Professional or Hobbyist?

A few years ago, during a night out, I was introduced to a man in his early twenties that was the school acquaintance of a friend. During the general polite conversation that followed I asked him what he did for a living, to which he replied, “I’m a photographer.” I immediately found the subject interesting (I love photography) and started asking him lots of questions – what his main points of interest were, who he worked for, how he got into it – and after a few minutes it became evident that he wasn’t a photographer at all. In truth, he was a barman with a good camera who liked taking photographs. I was a little confused (and slightly insulted) by the fact that this man had ‘bent the truth’ in an attempt to appear more successful or creative – I’ve done plenty of bar work over the years and in my experience it is a physically and mentally exhausting job that requires lots of patience, particularly when dealing with drunken, aggressive members of the general public. It’s a shame that he felt that he had to hide a profession that he should have been very proud of.

When I first started this blog I had quite an unnerving experience with a man who persistently harrassed me for my personal Facebook details with the excuse of wanting to connect with me because he liked my writing. He didn’t write anything of his own – his blog consisted of reblogged posts. His messages became more frequent almost aggressive, and after several polite ‘no’ responses I eventually grew tired of his requests, quite nastily asked him to leave me alone and blocked him from my account. He sent one more message that went straight to my ‘spam’ folder which said:

‘I am a professional writer too, just like you. I want to speak to writers.’

I am not a professional writer. I am a teacher who likes to write. Writing is a hobby, teaching is my profession. I gained my QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) years ago and have been permanently employed as a teacher ever since. I feel that this qualification allows me to refer to myself as a teacher when asked what my profession is. I am also a violinist – I have a performance degree from a good music college and am a member of a professional string quartet – and I can claim this because we have been paid on hundreds of occasions for our music-making services. However, as this is a creative subject I find there are often lots of people who are willing to argue the point of professionalism, particularly when discussing the idea of how good someone is at something.

In a world of daily advancements in affordable technology and social networking, everyone now has the opportunity to explore their creative side. Anyone can take a photograph, start a blog, self-publish their own book and/or create their own internet pages and websites. Of course, that doesn’t take anything away from the sheer amount of work and courage that goes into the self publication of books and novels, courage that I don’t possess myself, but it is possible for anyone with drive and ambition to do it. I’ve only had my blog for sixth months and in my own little world I feel that I have made a small success of it, but I never write in the hope of becoming a professional blogger. Admittedly in many of my posts I have referred to connecting with ‘fellow bloggers,’ but in truth I don’t feel qualified to refer to myself as a ‘writer’ or ‘blogger,’ I simply use this phrase because it seems easier to do so in order to create a sense of community. I also spend lots of time taking and editing photographs and I’ve had some fabulous feedback about the pictures that I have posted, but I would never refer to myself as a professional photographer as I have never earned any money for it.

This morning I had a conversation with Caitlin Kelly, the author of Broadside Blog. I’ve followed her blog for a while now – I admire her writing style and the hints and tips that she offers about writing, blogging and jounalism – and a comment that I made on her latest post about writers that are expected to work for free led to a short discussion about the concept of professional job titles that are sometimes exaggerated in order to gain a higher status in the eyes of others. I asked her what her thoughts were on the appropriate time for someone to start referring to themselves as a professional ‘writer.’ This was part of her response:

‘…someone who is soi-disant “a writer” is someone I would need to show me their commercially accepted and published work — and a consistent sales record in the thousands — to qualify.’

Essentially, I feel that the term ‘professional’ should be used when the subject is actually a profession ie. money is earned for creating a piece of writing or taking and editing a photograph.  However, this also poses the question of the regularity of payments earned from creative work – does somebody earn the right to call themselves a writer if they have been published once? Does a piece of work have to be published in a nationally or internationally recognised forum in order for it to be recognised as valid?

But what do you think? Do you refer to yourself as a professional ‘blogger,’ ‘poet,’ ‘writer’ or photographer when asked what your job is? At what point do you feel it is acceptable to use these terms?


265 thoughts on “Professional or Hobbyist?

  1. Being a wee bit snobbish, are we? Without seeing the barman’s photographs, how could you determine he’s not really a photographer? Maybe he wasn’t trying to “hide” his paying profession as a bartender, but wanting to identify with what he felt is his true profession. Many budding Broadway and Hollywood actors work as waiters while they’re looking for acting work — would you allow them only to identify themselves as “waiter”? Would you say that while JK Rowling was writing the first Harry Potter book, she wasn’t really a writer because she hadn’t been paid yet? And by your standards, how many bloggers can really be called “bloggers,” as for the most part, it’s a non-paying gig? Anybody who writes is a writer, whether professional or amateur. If you must draw a line, a published writer can be called an “author.” Yes, I’m a writer, and I do get paid for it. But I was a writer before I got the first paycheck, too.

