Amateur Vs Professional Artist. The word amateur has gotten a bad rap. It’s often used to describe someone who is not a skilled or as well informed as their professional, counterpart. “It looks Amateur” is an often used criticism used to describe something that doesn’t look good. To be an amateur at something is also used far to often as an excuse sub-par work.
“A passionate amateur will always beat an uninterested pro”.
What if we reimagine our association with the word “amateur”? For instance; Olympians are amateur sportspeople. A group of incredibly talented individuals who strive for greatness not for profit but purely for the love of their sport and personal pride. Doesn’t seem so bad right?
The root of the word amateur comes from the Latin amare, to love. Quite often in our creative journeys we have a lot of passion when we are amateurs. We’re learning every minute and improving quickly. Seeing the results of our efforts each time we attempt something new encourages us to get better and better. But, as we improve, our passion and drive can (and often does) fade. Only to be replaced with professional confidence and experience and this is where the idea that passionate amateur is a better place to be than an uninterested pro.
What about a passionate professional?
The Apex of these two ideas is surely the passionate professional. All the skills you require, honed to perfection over years of practice applied with the all the passion of someone who just started yesterday.
But the route to becoming a professional often means taking a few ‘lumps’ along the way. There is a sea full of sharks ready to feed on your talent that you have to swim though in order to reach the safety of the shore. It’s this process that usually reduces us to jaded but professional versions of our amateurs former selves.
This quote by Hunter S. Thompson, talking about the dangers that face amateur musicians entering the professional music business comes to mind.
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
Become a Pro and stay passionate
How do you do this, exactly? Well, there are seven things I’ve discovered that professionals do that amateurs don’t. Understanding these key differences early on will help you keep your passion and your sanity on the road to a career as a professional artist.
Amateur Vs Professional Artist – Seven Differences
1. Amateurs compare. Pros Don’t
If you want to be a pro in your field, the very first thing you must do is break the terrible amateur habit of looking at what people have without paying attention to what they did to get it. Where someone has go to in their field is based on an amount of hard work, sacrifice and dedication that you either haven’t put in yet or are never going to put in. So be happy with where you are right now and move forward at the pace that is correct for you and stop comparing yourself to others.
2. Amateurs wait for clarity. Pros take action.
You have to know what you are before you can figure out what you want to do.
Self-awareness is an important part of life, and it’s especially important for creatives. Because so much of what you create is tied to who you are, you have to get clear on your identity. We must perform our way into professionalism. Your confidence comes from know what you are, and your commitment to acting on that knowledge.
3. Amateurs want the big break. Pros want to get better.
You have to become a student long before you get to be a master.
“We are all apprentices in a craft no one masters,” Hemingway once said. In words, you have to submit yourself to the teaching of those who have gone before you. You have to study their work to find a style of your own.
If you don’t do this, you delude yourself into thinking you’re better than you really are, which is the fastest route to failure.
4. Amateurs practice as much as they have to. Pros never stop.
You have to practice even, maybe especially, when it hurts. It’s not enough to show up and work every day. You have to keep challenging yourself, keep pushing yourself beyond your limits. This is how we grow.
Frequency trumps quantity. It’s better to work a little toward mastering your craft every day than a lot once in a while.
5. Amateurs fear failure. Pros crave it.
You have to fail your way to success. What professionals know that the rest of us don’t appreciate is that failure can teach you more than success ever will. Failure is feedback, and truly successful people use it to move forward in their careers.
Thomas Edison, in his efforts to invent a working light bulb, once said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” How many times are you willing to get it wrong?
6. Amateurs build a skill. Pros build a portfolio.
You must master more than one skill. This doesn’t mean you have to be a jack of all trades, but you must become a master of some.
For creative professionals, this doesn’t mean you have to work at your craft uninterrupted for eight hours a day — at least not for most professionals. It means you will spend your time getting your work out there through a variety of channels and mediums.
7. Amateurs want to be noticed. Pros want to be remembered.
You have to care about legacy more than ego. The professionals I know whose work reaches a lot of people and truly matters, aren’t just thinking about the quick win — the big book deal, the next speaking gig, the new product launch. They’re thinking about the long game, about what they want to work on that might endure for the next 100 years.
The amateur is concerned with the big break, whereas the pro is more focused on delaying immediate gratification in exchange for long-term success.
When people started asking me how I became a professional artist, how I chased a dream and got the rare opportunity to do it for a living, at first I didn’t know how to answer them.
Looking back, I realize it was this process and my attitude, these seven habits, that really made my career.
And these are things that I continue to practice today. They’re disciplines that you keep doing that allow you to keep succeeding. And if you don’t do them, you’re really just rolling the dice.
Amateur Vs Professional Artist. So if you want to be a professional at any craft, especially writing, I’d highly encourage you to start applying these habits today.