The Number One Difference Between the Pro Writer and the Amateur

The other day I wrote a post about how writing has become a bit of a slog for me lately. One of my clients (Hi, Mitch!) asked me about it, saying, “You’re a professional. That’s not supposed to happen to you.”

He was kidding. I think.  But it brings up an excellent point.

Because, as I explained to him, there’s one big difference between the professional and the amateur writer.

The amateur gets distracted by Christmas and grandchildren and snow (we are currently on snowstorm #2) and allows all those things to lead her away from the computer.

The professional gets distracted by Christmas and grandchildren and snow and figures out how to get the words in anyway.

If you were a brain surgeon, would you let Christmas shopping lead you away from the operating room?

If you were an attorney, would you let snow keep you from the courtroom?

If you were president would you let your business keep you away from intelligence briefings?

Scratch that last one; bad example.

But all kidding aside, you get my point.  None of the other professionals let themselves get distracted and neither should you.

I think my client’s statement is a common misconception.  There’s this idea that the other writer–the bestselling novelist, the memoirist whose book got made into a movie, the essayist who just got a collection published–has it all dialed in.  That she sits down at her computer every morning and the words flow and nobody bugs her until her daily word count is done.  And the corollary to it is the belief that someday when you’re a professional writer, this is how your life will be.  Once you turn pro, your writing will be easy every time you sit down to do it.  Your life will be distraction-free. All that, and you’ll be making the big bucks, too.

I know about this fantasy because I have it, too. For some reason, mine tends to coalesce around English female novelists. I imagine them in their little cottage in the Cotswalds, snow falling outside while a fire roars inside. And as the fire roars, so does the author, banging out novel after novel that all are so perfect they barely need editing as they roll off her fingers.

Yeah, right.

That same author probably had to light the fire because the ancient heater in the funky old cottage went out and not only that but she had to mush through the snow to chop the wood. And every time she just gets into the flow of the writing, her uncle who lives next door appears with his latest drama.  And no matter what she does she can’t get the scene right.

But you know what she does? She shows up anyway.  Distractions happen to all of us, every single one. You can and should do your best to minimize them but they are still going to happen. Keep writing anyway.

Because writing well is the best revenge for every single damn thing in the world.

PS. Keep an eye on this space because my aforementioned client Mitch, is about to publish his first book and he’ll be telling you all about it in a guest post soon.

PPS. Mitch came to me after he had completed a very rough draft and we’ve worked together through the rewriting, the polishing and all the prep work he had to do for publishing.  If you need help with any aspect of your writing, check out my coaching. I’m totally revamping my coaching packages and fees for the new year, so now is a great time to get in at the old prices!

1 thought on “The Number One Difference Between the Pro Writer and the Amateur”

  1. batmansbestfriend

    Yes. Exactly. I set a schedule, I set a goal, and I understand that both of these are idealized. (I’m writing a novel and) I want to write 100 lines of text (regardless of word count…dialogue lowers word count and prose increases it, you know, that whole thing) within the first 3 hours after I get home from work…every single day. This is an idealized version of what actually happens though. I always start by proofreading what I wrote the day before and sometimes…every once in a while…I get stuck in touching up, rewriting, and adding completely new material and don’t even get to that day’s writing. That is fine. The book needed that editing at some point and why does it matter when it gets them? It doesn’t. That’s why, as long as I’ve done three hours of work that results in needed anything…I’m good. I want 100 lines of new material first and foremost, but I’m not publishing without editing and who says it has to be done at the end? No one. Why 100 lines? My book is formatted with 52 lines of text per page so 100 lines is almost 2 pages. I’ve found that on a consistent basis that 100 lines is right about where I get bored and start phoning it in. Anyway, some days I have family things after work and they may not start for 2 hours after I punch out. Guess what? I own a lap top (albeit it’s 13 years old and historically obsolete). So, I bring it to work and sit in the break room and write before going to a relative’s or friend’s house. On one of my days off I don’t usually plan to do any amount of writing. I want my 100 lines sure, but I just write when I get bored. Most weeks, on one of my two days off, I find I spend like 6 or more hours writing. Awesome. I get my 100 lines and some other chunk of my writing gets like really super clean…OCD, lol Some days I really don’t want to sit at a computer…but guess what I do on those days? I sit at a **** computer and write. Why? If I only wrote when I 100% felt like it, lol…yeah, my novels would seriously get done anytime before I die. How do I do it when I don’t want to? I just do. I think of writing as a second job and that’s it. I enjoy it, but to only think of it as a fun thing I do when I want to…like I said, I cannot come back from the grave and publish anything.

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