    • Snobbery has damn all to do with it, what if you spent money getting your car repaired by the local mechanic who turns out he was a hairdresser with a bag full of tools and you drive away and end up in the nearest ditch……..Oh but thats ok its only you being snobbish. People rely on the reputation of a trade to bring them a living and if you have barmen saying they are photographers just because he has extended his over draft to buy a camera and then ruins someones wedding then it should not snobbish but be criminal. Without any training I can say I am a mechanic and put peoples lives at risk, I can be a hypnotist, chiropodist even so that all trained chiropodist and now called podiatrist. I have spent a lot of money to train, to be qualified as a photographer then another thousand plus on equipment. Call youself what you want but if you take money, you better be able to come up with the goods, thats all I am saying.

  2. It’s a touchy subject when you begin to talk about titles and social status. This coming from a 27 year old, soon to be yoga teacher who has quit my medical sales job and dropped all options for “titles” in a corporate world to seek happiness and fulfillment… burdened by financial struggles and constantly trying to overcome ego-ist thoughts such as “my title is better than yours and it definitely places me higher than you in a social pyramid.” That being said, I ALWAYS struggle with the question, “What do you do?” I would like my response to be something of the sort “Well, kind sir, I do a lot of things (as I casually pour this glass of wine for you over this bar top) that you probably don’t really care about and will further judge me as I serve you food to pay my bills. So, please go ahead and ask me if tending bar is my only gig, because I know you have something more devious behind that question.” I know in social conversation this question is actually asking “What title do I have?” At this point, maybe what I say I do IS my title. Though that photographer you spoke to may be merely a late night bar-hopping snap shotter… well, he is still, yet, a photographer, especially in his own eyes. And in the end, who else’s opinion REALLY matters, other than your own? If he is happy calling himself a struggling photographer, well, then by all means, do it. And my response to the man on the other side of the bar? “I’m a yoga teacher, a lover, a writer, a photographer, a wave rider, a dream seeker…..and most importantly, I am happy. How I pay my bills is not quite your business.” 😉 Thanks for the topic Suzie!

  3. I think it’s a fine line. If writing or photography really is a hobby and there is no intention to make a living from it, then probably the answer shouldn’t be “writer” when the question is “What do you do for a living?”

    However, if your intention is make writing your career and you are actively pursuing that career — researching the industry, submitting your work, etc., with maybe a credit or two as you continue to grow — then you can call yourself a writer. Do so can also be one of the steps toward getting there, IMHO.

    For me, what I label myself as depends on the situation. When I’m around mainly non-writers, I tend to say “I’m a technical editor, but I also write poetry and fiction.” When I’m at a writing event, I tend to just say “I’m a writer.”

  4. 1)Emily Dickinson only attempted to publish a few of her poems during her life and her 1st book of poetry was published posthumously after her sister found her poems. By your definition then, Emily Dickinson was not a poet. A lot of the greats of the arts died penniless or unknown. Writers aren’t exactly known for making the big bucks.
    2)At the end of the day I don’t think I have the right to tell anyone what they are and are not allowed to consider themselves. That’s a bit arrogant. If someone says they are a writer then they are a writer. I think the reason a lot of people who write on a regular basis(even have degrees in creative writing as some other commenters have claimed) and STILL don’t call themselves writers is because they are afraid of being judged by people who stick their nose in the air and think, “Well how many books have you published? How many tens of thousands of people have bought your work?” *shrugs*

  5. I call myself a writer because I am paid to write. I call myself an editor and proofreader for the same reason. I freelance write, edit and proofread through several freelancing sites online and am also an SEO copywriter, writing the text for the websites created by a local company.
    I do not call myself a blogger, no matter how many times I blog simply because I am not paid to write my blog – even if it is about writing. This is me volunteering my knowledge of the subject to the general community.

  6. Would Boswell have described himself as a lawyer…his profession…or as a biographer?
    I imagine the former…though we think of him as the latter.
    It seems to me that it depends how deep you are into what it is that interests you and drives you as to how you describe yourself and as long as you don’t take money under false pretences, or lead people astray by pretending to have a competence you do not possess, you can define yourself as you please.
    If people ask me what I am, I’m a retired lawyer, still absorbed by law, and blogging about what I see around me.
    I think I’m a person who blogs. I think i can write too….

