Saturday, August 15, 2015

Do I want to be a professional?

Recently, at my writers' group, the facilitator brought up the question - how professional do I want to be?

Which makes one think, what is professional?

The easy answer is, a professional gets paid for her work while an amatuer does not. By those lights, I am a professional writer. People have purchased my books.

But I do not feel like a professional writer. I do not feel like a professional anything.

We could go the usual route, and find definitions and talk ourselves into (or out of) professionalism. But let's try something else. After all, I am a big advocate of uniqueness and personal choice, as opposed to following status quo and others' opinions. So let’s ask this question…

…Why don't I feel professional?

A professional, from my perspective:
·         dedicates time to her craft
·         is knowledgeable (like a professor).
·         respects and is respected
·         wears a suit.
Wears a suit. Okay, that's not going to happen!

Well, perhaps, maybe, if I stop and think, I mean, I wonder... After all, a suit is just a matching jacket & pants/skirt, right? So, who knows what will make its way into my wardrobe? But more relevantly, suit isn’t really the right word. There are plenty of professionals who do not wear a suit in the pursuit of their profession: cooks, sports players, bus drivers. They do have uniforms, however.

Is there a uniform for writers? Tools of the trade, yes, but uniform, I don’t think so. So, we’ll take that off the list of necessary for professionalism. The clothes do not matter (unless I’m in public of course. Then clothes would probably be appreciated.)

A professional respects and is respected. I respect everyone. Even when I'm wishing someone was anywhere else but in front of me on the highway, I respect her!

Being respected, on the other hand, isn’t something I can control. All I can do is be the best me possible and let others form their own opinions. Maybe, from that view, being a professional is like being a shaman – it’s a title your peers or your community gives you. It is an outside opinion. Nothing I can affect (or effect) there. Let’s move on.

A professional is knowledgeable. All right. I admit I don't always feel knowledgeable about writing. I don’t have a degree in writing; I’m not always sure of the grammar rules. I’m even hazy on the difference between a dash and a hyphen. (side note – I did use both "affect" & "effect" on purpose.) I definitely don’t know the rules for publishing and marketing and submissions. Which publishing house is best for which genre? Is there a writers’ union? What kind of conferences are there? For my purposes, is publisher better than agent better than self-publish? And what is a hybrid writer? (I just heard that phrase on Shark Tank.)

What do I know? I know which authors I enjoy, what writing styles, what dos and don’ts make a great story for a reader like me. I know how I write (my writing and editing process). I have learned how to cut out whole sections if they don’t feed the story (or post).

Therefore, I have learned the most important thing -- Knowledge and skill are attainable. It takes time, and practice, but they are attainable.

So, all that's left is dedication of time.

A professional dedicates time to her craft. Besides the time spent getting the product out there, the professional works at her art consistently. Not just gathering ideas, and making plans, and doing the administrative chores, but actually creating. Writing, cooking, driving, teaching, selling, buying. Actively doing whatever the profession is. Putting energy into the work itself. Being attentive and productive and consistent.

A hobby is something done when I'm in the mood. A profession... ah, a profession is something I find a way to do, regardless of my mood.

And interestingly, that's the most difficult part for me. Because writing is fun. I love writing. I rarely don't want to write. If you know me, you know I always have a writing instrument nearby. I love the flow and the getting lost in creating. I love the ideas and the possibilities. I love the insignificant little things that strike sparks in the idea machine. I just love everything about writing. Well, about actual writing.

And because it's fun, it feels totally unprofessional. Cuz shouldn't professional mean boring? Just a little drab? But how could it be drab, if one loves one's work?

And if one is dressing the job, respecting the job, knows the job inside and out, and is dedicated, doesn't that infer passion? Even love for the job? I mean, some people even look comfortable in suits!

So. There it is. The two practical things I need/ want if I want to attain professionalism in my own eyes. Knowledge about the writing field, and permission to dedicate time to the practice of writing itself. Just writing. Fingers to the keyboard, butt in the chair, writing my stories. Creating my awesome, weird, and wonderful worlds. Dispensing my words of self-realization. Being present as a writer.

Yes, I love the act of writing, and I am ready to dedicate time to it. More time. Consistent time. And I am ready to try new ways to share my worlds.

So, here we are, on the next step to professionalism.

Are you enjoying the journey?

I am. Yay!

I hope you have a great day!