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Turning into a professional writer

It’s the dream of every budding writer, and of many published writers at that.

To turn a street corner, enter a lofty lobby, and see on a bronze plaque, alongside doctors and lawyers: Your Name, Author.

But turning professional doesn’t need to be a dream.

And it has very little to do with writing full-time, which is beyond most writers’ budgets.

After all, John Banville has only recently started writing full-time, and no one would accuse him of being unprofessional over the last fifty years.

What matters instead is a commitment to craft.  The same sort of commitment your employer would expect of you at your workplace.

Doctors heal people, and they work hard to get it right. Lawyers advise clients on matters of law, and they make sure they can back up their advice with opinions and jurisprudence. Teachers convey learning, and they make sure they know how to handle a class, how to excite their students.

(Some might say that only good doctors, lawyers, and teachers behave that way, but what do you want to be if not a good writer?)

Likewise, professional writers are committed to mastering their craft.

Now this sounds like a rather esoteric post, one focused more on psychology than on craft. But writing books is simply too difficult and too competitive to behave like an amateur.

Thinking of yourself as a professional changes your whole approach. You are all of a sudden expected to behave up to a sufficient standard.

Whether it be keeping office hours, revising till it’s polished, writing with a reader in mind, your writing will morph from a narcissist exercise into something with social relevance.

Try it. Even if you’re a full-time mother working a full-time job after you’ve put the kids to bed, thinking of yourself as a professional writer will greatly improve your writing. You might only be able to spare three hours a week, but if you give them all of the intensity you’d give a boss, you’ll find that you make leaps and bounds.