  7. Actually, I believe that anyone who writes is , indeed, a writer. Sure there are some better writers than others. And some of the writers just haven’t found their “spot” yet. Perhaps someone writes horrible fiction but if they branch out and take a risk , might be able to write a fabulous non-fiction book or article.

    I am a photo-hobbyist and a writer-hobbyist, yes, not making money at any of it. Yet, I have done about sixty photograph/art/writing exhibits and have had both photos and articles published. Still, I am , indeed, a hobbyist.

    So what’s the difference for my purposes? I write and take photos “for myself” –having no control issues from commercial companies. Once you get paid for this kind of stuff, usually you tend to have to change what you do from what you love to do to what you need to do.

    I just love to take photos. And that, for now , is what I do. It has been such a long time since I have taken any of it seriously. Laughing here, my articles at one site that I have written for have received over 20,000 “views” yet, they are not a money-making proposition for me.

    I love photos! Oh yes, there is one kind of photograph that I do not like taking people “posing” in photos. Love the candid results of any subject.

  8. Love the title, content and lively discussion that has ensued! I just started a blog (HATE that word) a little over a month ago as a means to put down on “paper” the silly, random thoughts that fill my mind and take me away from my day job. I consider this a therapeutic writing hobby. As long as I’m just writing for myself and no one is paying me to broadcast my thoughts then I can’t call myself a writer. That being said, I would never judge anyone in the same boat who would 🙂

  9. I agree that no one should be ashamed of their job and that people shouldn’t misrepresent themselves, however I would hope that most people are more than their job title. I am a writer. I think in terms of words. I see the world through a writer’s eyes. I have never published a single book. If someone asked me what my job is, I would most definitely reply that I am a student, but if someone asked me what I do, I would answer that I write, draw, and act. These are my talents. These are my passions. I am these things… but they’re not my jobs. I don’t think this is misrepresentation, but rather telling the honest truth, much more so than saying that all I do in my life is attend school.

  10. Pingback: Professional or Hobbyist? | Leaky Blather

  11. I work as a cashier/sales girl currently, but I always refer to myself as a writer, it’s an essential part of my manner and personality. Not a night goes by where I’m not thinking about some story to write down or some idea for my currently ongoing novel. Every spare moment, I’m spacing out on some flash fiction I make up as I go along. I’ve never made any money off my writing, yet, but I most certainly plan on getting myself published.
    Once I get a really good idea in my head, I cannot stop thinking about it until I get it written down. I don’t consider myself a professional by any means, but I am most certainly a writer. It’s what I do, and it’s what I want to make my living off of. I want nothing more than a future where I can write.

  12. Someone who writers is a writer – plain and simple. They may not be a good writer, a talented writer, a published writer. How you earn your living is a different question. Many famous writers did not make their main livelihood from their writing. You don’t have to have a degree in creative writing or have a pile of published novels or be a Booker prize winner to be a writer. You just have tp write. By definition I would say anyone writing a blog is a writer.

  13. You seem to be blurring the distinction between professional blogger (writer, musician) etc. and just blogger. A blogger is someone who blogs. Doesn’t matter how good they are. I would argue that frequency or quantity may come into play though. I assume that Caitlin Kelly was actually meaning to use ‘write’ to refer to ‘professional writers’ as I fail to see how you could deny someone who has written tens of books or hundreds of poems without publishing is a writer.

  14. The way I see it, if you get paid for writing, you’re a professional writer. If you don’t get paid, you’re a writer.

    But I guess there is a question mark over how much/how frequently you have to get paid to consider yourself professional. I make a living from copywriting, so consider myself a professional copywriter. I also make a small amount of money from playing in a band occasionally, but as it’s not a primary source of income, I don’t consider myself a professional musician.

  15. Interesting. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg question that you’re posing. I completely agree with you that these terms can be confusing. And, we all know it’s annoying when someone who is a dabbler tries to compare themselves to someone who’s not. But, remember that Van Gogh never sold a piece. He was dead before he made a dime off of his art.

  16. I have an M.A. in Creative and Professional Writing and I call myself a Trainee Writer. Everyone who writes can be called a writer in my opinion. However you have to be established to declare writing as your profession. By being established, I mean business cards, writing contracts, writing contacts, a writing C.V. a reputable income; the whole charade of being a professional or devoted 8 hours a day, five days a week investment while you struggle to get your feet down as a Professional Writer.
    So I would say your bar man-photographer is a photographer at heart and not a professional photographer.

