So there's this thing going around the internet, as things do, about whether one should be calling oneself a professional writer. Having a certain interest in such matters, I had a go.
First, Lisa Morton's quiz
, which seems to be the thing that kicked it all off. According to her, you're only a professional writer if you can answer yes to at least 80%.1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?
No. I mean, it's messy, but that's not the reason. ;-) It makes a great excuse, though.2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?
It's been known to happen.3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?
TV is the mind-killer... no, wait. I love me some good audio-visual entertainment, actually. But it comes with an off switch for a reason, so, yes.4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?
Ghods, yes.5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites (either research or networking potential)?
My "vacation" photos include pictures of the trash can placements at Brookfield Zoo. It was a plot point. Need I say more?6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?
Guilty as charged.7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?
Livin' the dream, baby!8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?
This seems kind of redundant with the previous one. If I was in this for the conspicuous consumption, I'd be in something else entirely.9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?
I forgot to mark on my calendar the day I decided to take this writing thing seriously, but yeah, probably.10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?
Screw that noise. I damned well am going to meet my ambitions, and anybody who doesn't go into this game irrationally convinced of that may as well become a stockbroker.
As one might imagine, there's been a certain... response to this. I like Chuck Wendig's
:Do you write?
Yes, yes I do.If yes, do you get paid to write?
The funny thing is, I count as a "professional" according to Morton's quiz, but not according to Wendig's much more lenient one. Which I think says something about the validity of Morton's questions, given that I've never (yet!) been paid a dime for my writing. Now, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Morton's evident frustration; I've got a rant of my own pending about wannabees who call themselves writers without doing any of that tricky actual writing stuff. But there's no getting around the fact that any meaningful definition of "professional" has to at least acknowledge making some money from the thing -- and any definition that's more about process than results is really just prescriptivism about process dressed up in "professional" clothing.