In her commencement address to the University of Illinois graduating class of 2012, Cokie Roberts made the outstanding point that when people go around boasting that they are not professionals, it's actually doing a disservice to and diminishing the profession. Her examples were good ones - you certainly want a professional doctor helping you when you're sick, and if you're on a plane, you want a professional pilot flying it.
But there are some situations where I think there is a little something to be said for being an amateur. At least, there's no need to freak out or be weary if you are "just an amateur writer."
In the face of a growing number of rejection letters, uncertainty about the summer to come, and rising doubts about my writing and how to make my current story project perk up, I turned to one of my favorite books of all time, The Element by Sir Ken Robinson (click on the link to read the review I did of it on my book blog which continues to be my most popular post I have ever written). In short, the book is all about the importance of finding something you are passionate about, encouraging creativity, and how our current education system in the US stifles that which cannot be measured on standardized tests. Anyway, I was flipping through and rereading the portions I'd highlighted when I blissfully saw this passage:
The word amateur derives from the Latin word amator, which means lover, devoted friend, or someone who is in avid pursuit of an objective. In the original sense, an amateur is someone who does something for the love of it. Amateurs do what they do because they have a passion for it, not because it pays the bills. -The Element, pg. 210
I LOVE this sentiment, I do, and I could not have read it at a better time.
Would finding an agent and getting the manuscript I've worked so hard on for so long and completely believe in be awesome? Yes.
Would it be an amazing thrill for it to get published someday? Of course.
Is that the point of it all? Well, no. It's not. Not really. And that's the great part of me being an amateur. I write my stories because I love to do it, no other reason. I write because there are these fantastic characters bumbling around in my head and I want to get them down on paper so others can know them too. Am I the best at it? No, because I'm an amateur. I'm practicing, I'm trying, and every day that I at least sit down at the computer or with a pen and paper is a step in the right direction, no matter how small. I'm not saying the rejection is fun or that the current massive cases of writers block (really more like writers doubt) I've been pushing through have been easy, but I keep on trying without the pressure of deadlines or the expectations of trying to avoid the sophomore slump. Those come later and are self-imposed, but it all comes down to doing what I love simply because I love to do it, and for now, I'm good with that.