In the beginning, I think most writing starts out as a hobby.  Some folks are content to stay there, while others become interested in pursuing writing on a more professional level.  While both hobbyists and professionals have their places - and both are perfectly respectable, I’ve found that many writers reside somewhere in the middle.  That middle part is where I think one wants to avoid getting caught.  

     When a writer first submerges him or herself into the world of writing, the hobbyists are the first people he or she will most likely meet.  While many established writers look down on the hobbyists, it isn’t fair to dismiss them entirely.  “Laymen” and hobbyists often offer the best advice, as they represent the general audience and offer insights that editors, agents and publishers sometimes can not. 

     There is one potential danger though.  Many hobbyists are very quick to offer advice, which is fine, so long as a new writer realizes that this is coming from someone who doesn’t write professionally.  Many of these people have never dealt with agents, publishers, editors and the like.  Many of them have not acquired the education to offer sound advice.  Also, the rules of writing and the writing business itself is in a constant state of evolution, so someone who dealt with a publisher or acquired an education ten or even five years ago, isn’t really in the loop anymore.    

    If you treat your own writing like a hobby, so will everyone else.  If writing is something you want to do professionally, then you have to be a professional long before you ever make your first dollar.  For me, I have the best of both worlds.  As a hobby, I write poetry, which I post on Facebook and very much enjoy sharing.  Then there are my books, which I agonized over and am far more possessive with.  I don’t want unprofessional advice on my novels.  Of course, I have my select group of trusted readers (some writers, some not) whose advice I ask for and welcome, but I don’t share this work with just anyone.  

    Don’t get me wrong:  I love my poetry as well, and am quite serious about it.  I have written it my entire life and imagine I always will.  But the truth is, there is very little space in the writing business for poetry, so I have never treated it the same as my stories.  I’m not interested in being a professional poet, but for me, it’s wonderful to have the best of both worlds.  I need to keep writing poetry as a hobby because I tend to get very serious about my other writing, and if I get too intense about it, it just stops being fun. 

     There is an entire sea of people out there who write.  This is wonderful, but it’s important to know what kind of writer you are.   If you want to be a professional, you need to act like one.  You must do your homework and keep up on the ever-changing business of writing.  You must always present yourself as a professional, treat agents and publishers as the professionals they are, and follow each agents’ submission guidelines without deviation.  And above all, know whose footsteps you want to follow and be very careful whose advice you take.

     Write on.

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Comments
  1. Jared, I agree to an extent but indie books are becoming more prevalent today. I prefer to be an indie writer but also respect the professional writer.
    We are all our own worst critic. :)

  2. Mimi Williams says:

    Sadly, when one seeks input from those who don’t know how to give it, it can backfire. It’s great to get feedback – in fact, it is essential. But there are those who merely like showing off their negativity rather than offering real critique. There are those who like the sound of their own voices – or the look of their own words – and one of the most difficult lessons we learn as we become better writers is how to ignore advice that isn’t helpful.

    You, my friend, make me incredibly proud.

  3. Linda Bennett says:

    Another very interesting blog. I wish you the very best with every endeavor, my friend.

  4. Ariel says:

    Mimi hit an excellent point warning of the doomsayers and soapboxers who like everyone to be taken down or that just sound off mostly nonsense, the know-it-alls who know nothing. I think it is also important to look at indie publishing not because of the painstaking aspect of traditional publishing but because of the flat-out dishonest nature of most contract publishers. There is an excellent article by Draven Ames that I will send to you, Jared, about that.

    I have always been in a position where people come to me, and I have never once in the 27 years that my work has been published or commissioned ever had to go after it myself, other than for the lark of having particular publications run something of mine. That is not to say that I haven’t had to compete with other writers, as several of my early paid pieces were ones that I had written for competitions or other challenges. But the level of rejection is not personal the way it is with something that you have invested real hopes in….especially one project that you have invested *everything* in, and need it to succeed financially as well as personally. Anyone that hasn’t been in that position shouldn’t advise someone else that is, in my opinion.

    I make not just my living, but that of several family members from my writing alone. All other income I get from other activities is earmarked for side projects as it is too off-and-on to pay the bills. One of the worst challenges to me is the bulk of my income comes from a single genre, and I have found that as a professional writer switching from one genre to another takes some research, even if you are currently publishing somewhere else. It is good to keep abreast of other works in your target genre without reading too much of them, I think. Due to my isolation, the number of contemporary works I am exposed to is limited, which I like as it doesn’t taint my creations that way. However, that could lead to unwanted comparisons–sometimes accusatory–that we have borrowed or Frankensteined together what may be to many a well-known work. Slapping the face of an original writer who wants to stay away from the crowd is the commercial trend to want new authors/works that follow the trend, so that submitting your work becomes a Catch-22 where it’s hard to win and feel good about it either way.

    There is one thing that trumps all of that: Passion. It doesn’t matter what your project is or what its content–originality may make it interesting, but it is the pure passion and drive that you open up in your work that will make it addictive. I have read series that were blockbusters that I thought were formulated drivel, and the text itself was poor grammar and riddled with typos….and I have read excellent books by timid authors that I will forever have on my bookshelves–who never got off the ground and you are lucky if you can find them via Google.

    I think your ‘possessiveness’ is part of your passion, Jared, and the methodical way you go about things will ensure that you ace the practical side of this–and hopefully after your first published novel or two you will feel the throttle open up and enjoy the best of all your worlds. ;) xx

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