“Professional writers write for money. Amateurs write for enjoyment. If you are writing with no expectation of being paid, you are an amateur.”
I read this somewhere, in a comment by an author someplace on the Internet.
It set me thinking.
My approach to writing so far can be summarised as follows:
1.Write the stories in your head, write them the best way you can. Write daily, and try to improve your craft each day.
2.Submit your writing only if you think you have said what you want to say the best way you can say it.
3.If you get accepted, move on. If you get rejected, move on. Either way you would not stop writing, so there is no need to dance too wildly in your joy of acceptance and appreciation, and mope for days because a rejection kicked your butt.
4.Write because that is your place in the world. Writers write. If money and recognition come your way, that is a bonus.
But the statement, “If you are writing with no expectation of being paid, you are an amateur” gave me pause for thought.
So does placing money as my secondary goal, far below my primary goal of crafting the best story I can, make me an amateur?
A plumber is a professional, a lawyer is a professional, a doctor is a professional, and it is true: they all get paid to do their job. So if I’m not paid to write my stories, and write religiously despite the fact, does it reduce me to the status of an amateur?
I’ve published stories in print anthologies by established publishing houses, been mostly paid a pittance for my work, and in some cases not at all. Does that make me an amateur?
If ten years from now, I continue to get paid next to nothing for my writing, (which is, after all, the case with most writers), will I remain an amateur?
This troubled me for a while.
I wondered whether I should let go of the sort of stories I write, and go for the genres which sell better—try my hand at crime and romance, just to see if I could not make enough to make a living, and thus graduate to become a professional.
I looked around and figured that most genre authors do not manage to make a living out of their writing, even the bestselling ones. So, the fact that they continue to write shows that they write because they want to, or because they have a passion for it.
I’m in good company, I realized.
I’ll continue to write articles to make money in order to support my career as a fiction author. It may not be the best-paid career in the world, but it is still a career.
And then, I thought of another thing: if I were a doctor, I would still treat patients for free if I thought that was the best for the patient.
Conclusion: I would have remained somewhat of an amateur in any profession. So if I’m an amateur at writing fiction, so be it. Writing is what I do. It is my place in this world, and being the best writer I can be is still my primary goal. If I do get paid to write fiction, that’s great. If I don’t, that’s great too.
So, are you an amateur or a professional? And how do you decide which is which?
Thanks, Misha, for letting me guest at your excellent blog, and thank you to everyone reading the post. Any questions and comments, I’m here to chat with you all.
Damyanti lives more in her head than in this world, adores her husband, and loves her pet fish and plants. She is an established writer for magazines and journals. Her short fiction has been published in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Muse India and in print anthologies by Marshall Cavendish, Monsoon Books, and MPH publications. Her book, A to Z Stories of Life and Death, is available for download Kindle Smashwords Nook and Diesel.