to see the patterns in my life choices. Waking up to the choice to turn pro has been a long process!

  10. Mary goggin on December 1, 2021 at 9:56 am

    I am an actor writer performer of my Solo show!! hits the website I want to write more I want to be disciplined what really got me was the black Irish …
    I am not clear on what the offering is here but I’m interested I see a lot of publications which is amazing

  11. Adam Schwartz on December 1, 2021 at 9:58 am

    You always hear of the delicate, sensitive artist. I assure you that it takes the nerve of a bull-fighter, the digestion of a peasant, the vitality of a night-club hostess, the tact of a diplomat, and the concentration of a Tibetan monk, to lead the life of a virtuoso.
    – Jascha Heifetz, violinist

    • Jackie on December 1, 2021 at 11:34 am

      Here! Here!

      • Jackie on December 1, 2021 at 11:35 am

        I meant Hear! Hear! Sorry, sleep depravation.

  12. Stephen S. Power on December 1, 2021 at 10:43 am

    I would suggest that one component of training by, say, reading Steve’s posts, is taking notes. Just as I do for the show “On Story,” I’m going to create a Google doc to write down my takeaways from each of these pieces, which might not be direct quotes, but spins on the material that apply to my work. For instance: Re Cash taking painting, the underlying dynamic is, What principles from other art forms (or any practice, really) can be applied to my writing?

  13. Brian Nelson on December 1, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    All great stuff. I would like to share a podcast that I am only 1/2 way through: Jordan Peterson interviews Angus Fletcher, author of ‘Wonderworks’ (just bought in Audible).

    BLUF: Narrative is the technology that essentially built the world in which we live. A quote from the summary, “ Literatures great Invention was to address problems we could not solve: Not how to build a fire or a boat, but rather how to live, love, learn, how to maintain courage in the face of death…”

    I’m posting here using my phone between appointments… and so I’m limited to Siri and my thumbs to try and convey my thoughts.

    Well I haven’t completed the podcast, nor even started the book, I wanted to share it with this community. My first impression is that storytellers are are the ones who can either pull mankind forward towards the highest best use, or destroy us all. Everything is narrative.

    Maybe this is a better way to say it: it will not be the scientists, the technologist, nor the politicians who will lead us to paradise. It will be the artists. And that might have always been the truth.

    As a younger man, I put all of my faith in non-fiction, science, hyper materialism. None of that touches one’s heart or soul. An example might be how ineffective modern psychology and medicine have been in treating PTSD. Are nothing addresses the soul, the authentic self, the higher order of man.

    The humanities however apply a different medicine to a different component of the human condition. It is in our stories that we can understand ourselves and others. That might heal us.

    Lastly, to bring this around to today’s topic, we all need to get our asses in the gym! Train like the future of the world depends upon it, because, it may very well.

    We are in a battle of competing narratives right now in our country. We need trained athletes to carry the torch of truth to every corner of the globe.

  14. Paullette MacDougal on December 2, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    There’s another T. word I would like to address to Steve:

  15. Anne Pellicciotto on December 13, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    Nothing’s coincidence. I saw my first Roseanne Cash show in DC a few weeks back; a friend with a spare ticket invited me. Another friend was her sound guy and got us reserve seats right up front. I was mesmerized by her stage presence, her groundedness and confidence and, at the same time, humility These were clearly the qualities she’d cultivated in her Training – and they were palpable in every song – even one she sang that she’d written her twenties – she played it fresh, like it was the first time, like she respected the girl that wrote it, while knowing how far she’d come.

    I will ponder a bit more what this means for my training – I’ve been ready for a while to move to the next level.

    Now’s the time!

  16. Carter on December 17, 2021 at 5:12 am

    There’s another T. word I would like to address to Steve:
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  21. Ricky on March 31, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    Same like me hahah Amatures.

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    Being professional entails being dependable, setting high expectations for yourself, and demonstrating that you care about every part of your career. It’s about being diligent and well-organized, as well as taking oneself responsible for your ideas, words, and deeds. Professionalism in the workplace refers to how you conduct yourself, your attitude, and how you connect with others.

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  26. Alice Wunderly on February 21, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    This one has a fantastic blend of involvement
    and pace that keeps my interest. It’s more than just typing away, but not so much that you can’t take a break.

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  29. Jennifer Smith on August 23, 2023 at 3:17 am

    I just read Roseanne’s wonderful memoir and she became a muse for one of the characters in my screenplay. What a beautiful example of how to live the life of an artist!

