Jonathan Hickman’s 10 Steps to Being a Professional

17:28 Thu 15 May 2008
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I recently read the graphic novel The Nightly News (thanks Dave!), and while there’s plenty of interest in it, what I feel like posting about comes from the author’s comments at the end, about how he succeeded as a comics creator.

He refers to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, which I read last year and liked a lot (but have yet to really put into practice—clearly I should read it again), in reference to getting past his own resistance to creating, but he also has a list of ten things under the heading “Be a Professional” (very slightly altered for grammar here):

1. Work every day.
2. Exercise every day.
3. Make a realistic budget.
4. Understand what budget actually means.
5. Stick to said budget.
6. Turn in your work in a timely fashion.
7. Have good hygiene.
8. Have good manners.
9. Don’t be a computer/internet/messageboard zombie.
10. Have actual relationships.

The first question that springs to mind is: are you still a professional if you take weekends off? I’m not sure what Hickman would say, but I’d say yes. The point is a very steady schedule, and I think that five days a week is fine for that.

Same goes for exercise, and I think he’s really got a point with this one.

I’ve never really budgeted myself on creative projects, mainly because they’ve primarily revolved around writing, and I haven’t had to. It does seem like a good exercise, however. Better budgeting in terms of time, too, would make sense.

Turning work in punctually makes sense, and here Hickman is clearly referring to situations where you’re dealing with other people—although it could be applied to self-imposed deadlines too. I suspect that it’s the discipline of punctuality that he’s really getting at.

Seven through ten seem to simply make sense in terms of good mental health—which is important. I think it’s especially true for people involved in creative projects, since there is this stereotype of artists being flaky, disorganized, unable to handle their daily affairs, etc., and Hickman’s probably right in explicitly calling those out, effectively saying “fine, you can be an artist without those, but to be a professional, you have to have your shit together and produce work”.

I think they’re a fair set of criteria. I should work on some of them myself, and try budgeting. I should also probably think the whole thing over a little (what does “professional” mean? what problem am I trying to solve?) and come up with my own list.

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