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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pro or no?

All the diverse responses from my posting about pay for creative people sparked a fire in my mind regarding the question of professional versus amateur. Many of the professional groups I belong to have a two-tier system where you have to have sold X amount to belong to the "pro" level. Yet every group has differing criterion and calls the levels different things. From "Pre-published" to "Associate" (sold a bit but not enough) to "Affiliate" to "Full" (Pro) member, the list goes on and on. And of course they need some criterion for membership. But still...

So: What does it mean to be an amateur? Or a professional? Can you be both at the same time? (I believe you can.)

After long thought I've decided what comprises a pro for me is more what they do. What a pro does:
Realizes, accepts and embraces that anything creative is also hard work.
Is willing to continue to learn and question and challenge the work.
Understands that criticism can be the best tool.
Understands that all judgment is subjective.
Understands that rejection is part of the process.
And most important, the sign of a professional in the creative world: Keeps going.

The last means no matter what. No matter the setbacks, the rejections, the lack of recognition or pay, the difficulty of getting up and creating each day. Keeps going.

So, dear reader, what do you think of my list? Do you agree with my criterion? Does something need to be removed? Added?

30 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

I like your criteria. I also think that most organizations will still have the hurdle of pay to get across. The same way some writers' organizations only consider you for membership if you've published with a publisher who pays at least a certain amount of royalty.

So, I guess what I'm saying is I agree with you, but some organizations may not.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Anton Gully said...

I like your definition of a pro!

Helen - what about a writer, or other creative type, who runs their own web shop, posts free content but makes their living from the merch they sell? eg the web comic business model. They're professionals, IMO.

It seems the horror and SF professional organisations are clinging onto a dwindling supply of paper magazines that offer qualifying payments that will count towards membership. Since most trade bodies are by definition political, they'll have to broaden their definitions of professional or watch forlornly as the money for their bun dances dries up.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have a very simplistic view: an amateur does something for the love of it, a professional does it for the money, hence it is possible to be both, however, once you become a professional often the love you once had fades and it becomes just a job.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, I agree with you, Helen, there has to be some criterion for a group. And professional has always meant paid money.

However, I also agree with Anton, that nowadays how writers and other creative folks get paid is changing drastically.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Anton, excellent point about the horror and SF groups (and there are others in other genres). I know of a couple of people making good money on the web--but none of it through sales to the traditional paper outlets, so they're not pros?

The world has changed. Adapt or die.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Jim, and I'd add that once the passion fades and it becomes a job, you lose a lot of professionalism. That's been my experience with people in all sorts of work.

Helen Ginger said...

I don't run any of those groups, so I can't really speak for them, but I think some writing groups feel they have to have something that establishes who can be a full member and who is an associate or perhaps not a member at all. That doesn't mean the person isn't a professional. It just means they don't qualify for that particular group.

Anton, they probably will have to broaden their inclusion policy. Perhaps change it to a method that includes more of the writers who have embraced other forms of publication.

Helen
Straight From Hel

June Calender said...

I would add that a pro never ceases trying to improve his/her skill and judgment. I agree that professional is a set of criteria such as you list and if one makes no money s/he is still a professional -- except in the eyes of the IRS.

Conda V. Douglas said...

I've established casual writing groups before, Helen, and it's even a problem there: how to establish what a certain level a writer is on? Unless it's totally obvious, Stephen King or someone who's never written before, it's a struggle.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Good adds, June and thanks!

Enid Wilson said...

Keeping the momentum is very important. I've been procastinating a lot lately...

Really Angelic

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, Enid, there's a lot of strength in simply keeping going--but it's easy to procrastinate during the holidays and hard to get back on track afterwards.

Carol Kilgore said...

I think we can only choose to behave in a professional manner. Or not. That choice is up to each of us. What others use to establish a "professional" is up to them. Each will have his, her, or its own criteria depending upon what it wants a professional to mean.

Kathy McIntosh said...

I like your definition, Conda, but agree that organizations must set some criteria for their membership levels.
I fear that some allow associates (affiliates, amateurs, whatever)only as revenue sources. Others provide tools to help their members grow. Then the fees and the levels are worthwhile.
I'm not sure I agree with Anton that earning money from merch, etc. constitutes being a professional. I think the money stream should come from the skill. But it is becoming blurry these days.

SWUBIRD said...

Conda:

I think your list is right on. I can only add that you must have a sincere love of reading and writing. One guy I know writes all the time, but her never reads. I asked him why he doesn't read and he said he didn't want to pollute his creative juices. What? Needless to say, he's never written anything worth reading.

Happy trails.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Carol, true, true--but doesn't everyone having "personal" criteria become confusing? Especially for something so subjective (hence why it becomes all about money).

Conda V. Douglas said...

Kathy, good points--and yes, with the advent of the web and people making good money with good content...very blurry.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Swu, ohmigosh, how could I forget reading?! If you don't read, you can't write!

Stephen Tremp said...

It is important for anyone to understand judgment (and criticism) is subjective. One cannot be afraid of rejection. I osten to feedback and do not take it personal when people are vocal to say the least in their judgments, especially when I blog about science and spirituality at the same time. Things can get a bit crazy sometimes depending on the audience responding.

Stephen Tremp

Bethany Wiggins said...

What a lovely post. And you are so right. If you don't keep going, you'll never be a writer. I wish I could say that I woke up one morning and wrote a dream into a book, and a year later is was a bestseller. Not true, ha ha ha! I wrote for five+ years, and five manuscripts before I was good enough to get an agent to finally consider me. Sheesh. It is a good thing I write for the love of writing above anything else. Otherwise I would have never touched the keyboard again after that 100th rejection.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Stephen, yes, but it took me a while to realize it is all 100% subjective. And I believe it takes training to learn to listen and filter all comments. I'm still learning!

Anonymous said...

I inclination not acquiesce in on it. I regard as polite post. Particularly the appellation attracted me to review the intact story.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Thank you, Bethany, for your kind comments. And did you know the AVERAGE for novelists is 4-5 books before they get an agent?!

Lynda Lehmann said...

Amen to your list, Conda.

I think the most important criterion is the last. KEEP GOING! In spite of the odds, harsh criticisms, slights, skewed statistics and subjective judges. In spite of dry spells, financial hardships, and depressed moods, KEEP GOING!

Happy New Year, Conda!

I'm just back from three weeks visiting family, and trying to catch up with my blogging friends...

xxxx

Conda V. Douglas said...

I love the way you expanded on KEEP GOING, Lynda!

And me too, about getting back into it.

Lisa and Laura said...

You know it's so funny because I was just thinking about this very thing the other day. I still consider myself to be an aspiring author in spite of the fact that our novel will be published next year. We still have a lot to learn, so aspiring it is! I'm not sure we'll ever be pros!

Conda V. Douglas said...

I think aspiring is an excellent way to consider how we are as creative people. Once we stop striving, we stop being creative!

Rebecca Taunton said...

Nice post, Conda. It sounds like a pretty good list that sums things up.

I always had the problem with the label "semi-professional" - does that mean that I'm only professional part of the time? To be a professional at something, regardless of whether it is writing or photography, is to take something seriously enough to keep going.

Glynis said...

Oh dear, groups...I wrote on my blog about my one visit to a group (see Gucci shoes). I agree with your list, it is important to have faith in yourself. I am a great believer in, if it is meant to be, it will happen. Understanding that rejection is part of the process, is a good piece of advice.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Yes, Glynis...groups...I'm headed over to check out Gucci shoes, great title!