Posted by Eileen Astels
I attended a writer's conference last week, and one of the hot topics that kept recurring for me was the concept of writing as a professional, rather than as a hobbyist.
So, what defines one from the other?
Well, the consensus seemed to hover around the concept of commitment. Are you committed to write for publication (even if you don't know when that day will come), or are you just a dabbler, testing the literary waters sort of speak?
In one session of the continuing education class that I took, three elements that make you a professional writer was proposed.
3) Support System
Under Structure, setting a specific time to regularly write each day came into discussion. But what if you can't write each day, even for ten minutes? Are you doomed from the professional status if instead you write eight hours straight every Friday? Not likely. The idea is to develop a schedule, one that is strict, that you maintain faithfully, but works within your lifestyle, full time job, family responsibilities, etc.
Once you define when you are going to write, the next thing to consider is where. Create a place that is solely for your writing needs. Like your day job, you have a place that is yours, even if it's only your locker; in writing, you need a defined place designated for creating your written work. An office would be wonderful, but with technology today, a little alcove for you and your laptop would suffice, as long it's a place where you can concentrate and punch out words.
Of course, writing isn't much good if you don't have an idea and a goal to work on and toward. To be professional, you'll be typing words with a specific idea in mind (for some form of publication, paid or not) and you'll be working toward a daily goal of say four pages, a set number of hours of diligent writing, a short article, research findings, or whatever your specific goal of accomplishment is for that designated writing time.
Administratively, to be professional, you'll need to begin growing a contact list for the future marketing days ahead, and you'll need some type of filing system to keep all your writing needs organized. As well, a calendar for scheduling your WRITING TIME, writing commitments, project due dates, speaking engagements, research appointments, etc. is a tool every professional writer requires. Personally, I like to see a month at a glance for this and since I'm one of those people who keeps updating my calendar, I like to print mine out and use sticky notes on it that I can transfer from one version to another easily. You can check out http://www.incompetech.com/ for free online calendars.
Once you have your structure in place to be a professional writer, a vision is required. What's your vision? What do you hope to achieve via your writing? Short articles to sell to magazines? Non-fiction or fiction for publication in book form? What are you trying to write and what financial goal do you have in mind? How can you achieve your financial goal? How many articles will you need to sell this month to bring in that desired compensation? Be realistic. If you're lucky enough to not require income from your writing right now, what non-financial vision are you working for? A completed book to pitch at your next writer's conference? Ultimately, a vision is linked closely to your goals. Get them aligned and do what is necessary to achieve success.
Lastly, get a support system in place. Through the years I have discovered that writing is 10% first draft, and 90% revision/editing (With my earlier novels, it's more like 1% first draft, 99% revision/edits). So, if you are like me, you'll need critique buddies, readers, and mentors who support your writing vision. Once you get to a certain point you'll then need professional editors and agents to further guide your writing efforts. And, of course, you'll require your families support so that you have the time to write (guilt-free), and the emotional backing and encouragement required to push you over the tough hurdles and into the next valley.
So, what are you? A writer hobbyist, or a professional writer?
Surrendering to Him,