Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Assuming An Alternate Identity - The Professional

I'm pretty sure I've spilled this secret before: When I first started blogging, I didn't want anyone to know. I wasn't confident that what I had to say, people wanted to read. Well, I'm still not entirely sure about that, but yeah. I love blogging, and reading blogs, and just saying the word blog. And so here I am.

Back then, I certainly didn't think of myself as a "professional."

I do now.

Part of that has come through time and experience as I've participated in writing groups, forums, research and just personal writing growth. Wow. That last one sounds soooo impressive. Ha ha!

Anyway, then I started writing for the QueryTracker blog. I sort of went through the same thing. I'm no expert, ran through my head time and again.

And you know what?

I was wrong.

I swear I'm not bragging, but I am an expert in some things. So here's my question for today: Do you think of yourself as an expert--a professional? What has helped you make the transition from "I love to write" to "I am an author"?

I'm curious because I received an email from someone last week while I was out of town. In it, she said, "We're not professionals." and that struck me as wrong on so many levels. I think to make it in this crazy business, you need to don the suit of professionalism, put out the vibe of Expert, you know? If you don't view yourself as a writing professional, why should anyone else?

What do you guys think? Can you assume an alternate identity of a professional--at least until you really feel like one?


Suzanne said...

Great post. I think we have to. I don't think we have a choice. If there is one thing I leaned about writing it is the DECISION to be a writer was the turning point between hobby and career. Published or not, I had to make the decision to be humble, persistent, and professional. (and patient!) Thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

I so agree with Suzanne. Mark Victor Hansen often says "fake it 'til you make it" in reference to this same thing...you have to treat this as more than a hobby. You have to treat it as a career - that is if you want to be published.

Great post, as always. Thanks Elana.

C. Taylor said...

I'm sure you've heard it said that you should dress for the position you want. I think this is a similar situation. I think if you want to become a professional writer, then you need to think and behave like one. If you don't, why would anyone take you seriously?

Let's face it, this isn't the easiest industry to break into, and as a result it requires a great level of commitment-- a level I don't think people are willing to commit to, if they're looking at writing as just a hobby.

Great post, Elana!

Scott said...

My best friend made this comment about my writing blog and the commenters: it seems they're more about the process than the final product!

My reply: without the process, there isn't a final product.

So, do I consider myself an expert? Well, in certain things, yeah . . . in others, not so much.

Can I fake it with the best of them? Heck, yeah.

Personally, I think we all have to have enough confidence in ourselves to come across as a professional to agents, editors, blog followers, and whomever! This, is no different than any other situation in life.

So, am I a professional writer? Heck, yeah! Am I a professional blogger? Heck, yeah.

Am I committed? YES!

Great post, as always, Elana. Definitely food for thought on a Tuesday morning!


Jamie D. said...

I think there's a difference between being *a* professional, and just plain being professional. I am a professional in my field, which happens to be designing/maintaining web sites. I'm a professional because I've been doing it for years, I get paid to do it, and I have a title that says I'm an "Internet Specialist". I feel like I've "earned" the right to say I'm a professional at what I do all day long, simply by doing all the things I had to do to get to this point. I feel that would be belittled by someone who hadn't put in the work coming along and just deciding to call themselves a professional - it's something one earns, not something one bestows upon him/herself, in my opinion.

I'm not a professional blogger - I do that on the side. I'm not a professional writer yet either, because - for me, assuming the title of "professional" would mean that I've gone through all the hoops, and been "deemed worthy" by an agent, editor, publisher, etc. And I don't *want* to be a professional until I've gone through those rites of passage, otherwise the tag is meaningless to me.

But that doesn't mean I can't act in a professional manner. I can still take my writing seriously, I can still make sure that the "self" that I present online and to those who *are* writing professionals is professional, businesslike and courteous.

I'll take the title of "professional author" when I've actually earned it - not before. In my opinion, that's part of becoming a professional in any field.

Sun Up said...

I think you have to define for yourself what makes an expert or a professional? Is it a snazzy suit or a shiney glass encased degree?

I think Miss Suzanne said it best for me, "If there is one thing I learned about writing it is the DECISION to be a writer was the turning point between hobby and career. "

I think I became a professional when I made the decision that THIS is what I wanted to do and ALL that I wanted to do. Granted, I don't have the means to just stay home and write, so I have to work for supplemental income-- but writing as a career because I need to, because I love to, because THAT is who I am is what it means to me to be professional.

You really have to devote some serious time to this, just like you would any other job. But unlike a "Real" job, there's no guarantee you're going to get paid or even recognized for your efforts.

