Professional, To Be or Not To Be…

FMWriters is traveling the web via the Merry Go Round Blog Tour. Site members have grouped together to write monthly on themed topics and turn the blog tour concept on its head: we’re not the ones touring: you are, as you read one writer’s perspective after another. This is my contribution to the Merry Go Round Tour. Enjoy your ride. ~ Dawn

This is an interesting topic for me right now, considering the workshop I’ll be attending in a few days. My definitions may change between now and its finish. If it does, I’ll post a follow-up to this.

In my mind, there are two levels of professional writer.

The first and most important is the manner in which you handle your writing, regardless of how many stories (if any!) you’ve published. Do you treat your submissions with care, reading the guidelines each time and making sure you have the correct editor’s name and address? Do you follow instructions regarding simultaneous submissions (the same story to multiple markets) and multiple submissions (several stories to the same market)? Do you take the feedback some took the time to provide you and –if you’re not ready to use it– secure it someplace to analyze later?  In my opinion, if you’re writing to submit, you really should be acting professionally. The publishing industry is not about the writers, it’s about the readers, and the editors do their best to satisfy those readers. If they send you a form rejection, it’s not because you suck; it’s because they have a magazine to run to keep their readers happy so they can maybe buy your next story instead.

How do you treat your writing? Do you try your hardest to give it life? Do you sit down and write on a schedule? Do you claim responsibility to yourself if you don’t get done what you planned because you were lazy? Your written work is important, a learning experience at the very least. If you act professionally, you’ll learn from your mistakes, not just make the same ones repeatedly.

The second level of being a professional writer is synonymous with success. Writing and selling enough fiction to transfer your passion into your day job. This is the dream for many of us. Some fear it as much as they yearn for it. Some of us read Whatever and sigh, knowing John Scalzi’s got it made. But, does he? If he stopped writing tomorrow, would he be able to keep up his income and support his family? Maybe. But the mortgage isn’t paid on maybes. (Sorry for picking on you JS, but I’m slightly miffed that I missed you at VP by two years. So there.)

If you can’t tell by my goals and the pressure I put on myself to meet those goals, I want the dream. I want the day-job-writer so I don’t have to wake at 4:30 in the morning so I can get words on my novel. It’d be much nicer writing them at 6:30. Then going for a run or a swim. Then writing some more. Get some lunch, prep dinner for the family, work on revisions while the kids do their homework. Family time after dinner. Leisurely reading before bed. Maybe I’d even be able to play video games again–no, the jury’s out on that one.

So that’s the fun side, the daydream. The reality I see is a calendar with dates circled in red and maybe occasionally getting up at 4:30am so I can make a tight deadline or simply because I had such an awesome scene to write, I couldn’t wait until 6:30 and had to get up and get to it right away.

There’s more to it, I know. And maybe one day, I’ll see for myself. If that’s your goal too, I wish you a healthy sprinkling of muse-dust.

Happy Writing


Today’s post was inspired by Forward Motion’s Merry-Go-Round topic,  “What Professional Means To Me”.  If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read about their ideas, then check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Bonnie is up next at Cowgirl in New England.


7 responses to “Professional, To Be or Not To Be…

  1. Wow. I’m not sure I live up to your first level. Great definitions!

  2. I think I’d put a level in between your two levels. (Actually, being a full-time novelist is probably level 10, but I don’t know enough about the levels needed to get there.)

    My middle level: Are you planning a career?
    Are you studying the business, paying attention to who’s who, watching for new opportunities (from new markets to the rise of self-publishing)?
    Are you taking advantage of opportunities–whether contest deadlines, anthology invites, podcast invites for promotion, etc?
    Are you writing for the career you want to have? Do you focus on projects that are in genres you could spend several decades in? Do you think about how your short stories could help market your novels, or choose projects to work on that would help build an audience if you decide to self-publish?

    • Eiizabeth those are awesome questions. A lot of the time, I think I’m reaching out to people like me who do have aspirations above hobby writing. I hope that my posts aren’t entirely geared to that level though. Anyone who loves to write at any level and ability are still writers. Heck my 6 year old wrote 3 stories yesterday and she’s going around saying she’s a writer. She totally is

      • That’s cute! I hope you’ll save those for her when she’s older. My mom gave me a big box of my old school work a few years ago, and there were some hilarious stories in there.

  3. Very nicely said. I wish more people read this blog and paid a lot of attention to that first level of professionalism you talk about. I see too little of it these days, and I don’t just mean when I’m doing stuff for Niteblade. I mean just as a writer looking at other writers. It makes me sad, but whatcha gonna do?

    • Rhonda: We learn from the people around us who share those thngs. I have two writing friends I met online. I’ve known them almost 10 years now and have probably asked them hundreds of questions in that time. I’m grateful for their advice and friendship.

      I’m hoping by blogging, someone else will learn a piece that will help them. !

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