In one of those sarcastic moves that life sometimes plays on you, there was a time when I had to work as a proof reader in a car reviews magazine.
It was just a pay the bills kind of job. The car fetish that people out there often have has never been a thing for me. I've always preferred means of transportation where I'm carried, so I have my mind free to think, my senses free to observe, and both my hands available for writing stuff in notebooks, facing contingencies easily, etc...
At this job, I was surrounded all day by world of car geeks, so let's just say that we had a few awkward moments. However, I became a good friend of one particular guy there. He was as big of a car geek as the others, and I'm not sure what was different that created that bind between us, but I have a few ideas. Firstly, something that helped was that we both could talk about things outside our One Thing, and also about "anything stuff", and we both had a healthy, non-toxic sense of humor. Sometimes people try to create too much of an identity out of the things that they do, and that certainly wasn't our case at all, and we both had the healthy habit of not taking ourselves too seriously.
But I think I've remembered him today because of something else, something he told me one day before going to an appointment he had for a test drive: "man, the thing is... I would do this shit for free".
It was not a happy comment at the time; I think the conversation was about working conditions, someone taking advantage of us... (yeah, I know; shocking, right?) There was also a bit of an undertone -that I myself know very well- of "I really can't help myself, I couldn't do things other way even if I tried, it's like I have no say in this..."
Now I wonder if maybe that was the thing that connected us the most. We were both devoted persons. To very different purposes, for sure (I think I never mentioned to him my musical endeavors, among other things because at that moment I was on hiatus), but both of us shared that personal consistency that results of having one focal point in your life. He "lived for that stuff", and I "live for this stuff", too. When you have that kind of premise in your life, the rest gets ordered and prioritized accordingly. And that shows in some way, and creates links that are not always made of words.
In the case of music, like most of the people out there, I actually "do this shit for free". Money is a recognition of value, and according to that "scoreboard", it seems our society concedes little or no value to it.
Not that I'm going to let that stop me, let's just follow the line of reasoning: if you don't make money with something, you do it in your spare time. That period of time associated to recharging, the time considered "lazy time". Here's where the difficulty arrives. How can you call "lazy" to being stuck to a screen for 10 hours in a row trying to make a song sound better? Well, that's the way it works. Such activity can have all the personal value you want, but if it does not have societal value it does not make money, and it is leisure, it is "lazy".
So color me lazy then, because those 10 hours are the ones I enjoy the most of any day. Even if I'm tired like a dog when I'm finished, even then, it's that kind of fatigue that is somewhat enjoyable too, that kind of fatigue that makes you feel you've earned yourself a good movie and a pizza, or a fatigue similar to the one that follows the sweet labors of love :)
I think what we have here is 1) a disagreement on the definition of value, and 2) the slightly slippery definition of what being "professional" means. On one side, when we hear that someone is a "professional" in X, we automatically think in someone who gets paid for doing X.
But now that musicians are no longer paid, or hardly, how do you differentiate a professional musician from a non professional one?
I have no answer to offer, but while this state of affairs lasts, I think the only criteria of professionalism we have available is persistence, pursuit. Here I remember an interview with the creator of the Reaper DAW, where he said he liked to make songs now and then, but usually after half an hour or so he considers it "good enough". He is not trying to be "professional" (but, as an aside, what a good thing is that a developer keeps in touch in that way with his own product!) Inversely, I can sometimes sit at the computer and research something I want to code, "wouldn't it be great if I could...?" I give it a few tries, and if it works awesome, but if it doesn't at some point I'm going to let it go and don't spare one more think on it. I prefer to carry in my head melodies, chord progressions, you know, that kind of stuff.
In the case of a programmer, on the contrary, I'm sure a kind of problem like that will stick to him, he'll carry it to bed and wake up with it in the morning, find what seems to be a solution during the shower, discard it as he spreads jam on the toast... Who knows, we'll never find out for sure because of the high regard computers have in our time, but perhaps he would even do all that stuff anyway if there was no money involved. I guess not all kinds of laziness are born equal...
(Note: when I speak about "musicians" here, I guess I'm thinking real musicians, musicians who make real music, today music, here-and-now music. Saying that a bunch of guys who play Abba covers are professional musicians is like saying that a guy who works at a morgue is in the hotel business... Ehm... well... Ok... Kindasorta...)
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it