Just call me Sisyphus

by Melanie Page

I write for pleasure… so am I a professional?

It is one of those esoteric questions (aka how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?). Should I consider myself a professional writer, or am I an amateur?

Amateur is easy – they don’t get paid, and they do it for the love of the thing. But some amateurs get sponsorship… the edges get fuzzy very quickly.

To be a professional is not just to get paid. A professional (according to one dictionary) engages is the specified activity as their main occupation. Well, in that sense, I am definitely an amateur writer. I spend most of my time trying to get teenagers to write… might as well push a boulder uphill like that ancient Greek guy. 

However, if you consider it as ‘conforming to the standards of a profession’ then heck yes! The person who reads my work has a right to expect that it will be as good; as polished, as emotive, as entertaining, as that of a person who has a score of best sellers under their belt. I can’t slap a cover on rambly ranty rubbish and ask people to pay for it, then excuse its faults because I don’t do it as my day job.

However, Merriam-Webster had this to say. A professional is one who follows a line of conduct as though it were a profession. Now that is more like it! I want to be a better writer. I want to polish my prose until it gleams like a mirror, perfectly reflecting the human condition. I want to wring tears from my readers in the despair of the black moment, and have them laugh with joy when Mr Right meets Ms Happily Ever-After.

I went looking for an image to illustrate this blog post and poor old Sisyphus came to mind (the ancient Greek guy I mentioned earlier). And then there was that perfect moment when I found, not only Sisyphus, but Camus’ take on him. Camus’ quote summed it all up. Maybe I’m a professional, not because I (occasionally) get paid, but because I choose to pursue writing in a professional way, dedicating myself to it; in the same way that I dedicate myself to teaching well, or another professional strives to nurse, police or design well.

I hope Sisyphus is happy. I am. When I take an idea and turn it into words that can be shared, words that can transmit my imagination into another heart and mind, that is an achievement. I might not be Michelangelo, carving David from a block of Carrara marble, but I’m not playing with mud pies either. I can look at my work with pride and know that I did a darn good job. But like Sisyphus, I haven’t reached the top of the hill. I’ve still got a ways to go…

This I know… the view from the top will be stunning!

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