  17. I see your point entirely – but have to question where you feel non-fiction writers stand. I’m published under various names for both fiction and non-fiction, but only started calling myself a writer when I started freelancing as a copywriter and editor, with regular enough work to pay the rent each month. I wholeheartedly agree that hobbyists who might enter the odd writing competition or sustain some form of a blog can’t really call themselves writers – but despite my technical daily job title being ‘copywriter’ I still see that as a regular job in which I am paid to write.
    Perhaps that dumbs it down too much – an IT consultant wouldn’t call themselves a Computer Person, nor an accountant a Money Man.
    I think this is a really interesting debate – thanks for posting about it. I’m still not sure if I can legitimately use ‘writer’ to describe myself, despite the publications, and have an inkling I’ll always feel a fraud!

  18. I think it’s misleading to say that you are a professional at something when you’re not, but if you’re doing the work, then you are that thing. Not necessarily as a profession (professional), but it doesn’t mean you’re not a writer/photographer.

    I don’t make a living doing any of the things I love. But I am a photographer, a writer, a blogger, an editor. I was actually a professor and paid for it and I don’t claim that. I don’t know…it does seem a little snooty to look down on someone because they say something they’re passionate about rather than something that just pays the bills. We are all about fulfillment and doing what you love, why can’t that be mentioned? As long as they’re not deceiving people into thinking they are a professional, then what’s the issue?

  19. I completely agree with you. I would love to be a strong enough writer to get paid for it but I need a lot of time, patience, and practice before I get to that point.

    I appreciate this post!

  20. Funny because I like to emphasise that I am a “hobbyist photographer”!
    Many people tried to push me into “selling” my work early on in my photography way before it was good.
    I might have thought it was good back then but now in true artistic fashion I know for sure that all my work is “CRAP”!
    If you are not self deprecating then IMHO you haven’t achieved the highest level of artistry where you wish for no one to see your final result but show it anyway because you are just being generous.
    hehe
    Glad I found your blog today where I could practice just a small amount of my writing skills too!

  21. professional and hobbyist did appear around me . As i am a art industry student and worker and taking photography too , i met some people who just having a good camera called themselves photographer i really did confuse that “photographer” this title is really that easy to achieve ? when discussing with them except equipment they know nothing deeper in art field but they claim themselves as professional but not hobbyist .
    I did few wedding actual day but i don’t call myself as a ” photographer ” , i called myself a journalist type of photographer .
    I took retoucher as my job but i don’t call myself an ” artist ” .
    sometime people are just arguing between these 2 terms .

  22. I think everyone who writes regularly ( whether professionally or just as a hobby) he is a writer, but those who earn money out of it, they should be called ( paid writer) . We should not prohibit anyone from the name of a writer unless if it is not regularly. According to Cambridge dictionary , A writer is a person who writes books or articles to be published. ( it does not specify if he is paid or not) since anyone can publish his work I think he deserve to be called a writer.

  23. When people pose the question, “What do you do?” I almost always automatically respond with a follow-up question: “You mean for a living?” I do lots of things. I write. I photograph. I swim. I’m a writer, a photographer, a swimmer, for I am able to do all of those things and enjoy doing them. I am not, however, a professional writer, professional photographer (like my step-father) or professional swimmer. I do none of them for a living. Professionally, I’m a Senior Regulatory and Compliance Consultant, but that alone is not what I do, or what I am.

  24. I think the disconnect is whether one is a writer or a “Successful Writer”. By that Cambridge dictionary definition, being called a writer is just about the intent to be published. As we all know, our intentions don’t always bear fruit. That said though, I have read a kagillion reputably published books, articles, essays and such that were nothing more than blossoming turds. And don’t even get me started on the majority of children’s books. Aaargh! Perhaps just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it goes for the writer.
    I get paid writing jobs sometimes and it’s awfully flattering. But I seldom tell people that I blog. I feel like it’s a perceived as the hobby of 14 year old emo kids and bored yet crafty housewives. What’s that all about?

  25. As the blogging era has progressed, I admit I’ve had my insecurities about how almost anyone can be a writer. Anyone can publish a book, start a blog, or publish an online article. Since everyone can do it–and more people are doing it–I’ve had moments when I felt my efforts would be undervalued. I think many writers feel the same. Consequently they find definitions that separate them from the pack. It is arrogant and a sign of insecurity. In the end, I hope my work will speak for itself. There’s no need to feel insecure or frustrated or undervalued. Good work is bound to touch someone.
    Writing isn’t like other fields where you must have a degree to practice. Many great writers didn’t earn English or Creative Writing degrees. And as already mentioned, many weren’t paid or published until their deaths. I guess now that the publishing industry is changing, maybe the definitions should change too. But I don’t mind judging by the old standards.

