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Proffessional or Amateur writer?

February 18, 2009

What sort of writer are you?

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach was attributed to say.  Writing, like the other creative arts, draws people by the heart strings where folk feel compelled to commit words to a page. We don’t become writers for fame or fortune; but rather we have a message or story to share and this is the way it manifests within our bodies.

In saying that, most writers, if asked if they are a professional or amateur, will respond with the later and more likely flush or change the subject quickly, as if embarrassed to admit a dream. For many writers, publicly admitting that you ‘write’ is the first step to accepting your mantle and role. Its important for us to remember that every famous writer started out as an amateur; holding down a different “paying job” in order to expand into this passionate career.  Writers are drawn from all walks of life, from farmer to lawyer, nurses to priests, teachers to stay at home parents.

Who would have thought a single mother from an unfashionable area in the UK would produce blockbuster novels which in turn evolved into incredible movie experiences? J R Rowling had a story to share and love or hate it;  the world would be a poorer place with out Harry Potter. No doubt Stephan King is best known for his particular style of thrillers, but also has a solid base of instructional books to assist emerging writers. It comes as no surprise that he had been a teacher  and in reading some of his work, perhaps its not a huge stretch of the imagination to work out where at least some of his demons came from…

Key Indicators

In any profession, there are a number of key indicators which separate the beginners from those more experienced. Professional writers take their work seriously, adopt a certain attitude, model styles from established writers, seek and accept critiques of their work, constantly educate themselves and have clear goals and outcomes for their writing careers.

The most important one, especially with writing, is to adopt a professional attitude toward the work you produce and the way in which you treat your priorities within writing. You do not need the latest laptop or a separate room devoted to your writing in order to be a professional. (The first Harry Potter was written on a train on scraps of paper; no doubt many other great works also had similar beginnings)  Attitude is the way your treat yourself, others and the time you have devoted to your writing.

Modeling is the process by which you analyze and understand the writing of others and in so doing learn how to craft your own work. Modeling does not mean to copy anothers work, but to integrate the style or flavour into your own work, culminating in your own unique approach to the subject area.  Its important for a writer to not only write and explore thier approach; but to read extensively. If you are clear on the genre you prefer to write in, research and read the notable ‘greats’ within that arena. If not; you have a veritable smorgasboard of literature to explore.

At Write Anything we are fortunate to have the opportunity for regular peer group critique  of our short stories in the Friday Fiction area – as well as other periodic competitions and creative carnivals. Utilize this opening to practice your review writing and to notice the styles others apply in their work.  Actively seek feedback on your work and more importantly, execute the advice once you have integrated it fully. Be gracious when giving and receiving feedback, especially within this writing community. Everyone has a path of learning in front of them. A cautionary note however is attached with accepting criticism , beware the creative monsters and those who are not supportive of your work.

Professionals constantly seek improvement and education by attend courses to improve their grammar and understanding of a genre they are writing in as well as in accepting critique on their current work. If you take your work seriously, value the time and effort you have spent , then so will others.

Define your Activities – Write a Mission Statement.

Mission statements are not for the exclusive use of executives or blue chip company boardrooms.  No matter where or what you are doing; if you don’t have a compelling reason for your direction and a map on how to get there, then you will end up frustrated and lost.

A “mission statement”  will assist defining what and what-not to focus on as you develop as a writer.  Be clear about what your goals are with your writing (eg enter three National Level short story competitions this year, three published articles in an industry specific magazine etc.)  As most writers admit – procrastination and involving oneself in time wasting activities are the main thieves within your creative space.  Armed with your mission statement, you can make the choice to whether surfing the net for hours researching a specific point is the best use of your time when compared with another activity which might bring you closer to your goals and in living your mission statement.

Be enthusiastic about what you do as once the joy has gone, then writing will become a chore and just another activity. Writing, like all other creative pursuits, requires soul and heart in order for words to come to life for your audience.

Despite everything – amateur or professional – a writer is one who writes.

“Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.”
Melinda Haynes

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3 Comments
  1. February 18, 2009 5:57 am

    One of the first things that I did when I decided to to write as a profession … I went out and ordered myself some business cards. It was the first time ever that I had had my name on a business card. It makes a big difference when you meet people, say you write and offer a business card.

    The other thing you touched on, which is something that I think is important – is professional development – choosing what courses/books/conferences/festivals etc you want to attend to assist with your growth as a writer. As a self employed (yes I know we all wish that it meant $’s) individual you need to take control of your professional development because no one else is going to do it for you.

    And loved the quote from Bach – such an insight man🙂

  2. February 18, 2009 6:52 am

    Go the business cards! With some of them with your name inscribed – you ARE someone..:)

    On mine – under my name I have “Thaumaturg” as my job title/ role… and do you know – hardly anyone ever asks what it is. Everywhere I go – airport security, credit card applications, booking accomodation – where the form asks my proffession I write that…. and no-one ever asks……

    (its a worker of miracles…so tell me what mother isn’t.. and what writer doesn’t have that capability?)

  3. February 18, 2009 8:00 am

    Annie, I love the term Thaumaturge!

    I love it so much I have a Ruler of the World who entitles himself as such. Well, he calls himself the Thau. xP

    But I agree. The fact that I AM somebody and what I do IS important is sometimes enough to get me out of a self-pitying rut and get on with it.🙂

    It’s all about the positive thinking, and the pushing back of procrastination until later. Ha, procrastination of procrastination.😛

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