If you are a person who uses written words to communicate ideas, you are a writer. If you wish to make a living as a writer there are numerous opportunities. Writing-World.com list 25 different writing careers, but, if you are creative, you can find ingenious ways to support yourself using your craft.
When I ask, “What kind of writer are you?” I’m not asking about the sort of writing you do to earn your keep, or your style, or whether you are traditionally published or an indie. I’m more curious about your approach to writing. Are you a dabbler, hobbyist, or professional?
A person who writes in an irregular or superficial manner is a dabbler. Perhaps you pen a little poetry or scribble down a short story. You have lots of ideas, but not the discipline or desire to work diligently at mastering the craft.
“Surely there were others like me, born without an inkling of direction. The wanderers, the amblers, the dabblers, united by our purposeless mantra-I have no idea what to do with my life.” ~ Suzanne Selfors, Coffeehouse Angel
Do you find writing relaxing and pleasurable, but not something you want to do as a main occupation? If so, you might be a hobbyist. I prefer using this term to “amateur,” which implies someone who does not do something very well. Hobbyist may be very good at the craft and even have published books.
“My father said writing was a nice hobby, … Not something you could make money at.” ~ Tess Gerritsen, retired physician and internationally best-selling novelist
As a writing enthusiast, you write for the love of writing, but you don’t identify yourself as a writer. You introduced yourself by your profession, and then as a writer: “I’m a EMT who also writes.”
I always treated writing as a profession, never as a hobby. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. ~ Laurell K. Hamilton, American fantasy and romance writer.
If you see yourself above all else as a writer, you approach your writing with a professional attitude, and maintain professional behavior in your writing activities, you are a professional writer, even if you don’t make a lot of money at it.
In sports, money earned for performance distinguishes a professional athlete from an amateur. In the writing profession, the distinction is not so clear-cut. You can’t define a professional writer by the amount of money earned. There are many struggling authors who see themselves above all else as a professional writer, not a hobbyist. They introduce themselves as an author who also waits on tables.
Selling books (and making money) does not mean that you are a professional writer. There are best-sellers that are badly written, such as 50 Shades of Grey. A professional writer cares about the craft, work hard to perfect his or her skills, and hires an editor to ensure quality and out of respect for the reader. It’s a matter of attitude, not about making money.
Remuneration is the motivation for some writers. Jack Canfield, originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, created a formula for turning books into cash. He has sold over 123 million of these self-improvement books. Having a successful series and making lots of money does not make one a good writer.
Defining what type of writer you are is subjective. Whether you see yourself as a dabbler, a hobbyist, or a professional, I hope that you will strive to be a good writer: take your work seriously, develop a professional mindset, be professional in dealing with the various aspects of publishing, and strive to tell your story in the best way possible and for the delight of the reader.
What kind of writer are you? I would love to know. Please comment.