To be professional.
What does that really mean, anyway?
I'm a young writer. Still full of many allusions, though I've shaken loose a ton over the past two years. One I'm currently grappling with is this issue of professionalism. What does it mean. How does it look. How does one put that into practice, actually. Mostly, I suppose I've related that to my behavior at Cons, on Facebook, Twitter, and this here blog. However, I read two things this weekend that tweaked my thoughts on this. The first was the following blog:
After reading, I realized what I consider to be professionalism is really just my nature. I'm not preachy, political, or opinionated by nature, so you don't see a lot of that on this blog; but I'm also not afraid to speak my mind, so I occasionally I let it out there. I don't skulk around Cons, avoiding "bad behavior" because I'm trying to be "professional", I'm actually shy and quiet by nature, not much of partier...but also not afraid when with GOOD friends (ie: in comfort zone) to let my hair down and have fun, as we've all seen thanks to the "Jump Around" video from Context 23. (Nope. No video link here. See? Shy by nature...)
The second is from Stephen King's foreword to one of Charles Grant's short story collections, Tales From the Nightside, (which you should buy right now):
...those five words say everything that needs to be said (about Charles Grant): The man is a pro.
Charles Grant works at it. Not all these stories (in said collection) came easy; he probably had physical headaches over plenty. His stomach was probably upset as he wrote some of them, he probably smoked too much over some of them, lay awake over some of them. He probably wrote some of them thinking in the back of his mind it would be a hell of a nice day to go to the beach and wrote others thinking it would be a hell of a nice day to find some long field bordered blazing autumn trees an ramble it to its far end. If he's like most writers, I imagined his back ached and his kidneys felt crunched during more than one stint at the typewriter, and I imagine that more than once his brain itself felt crunched, dismal, and as devoid of inspiration as a sleety afternoon late December.
But the opposite holds, the sunny side to this art/business that balances off the writer's sometime (often!) malaise, and his almost constant sense of loneliness as he voyages at his typewriter alone: the days when your head feels like it's busting with the need to tell the story, the days when the story simply spills out all at once, and you're reduced to chasing it with a silly, slap-happy grin on your face, the days when you feel you got, in one story or on one page or in one phrase, exactly what you meant. There are days when you finish, and put a paper clip on the manuscript, and put the manuscript in the envelope, and mail it off somewhere, and you think: "I sent off a good one. Boy, did I ever."
One of the crucial differences between the pro and the amateur is that the pro is able to place both sets of feelings - the good and the bad - within a fairly narrow range; unlike the students of many college creative-writing courses, who may consider themselves Prousts one day and feel like killing themselves the next, the pro is simply able to push one, determined to do the best he can possibly do, to grow as much as he can grow, and to perform, each day, one almost incredible feat of intellectual and imaginative strength: to look at the ream of blank paper beside the typewriter without quailing, to see not so much hostile and inimical white space but invisible words that need only be brought up and out.
Charlie Grant is this sort of writer.
I see a lot of myself in there. I've been doing a lot of lamenting the past year or so about my stories, how they're not good enough. How I'm not good enough. Worry about my abilities or scope or storytelling ability.
A lot of time worrying.
When I should just be writing.