Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Professional Writers

New Word: 
Lucubrator- One who writes scholarly material.

Is your writing an enjoyable hobby or is it your profession? I know many people, myself included, work full time jobs to pay the bills but still call ourselves writers. Where is the delineation between professional and recreational writers? I know dozens of people who would love to make their living as a writer, stay home, and leave the old 9-5 job behind forever. Does having that other career, teaching in my case, mean I can’t claim writing as my career?

I think there are a number of things to mark a professional writer and being published doesn’t have to be one of them. A person serious about a writing career will pursue opportunities to improve their craft by attending workshops and conferences. Pennwriters is a group I count on for such opportunities. They will work with critique partners and join communities of writers, seeking out those of like mind.
A professional writer will commit to the time needed to create works, edit them and make contacts with others in their profession. This means more than sitting at the keyboard for a few hours each day. In today’s world a writer must network with readers and fellow authors. Another aspect of this is the willingness to spend time on a piece of work to improve it. How many times will you willingly rewrite and edit a manuscript or story? Is there a limit to the changes you’ll make in your masterpiece?
Does writing one piece a professional make? Will you write that one story and circulate it until kingdom comes or will you continue to create new work, each piece an improvement over earlier works?
Are you committed to a writing career forever or are you giving yourself a certain amount of time to make it and then you’ll give it up if you don’t? I know a teacher who took a leave for one year to write a fantasy novel. He did and he never sold it. He quit trying. I don’t consider him a professional writer. You have to be in for the long haul though there are those who’ve made it big with a first novel.
How many rejections can you rise above? Will you keep going no matter the frustrations and disappointments? Experienced writers will warn you of the rejections to come but even when expecting them they can hit you low. And even once you’ve sold some books or stories, there is no guarantee you’ll sell the next one.
So are you in this business with eternal hope? Are you a professional or a hobbyist? Have you considered quitting? What keeps you going after being rejected?


  1. Some deep questions!
    I really enjoy what I do for living and have no plans to make writing full time. Writing a book was a personal challenge. I guess I'm a professional because I was paid for my efforts, but I don't intend to make a career of it.
    So, not sure where the heck that falls in the equation!

  2. Ooo...thought provoking questions. At the moment my writing is a hobby and something that brings me great enjoyment. However, I'd like to make it into a career. So, I guess I'm in the middle at the moment!

  3. Hi Susan:

    For me, *professional writer* means gets paid to write.

    I've gotten paid to write and I've written for free. Either way, I'm still a writer.

  4. Alex, I'm glad you enjoy your day job. I do also though I would love to retire and write full time. I think you have two careers going on at the same time.

  5. Ellie, I'm betting you will make it your career sometime since you enjoy it so much.

  6. I don't have a limit on the number of times I'll edit, as long as I believe the work is "workable." But I do reach a point where I have read it so many times that I have to set it aside in order to be able to come back to it with fresh eyes.

  7. Great questions! I'd love to make this a career--definitely!

  8. If I could write for a profession I would.

  9. Helen, I know what you mean about fresh eyes. I do that with all my manuscripts before I give it the final edit before submission.

  10. I'm with you, Chris and Christina. I would love having coffee in my home office in the mornings and powering up my home computer to write instead of drinking from a travel mug at school and powering up the work computer to update grades.