What is A Professional Writer?

“Is writing about money or being more professional?”

Professional WriterThis is an excellent question and one that several people have asked over the course of me writing for this blog. As such, I want to give it the air time it deserves. Standards, Professionalism, Working Smarter. Over the next couple posts we will examine this issue in more detail and (hopefully) come to some sort of conclusion. The reason this is such a tough concept to deal with as a writer is that common practice is to consider the concept of making money as being synonymous to being a professional writer. On one hand, this isn’t incorrect. There are still these kind of definitions rolling around:
“participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs”
“engaged in by persons receiving financial return”
There is a caveat here though! These types of definitions, I believe, are borne of a rise in our lives relying more and more heavily on making money, and how one makes it in as large amounts as possible. As such they detract from what I believe to be the essence of the word “professional.” Consider this: definitions are primarily subjective in the sense that they apply to a specific context. In the case of the definitions above they both were relating to professional sport-players.  Financial return and amateurs tend not to be synonymous with high standards and high income. I actually prefer a definition I found in a medical dictionary:
the whole body of persons engaged in a calling”
            To me this speaks to the soul of what we are doing here. Many of us write because we can’t imagine ourselves doing anything else. Others of us just write because the words flow through us and we feel inspired to write them down. For others it is the community that we immerse ourselves in that inspires us and keeps us writing.  That’s not to say that for some of us we don’t just write because we happen to be getting paid to do it, but I’m confident when we are discussing what it means to be a professional writer… there is just more to it.
 If we trace the somewhat complicated origin of the word and its etymology through history, professional actually comes from roots meaning “to profess” or “acknowledge” and usually pertained to some sort of vow to live up to the highest standard of the skill or trade you practiced.  Writing is subjective, and yet people have standards when it comes to what they like. Isn’t this what we aspire to do as writers- what are our standards?



            So what does being a professional mean to you? Does it mean making money with your writing? Does it reflect the standard you expect from yourself in your writing? Or does it mean something totally different? I want to hear from you! Then in my next post I want to discuss how to consolidate being a professional with making money into a balanced and healthy lifestyle for you as a writer. The starting point to all of this is setting a standard that you will follow.