The word amateur carries several meanings–some positive, some negative. To some an amateur is an unskilled participant. To others amateur connotes an unpaid participant. An amateur may be a hobbyist. The term could reflect an avocation as opposed to a vocation. Is amateur the opposite of professional? Perhaps it is in some uses, but not in this case.
The word amateur comes from the French, ultimately from Latin and means “lover of.” In its most basic sense, it captures the motivation for an endeavor. I suppose most writers at least begin as amateurs. It is difficult to imagine someone’s sacrificing his time, energy, fingertips or pencil lead for something he does not care about. The ability to endure the frustrations and (in many cases) the rejection a writer experiences goes beyond the professional pursuit. It takes the spirit of the amateur.
I heard an interview of a successful professional author once. He confessed that he hated to write. I suppose the monetary benefits of the successful, published author can motivate that person to continue to write, but I suspect it wasn’t the writing he hated so much as the requirement to write, to fulfill publisher commitments. Becoming a professional author doesn’t mean giving up true amateur status–a lover of writing.
There are things about writing that I could say I hate. I hate the effort I have to make to get started, and I hate the effort I have to make to stop. As for the actual writing part–I am all amateur. The writing is its own reward. I think the most successful, the most published, the most skilled writers have reached that level because of one thing–they are all a bunch of amateurs. God bless ‘em.
Writing is just reading before it’s written to be read…. As a writer, I am concerned with what makes good writing. As a reader, you (and I) are also interested and affected by the quality of writing. While people will have different opinions about what represents good writing, most would likely agree that the quality of the writing–and therefore its effect on the reading– depends on good description. Even non-fiction suffers if it fails to bring the reader’s mind to some visual association with the subject. I have written for technical manuals and I have written fiction, stories. Each has its challenges and rewards. One thing they have in common, as far as I am concerned, is the need for good description.
My hand copies the pages that are turning in my head… Description in a technical manual does not carry the same purpose as description in a novel, as you can imagine. In a technical manual one might say something like Remove the red wire from the positive terminal by loosening the terminal lug (counter-clockwise) with a small Phillips head screwdriver. In a novel one might say something like Phillip rubbed shaky fingers across his damp forehead as he stared at the red wire. The screwdriver slipped in the grease and grit that covered his hands and now smeared his forehead like war paint. The smell of hot metal and plastic warned him to hurry. They did tell him it was the red wire, didn’t they? The former describes the steps in a process. The latter describes details for the purpose of drawing the reader’s senses into the scene. The task for a writer is to develop the appropriate type and amount of description without over doing or under doing it. Read the rest of this entry »