I’ve been up on my soapbox a lot these last few weeks. I don’t know if it’s the way the stars are aligned or some other factor. Mostly, it’s because I see a lot of writers and aspiring writers doing and saying things I don’t agree with.
This might come as a shock to some people but writing is a lot like owning a small business. You have expenses. There will be things you need to invest in to write. Above all, you have to remember that you’re a professional.
What does being a professional mean? Simply put, you’re making a livelihood in a field and activity filled with amateurs. Look at sports and music, there are a lot of amateurs but very few professionals who make a living at what they do. For example, a professional boxer will fight and train differently than a weekend warrior who is looking to blow off some steam or do an occasional tournament. He might be a gifted amateur but he isn’t a professional until he takes what he is doing seriously.
Being a professional is all about attitude and how you approach your work. How you treat your fellow professionals and your customers is also important. In this case, your fellow authors and readers. The hallmark of a professional is a sense of ethics. In the words of the sniper from Team Fortress 2: Professionals have standards.
Some professions have actual rules and regulations that are written down including a code of conduct and governing bodies to enforce those rules. Lawyers and doctors come to mind. With writing, there are no hard and fast rules or an association to crack the whip. Instead, it will be your fellow writers and readers who will take you to task.
So how do you keep from falling into this trap? Let your conscience be your guide. If you have a very shaky moral compass, just be wary of doing anything that might sacrifice your credibility, reputation or the good will of your fellow professionals and readers. Any short term gains aren’t worth it in the long run unless you don’t want to be a professional.