The difference between amateurs and professionals

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  • The difference between amateurs and professionals

    Bob Mankoff was the cartoon editor of the New Yorker for many years. I recently watched on YouTube a lecture he gave at an art school. He made one point that really stood out to me. I had never thought of it this way, but upon reflection I think he’s right.

    He talked about the difference between an amateur and a professional.

    I’m paraphrasing but he said, “An amateur thinks everything he does is great. A professional always feels he can do better.”

    In a nutshell that says it. There’s a reason Neil Simon, despite all his success, rewrote his plays like crazy. There’s a reason stand ups will record and analyze every set to fine tune it. I can give examples in any creative field.

    But when you think everything you do is fantastic there’s no room for growth, no room to learn.

    Another quote: This one from Kurt Vonnegut. He once said something to this effect: When you get a group of writers together usually they’ll all squawk about how hard it is to write. And there will be one writer who says it’s easy, he loves it, piece of cake. Vonnegut says invariably that will be the worst writer in the group.

    Be tough on yourself. That’s how you get better, that’s how you become a professional.


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