Why Being an Amateur Writer Is an Asset

“The less you know about a field, the better your odds. Dumb boldness is the best way to approach a new challenge. —Jerry Seinfeld” Tweet: The less you know about a field, the better your odds. Dumb boldness is the best way to approach a new challenge. —Seinfeld @RiteLikeRowling

Modern-day society is so dependent on proof: Where’s your degree? Your certificate? Your salary? Your followers? Your award? Your little piece of paper that says I can listen to you?

The only credential you need to write is that you write.

In fact, being an “expert” isn’t always an asset:

We’re all terrified of being revealed as amateurs, but in fact, today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love (in French, the word means “lover”), regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career—who often has the advantage over the professional. Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results. They take chances, experiment, and follow their whims. Sometimes, in the process of doing things in an unprofessional way, they make new discoveries. “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities,” said Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki. “In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

—Austin Kleon, Show Your Work

Finding Fans

In today’s selfie-obsessed world where we call our blogs “platforms” and our Twitter followers “contacts,” it’s important to remember that we’re not supposed to be somebody to everybody.

Stop worrying about how many people follow you online and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you. Don’t waste your time reading articles about how to get more followers. Don’t waste time following people online just because you think it’ll get you somewhere. Don’t talk to people you don’t want to talk to, and don’t talk about stuff you don’t want to talk about. If you want followers, be someone worth following. . . . Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.

—Austin Kleon, Show Your Work

Sharing Your Work

Where should you start, then, if you’re an amateur?

The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others. . . . Be on the lookout for voids that you can fill with your own efforts, no matter how bad they are at first. Don’t worry, for now, about how you’ll make money or a career off it. Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.

—Austin Kleon, Show Your Work

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11 thoughts on “Why Being an Amateur Writer Is an Asset

  1. Good for you. Well said.
    We have for too long been credentials-happy in our society. We want guarantees, and credentials often are not a guarantee at all.
    You write very well, and your analyses of Rowling’s work are spot on and valuable.

    Like

    1. As always, thank you, R. Floyd! You’re on the same page as Stephen King: “Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

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  2. I stumbled upon your blog as I do so many others: click, click, clicking on hypertext in other blogs. This time it was through Larry Brooks’. All I have to say on this topic of yours is wow and thank you.

    At 56 I feel like I’m becoming who I was meant to be at 20, but I let other people and events get in my way. I followed their advice, not my inner voice which told me WRITE!!! And now I’m at a point in my life with full control over what I want to do. I just hope it’s not too late.

    I don’t have that magic piece of paper that tells the world I qualify. After a life-threatening illness filled with many epiphanies, I decided to go for that credibility that seems so in demand. Until a close friend asked me simply: “Why bother at this point?” She reminded me that I already knew how to write, I’m not dumb (average IQ of 135), I have an imagination (accused sometimes of being a little over the top), and the clincher…why waste my time writing what someone else tells me I HAVE to write? In the few college classes I did take over a two year period, even the professors asked me what I was doing in their class. One asked why I was bothering with an undergrad program. She said my writing caliber was better than that of her PhD candidates and that I should be in that program. Well, duh, I don’t have a BA or an MA so how do you jump to a doctoral program???

    People have actually asked me what I know about being a writer since I haven’t published a book. (Yet.) Well, my kahunas have grown bigger and I ask THEM: what do you know about being a writer? Conversation flat line. Hmm, yeah, that’s what I thought. (Incidentally, you naysayers, I HAVE been published as a journalist in a major daily newspaper, so put that in your hookah and smoke it.)

    Once again, a thousand thank yous. And you have a new follower. 🙂

    Like

    1. MA, I’m glad you’re sticking to your guns and writing no matter what! I’ve come to realize that criticism says far more about the insecurities of the person doling it out than it does about the person who it’s directed at. I wish you the very best in your writing journey!

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