The Differences Between Hobby & Professional Writers

I spent the past weekend surrounded by over 600 writers at a conference. I’m sure if I asked any one of those writers whether they considered themselves a professional writer or a hobby writer, they’d have unanimously claimed the title of “professional.” In fact, not many writers I know would consider themselves hobby writers. And yet, are we, who don the title of “professional” distinguishing ourselves enough from hobby writers?

What are key differences between hobby and professional writers?

Here are a few of my thoughts on the differences. I’d love to hear yours—so make sure you let me know in the comments!

Motivation: Hobby writers may dream of publication, but their ambitions for it are less defined. Professional writers usually have the long term goal of making money from their writing.

Pleasure: Hobby writers put pen to paper for the pure pleasure of it. Professional writers hopefully enjoy the writing process, but they don’t let feelings alone dictate their process. They write even when every word must be wrenched from the brain.

Inspiration: Hobby writers are satisfied to open their notebooks whenever inspiration strikes. But career writers sit down in front of the keyboard even when they must drag the muse kicking and screaming back from vacation.

Work Time: Hobby writers are at liberty to let other life events or the busyness of activities step in the way of the story. They can stare out the window, sip tea, or surf the net instead of tapping away at the keyboard. Professionals, however, protect their work time, make it a priority, and devote concerted effort to it.

Standards: Hobby writers are working to please themselves. If the quality of the work suits them, then that’s what matters. Professional writers adhere to high standards, learn how the publishing industry works, and realize that books are for readers and not just for themselves.

Investment: Hobby writers don’t need to invest in taking their writing to the next level. But professionals look for ways to grow by putting time and money toward continuing education and even outside consultation.

Image: Hobby writers can wear bikinis on their blogs and belch out the alphabet on twitter. Professional writers intentionally work at creating an image and concern themselves with long term impressions.

Final thoughts on hobby and professional writers.

Sometimes even professional writers need breaks. From time to time we all need an extended vacation from our jobs—and that includes writing. I had a long writing hiatus during the years when I was busy having all my babies. If we need a break, we should give ourselves permission. And yet I urge us to all make sure those “breaks” are valid and not stemming from lack of diligence.

Not everyone who starts off as a professional writer will stay one. Let’s face it, not all of us pursuing a writing career are going to stick with it. That’s the same with any job choice we might make. Perhaps we learn that we don’t like writing for publication as much as we thought we would. Or maybe we find another pursuit more to our gifting and liking. However, I urge us to consider the motivation for quitting before we do. If discouragement is our main reason, then we need to remind ourselves that discouragement must give birth to perseverance before perseverance can give birth to publication.

When we act like professionals, others in the industry will take us more seriously. Agents and editors can usually tell when an author has done the work to grow and has learned about the industry. And they’ll be much more impressed by an author who’s written more than one book. As James Scott Bell says in The Art of War For Writers, “Publishers and agents invest in careers. They want to know that you can do this over and over again.”

Are there any other key differences between hobby and professional writers? Which are you? And if you’re a professional, are you acting like one? Do others see it?

P.S. Remember to answer this week's easy question about The Preacher's Bride to be entered into the drawing to win a copy! Trivia Question #3.

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