  26. I don’t call myself a blogger. I say that I blog, or that I have a blog. I call myself a knitter, a mom, and an author, though the last one I’m still a bit more reticent to use the latter, even though I’ve published a book and another one’s due out in February. I call myself a teacher, even though I haven’t been in the classroom in a few years (paid, anyway). I don’t call myself a housekeeper, nor a homemaker, nor a chef. And yet, I wouldn’t care if someone else called me any of the above.

  27. I wholly agree. I too am a teacher who happens to have a blog and write for fun. When people ask my profession, I always tell them I am a teacher and never tell them I am a writer, because I am not. Further, for the most part I don’t tell “real” people about my blog as I enjoy keeping my internet life and “real” life separate. That might be odd; a secret hobby, perchance?

  28. Asking someone what they do for a living is a whole different question than just asking someone what they do. A person who writes everyday is a “writer” regardless of publication. Just like a person who runs everyday would call themselves a runner without having to produce medals. Now whether a good runner or a good writer is another conversation…

  29. This is an interesting discussion.

    I think that the word “professional” indicates the type of approach one takes. I am a professional actor and theatre-maker. I have been paid to develop characters and build theatrical events. I approach new projects, paid and un-paid, as though I was getting paid to complete them.

    I know theatre artists who do much more interesting work than I do, but who are not paid for their efforts. Sometimes the difference comes down to work ethic, others it comes down to lifestyle priorities. Sometimes it’s about resources and business sense.

    I tend to collaborate with artists who categorize themselves as professional, and who have also been paid somewhat regularly for their creative efforts. I find that we are more on the same page regarding priorities, project timelines, managing other collaborators and clients, and delegating responsibilities.

  30. If the photographer/barman was in New York City then he was exhibiting common behavior around these parts: the ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude. Otherwise known as the power of positive thinking. I have just published my first novel; who knows how much or how little I will earn from it? But I have been calling myself a writer for several years now. Any guide to writing I’ve read or any interviews with famous writers always contains one piece of advice: If you are writing to make your fortune, get out now. That’s not what writing’s about. Some writers bowed out of the commercialism of it–Salinger, Harper Lee–because they felt less than writers after reaching the success you mention. You write because you can’t not. I’m a writer. Deal with it 🙂

  31. This is a struggle I think a lot of young people (me included!) go through…trying to discover who they are, what they want to do and really have confidence in their aspiring dreams and career goals. I am not one to dwell on labels or titles, although I do think that calling something a “profession” does probably require a source of income or a very in-depth knowledge-base or experiences (even un-paid) in a particular industry. I’ve done my fair share of “paid” photography jobs for families and clients…but I don’t think I’d ever introduce myself as a professional photographer, so I think it’s a matter of how you view yourself and the work you want to do!

  32. I don’t see myself as a “blogger” or a “writer”, just someone who likes to write. I wouldn’t mind it being by “profession” but I think that it might take the fun out of it a little for me. I am simply a person that writes a blog on multiple subjects. I don’t earn money from it and I’m not “published” so it’s not my job. Although I can see why people call themselves “bloggers” I think it’s more commonly used these days to say. I have a blog! http://themanythoughts.wordpress.com

  33. This is a fascinating question. I find myself in a situation where I have very recently begun blogging under the title of “apprentice writer,” which I think i probably a title I will keep until the day I die, whether I become a professional writer or not.
    I guess that in my mind, I have always considered what I am and what I do for a living to be different things. For example, I work as a residential member of the pastoral support team of a University College (if you’re reading this in the US, basically a student dorm I guess.) However, that title is how I would answer the question “what is your job?”
    I do believe that I am a writer I suppose, despite the fact that I as yet don’t make any money from writing, because that is how I identify myself, and it is the most important thing I do in my mind. That is why I like the word “apprentice,” because I feel like I am very much still a student of writing.
    I’m not certain that being published would ever change that, but that is beside the point.
    I know a man who works in a hardware, because he needs money to buy equipment so that he can spend his free time painting, and making art. His job is a hardware salesman. He is an artist. I think of him as an artist who works in a hardware.

