All Writers Should Be Amateurs

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.

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2 Comments on “All Writers Should Be Amateurs”

  1. Money can be a very big motivator, obviously, but I can’t imagine putting in the hours, days, and years into writing that I have [without profit to show for it] if I didn’t truly love doing it. The money’s nice, but I’d rather be poor doing what I love than rich and miserable!

  2. Patrick says:

    Hear hear. And the moment you stop loving what you do, it becomes work. Is that what it means to become “professional”? I hope not.


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