Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Am I Professional Writer or Hobbyist? WHO CARES?

Here's my blog on the whole "what's a professional writer" thing, though other people have already said it much better than I ever could:

...so here's the brief:

1. I get up every morning at 2:30 to write, have done so for six years. I write when the kids nap, during lunch breaks, on notepads during staff meetings, and sometimes before bed at night. When I have a week to myself - like next week, when Madi goes to day camp - I'll spend six hours a day writing

2. I have sold stuff. A few times, that actually helped pay a some bills, or usually, pay for gas on the way home from a Con

3. I try my best to treat everyone with respect, courtesy - be they an A LISTER or someone just starting out - try my best to take offense at nothing, and I do my best to always be polite

4. I'm timely with the rarely solicited work

5. I realize that writing is both business and art

6. And I try to take nothing personally

I have yet to sell a short story for the HWA's  "professional rate." It's certainly a goal of mine, but more because I'd like to earn equal to my efforts than as a status symbol, something to prove to myself that I'm a "professional." I certainly want to land a mid-list novel with an advance, at least once, but that's more because I'd like to see in-store distribution of my work, just once.

Am I a professional writer or hobbyist?


See, I write all the time - obsessively, sometimes - not because I need to convince myself I'm a professional, but because I HAVE TO. I'M A WRITER. I have a burning desire to WRITE, all the time. To me, writing = breathing. It's a necessary life-function. As to whether or not I'm a professional, as I mentioned on Brian Keene's blog the other day, I would hope that would be determined by my work ethic, integrity, behavior, timeliness and treatment of others in the genre.

The best response to all this is Robert Swartwood's, whose very situation demolishes that blog. Robert has made self-publishing work for him. He no longer holds a day job and can afford to write full-time, one of his books becoming a USA TODAY Bestselling Author. But by that blog's definition, he's not a professional writer.

Also, Stuart David Schiff, editor of the famed WHISPERS magazine and anthologies, worked full time as a dentist. Editing WHISPERS - which collected some giants in speculative fiction - was his passion, and I dare say he left a HUGE mark on the genre. But, according to that blog, he wasn't a professional, either.

I should clarify - I've never met the author of that blog, have no personal feelings toward them, and this isn't an attack on them. But the blog was casually dismissive towards the hundreds - thousands? - of writers laboring dutifully at their craft. If I'd read that as a new writer, I might've said: "Well, I'm done..."

Am I a professional writer? Who cares? This is what I do, it's what I was MADE to do, and I'll continue right on doing it.