  30. Joe Badalamente on August 23, 2023 at 3:26 am

    More proof we’re in the matrix! Just yesterday I interviewed a retired NYPD officer who was a first responder on 9/11. Over and over during our talk he brought up how much his training helped him survive that morning. He really underlined the fact that because of his training he didn’t have to think, that his reactions were automatic. Great post, Mr. P!

  31. Jackie on August 23, 2023 at 5:22 am

    Training never ends. Does it?

  32. Bill Pace on August 23, 2023 at 5:31 am

    WONDERFUL post! Rosanne shows herself to be a very true artist.

  33. Rachele on August 23, 2023 at 5:44 am

    Love this post as I do so many of your posts/blogs/teachings!! I’m a physical therapist who practices John Barnes myofascial release… a “healing art.” So much of what you write about relates so strongly to what John Barnes teaches, and this weeks blog was no exception!

  34. Kathy on August 23, 2023 at 7:08 am

    Steve, oh, oh, oh. Thank you! Awakening. And, all the comments here. I want to print it all out and keep them in my apron pocket to remind me of such ideals. Stirring, the whole thing.

  35. David Jay McGee on August 23, 2023 at 7:51 am

    OK, I agree, can someone recommend some training. It seems that college will take a long time. I need someone to coach me to completing a novel. Then thru publishing, which I am willing to do ‘self publish”. I have 85% of content

  36. Tolis on August 23, 2023 at 8:00 am

    Thank you so much dear Steve, as well as Rosanne and Maxima. I wish the best for you.

    If I would write this post, the word that would come first into my mind today would be Organizing together with the word Discipline or -mispelled to match it with the word Training- Tiscipline.

    Organizing is so crucial now for me, because of the hell around me. I try every day to find that prioritized 1 hour for the book, you know better, and I almost always find it Steve. And yet there is enough time to tackle Hell then. But I must be really good organized. It seems that the Burning Magma of the Errupting Volcano of Our Lives comes our way like a high tidal wave, but there happens that bit of magic for an hour a day if we have decided to put that ultimate priority and normalize the rest of the day. This freezes up the whole tide in the sky for a moment, it’s like a miracle but it’s not. It’s plain nature’s laws reminding us that we can do it all because the laws are extremely complex and thus all possibilities are energized.

    • Joan Di Stefano on August 23, 2023 at 9:44 am

      Pay attention to the “yes but” that stops forward movement in its tracks !

  37. Kevin on August 23, 2023 at 9:08 am

    Steve, your observation seems obvious, but it isn’t. After years of voiceover work and commercial production, I sought out a voice coach. She is training me to reach a new level of professionalism/ability. I’m still on that path. Old dogs can learn new tricks…at least the trained ones can.

  38. Brian Nelson on August 23, 2023 at 9:32 am

    This comment is geared towards last week’s post about Steve’s friend Giora Romm’s passing–and some of the passionate posts I read about Israel/Palestine.

    I found this podcast last year, by a gentlemen named Darryl Cooper. If you like Carlin’s “Hardcore History” you’ll love this podcast. He goes DEEP.

    Six episodes about the formation of Israel from late 19th Century nascent Zionist movement until the 1948 Arab-Israeli War–or Israeli War of Independence or 1948 Palestine War.

    It is nearly 30 hours of brilliant content, analysis, and story-telling.

    Bottom line is NO ONE is innocent in that troubled land. Cain slew Abel. It is the oldest story of mankind…

  39. Roger Wyatt on August 23, 2023 at 11:28 am

    I just finished reading “36 Righteous Men.” It blew me away with its graceful intertwining of sci-fi noir, Old Testament, global climate crisis. The conclusion surprised and amazed me.

    As I reflect on Steve’s essay for today I see the deep training that he undertook to create such a masterful novel. Clearly Steve practices what he preaches.

    If you haven’t read it you should.

  40. tom scarda on August 23, 2023 at 2:06 pm

    As Bo Eason would say, it’s all about relationship to practice, the loneliest time in the world.

    When training to do anything, even eat better, we humans hit the third-day syndrome.
    Day 1. I’m a rock star. I will change the world.
    Day 2. I’m a rock star in training, I guess. This is more difficult than I thought.
    Day 3. I’m skipping practice. I deserve a day off. I’m working hard.
    Day 4. I’m okay the way I am. I don’t need to be a rock star.

  41. Bane on August 23, 2023 at 3:34 pm

    “Train to death. At the end of the day, there
    is nothing else you can do.”

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