May 04, 2008

Introduction - On Being a Professional Amateur

When Constructing Stories started, I envisioned it being a place where writers could discuss how best to tell stories. Part of that vision was fulfilled when Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff became the first writer to be interviewed on this blog. Now, a little over a month later, she’s also the first to write an entire series of posts for Constructing Stories. It’s another way to bring different viewpoints to the table, and I’m thrilled to have Maya as a guest writer.

Having written six novels (with more on the way), Maya is uniquely gifted and full of valuable insights. Her series, “On Being a Professional Amateur,” starts today and will continue for the next 5-7 weeks. Tell all the writers you know to stop by and share their opinion, and be sure to sign up for the RSS feed so that you don’t miss a post! Enjoy!

On Being a Professional Amateur
by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

Defining “Amateur”

To be an amateur in the original sense of the word simply means to do something for love, though our culture has added the rider, "not for pay." An amateur writer, then, is generally taken to mean one who’s not paid for her efforts.

“Amateur” has also come to mean someone who lacks polish, skill and craft. Synonyms for “amateurish” include: unprofessional, sloppy, inept, slipshod, clumsy, crude. That doesn’t sound good.

To me, truly being an amateur writer—a lover of writing—means you love your craft enough to have a professional attitude toward it, a desire to do it with the highest level of skill you can. So, how do you make your craft reflect true amateurism and not the other kind? By weeding out the signs of amateurism and cultivating craft.

In this series of short articles, I'd like to offer some ideas on how to spot the "weeds" of amateurism in your writing.

What do you think of Maya's definition? Leave a comment and let us know! Maya's next post (coming next week) will tackle the issue of "sloppiness" and how not to let it creep into your writing. Don't miss it! Sign up for the RSS feed before you leave!


Anonymous said...

I love this definition because 1) I am all about using the "correct" meaning of words and 2) it gives us permission to do something we love just because! I think it is important to remember that the attitude and effort with which you approach your passion is more telling than any outcome, including the financially lucrative ones.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

When I saw the title, I didn't have a clue what direction she was headed. The definition crystalized the point. Love it!