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