Pro or Not Pro? That is the Question


Are you a professional writer, or an amateur? This is an interesting question, one that E. Michael Helms has touched on previously here at MMO. But I thought I’d throw in my opinion on the subject.  The answer to the pro-or-not-pro question isn’t totally dependent on money.  Yes, if you’ve earned even one dollar on your writing, then, technically, you’re a professional. But I have a different take. To me, you’re a professional writer when and only when you start acting like it. 



Here’s what I mean. I’ve earned some money–very, very little money–on my books, but I was a “pro” long before I signed a contract with a publisher. Why? Because for years I’ve (tried) to approach writing like a job, which means I write when I feel like it AND when I don’t feel like it.  I write about every day regardless of what else is going on in my life. I’m a clock-puncher when it comes to producing novels, and I firmly believe in the 10,000 hour rule outlined in Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book Outliers.  I write; I try not to talk too much about writing, or act like a writer, or dress like a writer.  It’s about the work. No more, no less. And that, to me, is the key difference between a pro and a hobbyist, between a writer who could possibly be monetarily successful at some point, and a writer who will, sooner or later, quit writing altogether. In a word, it’s about work.


That said, lately my attitude (as well as my approach) to writing has changed. I no longer write every single day, no matter what. Often, I’ll work on my WIP for several days in a row, and then leave it for a week, sometimes longer. This, granted, isn’t the most efficient method, but I’m comfortable with it, and the stuff I’m writing is getting more and more interesting (to me, anyway). I no longer type up contracts stating that I will have a rough draft of a book by a certain date. And since I am no longer under contract with a publisher, I’m free of those more legalistic deadlines, too. I don’t like deadlines, anyway. Or rules. The only rules I (or any other writer/artist) should have to follow are ones the writer/artist set for his/herself. Ignore any others, I say.

Discussion Questions

  1. When do you consider someone a professional writer?
  2. What type of approach do you take to your writing? What is your process?
  3. Do you think it matters about the label, professional or amateur?

Max enjoys hearing from fans (and critics), so email him at, like his Facebook page, or visit his author website.




5 thoughts on “Pro or Not Pro? That is the Question

  1. I used to have a Christie quote on my wall about this. Can’t remember it exactly and can’t look it up right now as I’m on my phone, but the gist was she became a professional writer when she continued to write even when the words didn’t come easily.

    I almost subscribe to that. Can’t say what Christie did when the words didn’t come. For me, it’s switch to writing shorts. I aim for five days a week on the novel, one on blogs or shorts, and a day to do the laundry!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Well Max, I agree and disagree (I think?). I’ve made a few bucks on my books (some more than others). That said, being paid for my work doesn’t make me a professional writer. To wit: many, if not most, books “written” by celebrities or the media “darling of the day,” are ghost-written. Yet the “name” gets paid richly with a BIG advance by a BIG publisher. I won’t name names; fill in your own. Six months or a year later you’ll find stacks of such books on the remaindered (sp?) shelf. But no matter, the famous “author” has long ago taken his/her money to the bank. From best-seller to dust collector to doorstop, but it is what it is. What makes me a professional is that I’ve acquired calluses on my butt from who-knows-how-many hours of slaving away at the notebook, then manual typewriter, then electric typewriter, and now the keyboard/word processor. I would hate to know the hourly rate I’ve made as a writer. I’d probably slink under my desk, curl up in the fetal position, and cry.

    On the other side of the literary spectrum is the dedicated soul who sits at the typewriter/keyboard/notebook/what have you and WRITES and WRITES and WRITES some more. Many times every day and in the wee hours of the morning before the day job or late at night after the day job. And when that lone soul puts in the requisite hours, he/she is a WRITER, published or not. Being published might make one lay claim to the title of “author,” but I won’t go there now. Suffice it to say there are thousands of professionals plugging away, learning their craft/art/what have you, but have never earned a dollar for their efforts. And for my money most of them produce better work than many “authors” who have decided that’s what they want to be, and so quickly became a “published author” through one of the many self-publishing venues out there in literary land. (Oops, I went there afterall.)

    End of another (unintentional) rant! 🙂


    1. And let me add this: I AM NOT cramming all self-publishing writers/authors in the same boat. There are thousands of self-publishers who have put in their time, learned their craft, and produce work every bit as good or better than writers published traditionally, many by big publishers. As I’ve said before, I’ve considered–and still am considering–self-publishing myself. Although, I might not have the savvy others have to do it successfully. We shall see.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My goal has been to be a writer since I was a kid which led me to write many journals where I collected thoughts, experiences and descriptions. A writer does not need to have a degree in writing to be a fabulous writer, but I do have a degree in creative writing and did study and write to get it and worked with writers as my profs. When I began having memories about childhood abuse I wrote myself through the worst of it and ended up with a huge stack of dreams, memories, etc and it ended up being a memoir after several years of re-writing and editing. I read myself out of the rough parts and attack the current project again. I will always be doing that. Writing the book was painful and exhausting and I pushed myself every day past my comfort zone. Whether that makes me a pro or not I don’t know. I don’t really care. I just write.

    Liked by 2 people

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