I consider myself a professional because it's the one thing in the whole wide world that I'm REALLY good at. It's the one thing that I'm confident about.

The moment I realized that I have ALOT riding on this was the moment I got serious and became a professional.

And damned if it ain't easy...but it sure as heck is worth it!

Icy Roses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Icy Roses said...

I agree with the whoever above said there's a difference between being professional and being A professional.

I certainly feel like a somewhat experienced writer, having done it for close to ten years (in varying degrees of awesome and awful ^-^). I have piles and files of writing from a young age, stuff that nobody will see. I won't call myself a professional author until I've made the deal and sold the book. But yes, we all have to act professional to be a professional, and I think that goes for most areas in life, not just writing.

I would also like to disagree. I consider writing my hobby, but it's a very serious hobby nonetheless. I devote several hours a day to it. My eventual goal is publication. I only consider it a hobby because it's not what I plan on doing to pay the bills. But I am committed.

Haha, as you know, I still don't use my real name on my blog. Maybe one day. But the profile picture really is me and the personality is me too. ;-)

Cole Gibsen said...

Great question! And what a tough call. I know I didn't feel like a professional dog trainer until the gut-wrenching fear that twisted my insides went away when I pulled up to someone's house.
Now I have that gut-wrenching fear when it comes to writing. I think I'll need some validation (I have low self-confidence issues) from a publisher before I truly feel like a "professional" writer. A paycheck would be nice too :) I thought getting an agent would be the boost I needed but the insecurity is still there. meh

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

If you want to be published, you better act as a professional, think as a professional, expect to be treated as a professional. If you are a hobbyist it doesn't really matter after all.

~Jamie said...

I think money is the difference... I don't make money from writing, so I am not a professional. When I start making money from my written words then I can consider myself a pro. Just my take on it though :)

Blooming Eventually said...

cliche 'o the day: fake it 'til you make it. worked for me. ;-)

Jenna said...

Sometimes I feel like a moron, but lately I feel more and more like an expert, or at least a minor authority. I think it comes from all of the great comments I get on my blog. So good for my ego. ;)

ElanaJ said...

Hmmm...interesting comments. So then the question becomes "Are you only a professional if you get paid to do something?"

Also, are we confusing "professional" with "expert"? Because I believe I am an expert in some areas, I do believe I am professional in my blog activity and comments and stuff, but am I still not a "professional" writer?

Maybe I should look up the word professional... (!)

Great discussion guys! Thanks so much for participating!

Eric said...

Great post. This is something I struggle with all the time, and I honestly can't say I feel like a professional or expert most of the time. But I do feel like I'm improving, so that's a good start.

Lisa and Laura said...

Was that e-mail from me? That sounds like something I would say...

I guess I don't really think of myself as a professional and probably won't make the leap until we're published. I'm sure that's a little harsh, but I feel like I have to go through every step of the process before I'll really be a professional writer.

ElanaJ said...

Lisa and Laura - that email was NOT from you! LOL!

Abby said...

Great post, Elana! I don't really think of myself as a professional, although I did feel more like an author after I finished countless revisions of my novel and felt good enough about it to send queries out.

Regardless of how I'm feeling at any given moment, I do try to portray myself as a professional. So, I guess it's like you said, I'm just pretending until I really feel like one. I love to pretend. That's why I write fiction. :D

Eileen Astels Watson said...

This one really makes me think. I view myself as a professional writer because of the time and effort I put into it, but I don't view myself as an author. Not until I'm well published will I believe that.

Carolyn Kaufman said...

I'm really proud of you. You know why. ;-)

Danyelle said...

This post really made me stop and think. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yes, I am an expert--at my own writing process. I crossed over to the Professional arena when I began querying. No, wait. I crossed that line when I worked so hard on revising my story (I would literally get nauseous) to put it on a professional level. I learned much and grew along the way. There have been stepping stones along the way (learning my craft, learning about agents and querying, etc.), so mayhaps it's more of a process than a single event, for me anyway. Great post!

Shelli said...

take yourself seriously and others will too.

Tess said...

such a great discussion going on over here today. I like what Shelli said just above me. It's all about the attitude and having the courage to claim what we are.

Tess said...

such a great discussion going on over here today. I like what Shelli said just above me. It's all about the attitude and having the courage to claim what we are.

ElanaJ said...

Oooh, excellent guys. Very very thought-provoking. :)

Stephanie Faris said...

After 15 years (off and on) of writing novels, attending workshops, becoming a top blogger on MySpace and getting a readership in the thousands, then coming over here to blog with more talented authors than what I found there, then AGAIN trying to get published and find an agent...YES, I'm an author. Although I feel like I'm always learning and will probably never be an expert.

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