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The Professional Amateur

I’m not sure what it means to be a professional writer.

I mean, I have a degree in it and business cards that stake the claim to being a managing editor, but “being a writer” sounds much more glamorous than the things I do each day.

For me, being a “professional writer” would mean I could spend the day composing brilliant blog posts instead of trying to remember an idea I had in the shower, only to forget that brilliant idea—and to wash the shampoo out of my hair—the second I step out of the shower and rush off to work for the day to do 95 things unrelated to actually writing. 

But despite what you might gather from this blog at times, I am paid write words. In a professional sense, that means that:

  • I will always read the letter from the editor and the masthead in the front of magazines and then subsequently marvel at the amount of staff—writers, copy editors, creatives—that other magazines have.
  • Not knowing the difference between  its/it’s and your/you’re is a legitimate reason for me to dislike you or unfriend you on Facebook.
  • I’ll always be looking for something with “more creative freedom that allows me time to write.” This declaration will usually come immediately after I find out how much my friends in other jobs—waitressing, playing hackey sack, working at Starbucks—make for a living.
  • I hate the phone, as the only time it rings is when calls from PR companies are transferred through numerous times a day, while the calls that I make go ignored.
  • There is a certain amount of sick satisfaction when finding an error in another publication, as long as it’s not in your own.
  • Budgets deal with stories and not money, which is a good thing, seeing as there is no real money to budget.
  • Even though I’m far from being a grammar snob, I mentally correct people’s grammar in social settings. Trips to Walmart and family events keep me extra busy.
  • If it’s not on a Post-It note, I refuse to recognize the importance.
  • Friends will ask me to fix their resumes (for free), which is ironic because “fix up my resume” will forever be on a Post-It note next to my computer.
  • I don’t Tweet, as the laziness of language makes me physically wince.
  • Sometimes it feels physically impossible to write a simple “going to the store” message without giving descriptive details or abiding by the AP Stylebook rules.
  • Despite what people think, only 10 percent of my job involves writing. The other 90 percent involves putting out metaphorical fires, writing to-do lists that include things like “write to-do list” and running around the office screaming about how “deadlines are not suggestions or starting points for negotiations!”
  • …and HEADDESK.

So do these things make me a professional or just an amateur with OCD who put it to good use in a professional capacity? I’m not sure, but I do I know that I’m paid for it—and I do have business cards and websites that verify my “expertise.”

But on the other hand, the writing that I get the most enjoyment from is the writing that I do for free—sometimes twice a day when I’m stressed or provoked by an alluring prompt.

(Insert indifferent shrug of bony shoulders here.)

I suppose that if spending my time away from writing for employment is spent writing for enjoyment makes me an amateur, so be it.

After all, it’s cheaper than professional therapy—which is not in any budget.

This post was written in response to the Studio30 Plus prompt this week—"The Amateur.”

Send all complaints to them, all compliments to me.