  34. I have enjoyed reading this post and additional discussion surrounding the question. Mostly because this is a question I ask myself often. When others ask me, I always feel uncomfortable maneuvering my undecided speech towards a believable answer.
    My weapon of choice is the camera. Even though I use a camera for my medium of creation I sometimes feel more comfortable identifying as an artist over a photographer due to my believe that photography is somewhat of a difficult craft that I have not and may never master. Instead I use it to do art for myself. Points I like to ponder:

    1. What is the intent behind the question?
    Is the questioner asking about what you like to do? How you make your income? Or how do you contribute to society. It is becoming a trend to ask what one does with their time as a means to explore an individual and potential mutual interests instead of limiting a person’s identity to what they get paid to do. An example to ponder, I know people who when asked what they do say they are travellers. Do they get paid to travel? No. But they spend all their time working at odd jobs, minimum wage or something lucrative but short term until they can afford their desired trip. Their life consists of a work-travel-work-travel loop. They can contribute to the world through their experiences and sharing stories and inspiring others. Sometimes, however, it is of interest to know what someone does for work in interest of networking, making contacts, and potential collaboration.

    2. Who do you do it for? Yourself? Others?
    You can get paid for either but I should like to think that if you are doing it for others that you are hopefully getting paid. However, I don’t ever see myself as identifying a professional because my work is mostly self-directed and a product of my exploration of the world. It is art I create, and if it can be exhibited or sold because others enjoy it than that’s great.

    3. What is your end goal?
    Are you striving to someday live off your art, or at least in part? Maybe you don’t even want to get paid but exhibited or published – contribute and participate in the community.

    When most people ask me if I am a photographer I usually interpret their question as “I see you take pictures? Are you good? And if so are you successful at making money with it and how do you do that?” often they are fellow photographers who just want to have a good conversation. Thus, my response to the question ‘What do you do?’ I say that I get paid to (insert current job) but I am also a hobbyist photographer who occasionally gets paid to be creative.

  35. I think I am what I am, be it a writer, an artist, a dancer, regardless of what others may think, or whether I get paid for it or not.

  36. What an excellent post, and definitely poses some interesting questions. Most enjoyable, thanks for posting…

  37. “As a man thinks, so is he”. I could say I’m a homemaker, but does that mean I’m not a writer, a photographer, or any other title that is true to my soul? I guess from the point of your asking the man what he does for a living, you may be justified in your way of thinking. My way of thinking is, how you earn your money is not “living” it’s surviving…living is what you do that makes your life beautiful, and enjoyable. I am a writer, a photographer, a boogie boarder, and animal rescuer…and many other wonderful things. I don’t earn a penny doing any of it! Titles and definitions of success are what stifle so many people in this life. Just be and call yourself whatever is true to you.

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  39. I think this post de-values the arts in the way that society does in general. I believe people are who they define themselves as- and if someone chooses to define themselves by their paypacket, as you do, then so be it. What of all the volunteers in the world…from those who walk dogs for free to trained doctors who have a stint in an under pivileged country…unpaid? What of all the writers or artists who are too shy to make a connection with those-in-the-know, who do not have any contacts, who stumble over their self-worth? This is a pretty common trait amongst people within the arts and people who actually question their talent without seeing what they can actually produce further in the name of money help perpetuate this lack of confidence. I think the arts is a very hard world to leap into and I wish the boy in the bar all the luck in the world because he is probably at the age when his social life could take up every single spare moment he has outside paying the rotten bills in order to live and yet he has found a passion which he obviously hopes will give him a paypacket one day and also give him relief in not having to try and grapple with people thinking he is a chameleon. Anyway, great post in the fact that it is always good to have something that gets a strong opinion feedback 🙂

    • I have read all the comments and haven’t replied to them as I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. However:

      I disagree totally that it devalues the arts. I am a violinist. I am paid to play the violin. I’ve spent the last 15 years surrounded by the arts.

      I didn’t ask him what his hobbies and passions are, I asked him ‘what do you do?’ which where I’m from is a standard question and means ‘what is your job?’ My point is that by telling me he was a photographer he implied that photography was the way that he earned his living. At no point did I devalue his skills as a photographer, I simply stated that somebody cannot claim to be a professional unless they are paid to do something as this is what the term professional means.

      I seem to be reading the same comments over and over which quite rightly point out that the term professional does not always relate to the level of skill that someone possesses and there are many examples of an amateur being better at something than a professional is. But again, my point is that someone could be the best writer, blogger, photographer, baker, musician etc in the world, they shouldn’t refer to themselves as a professional within their field unless they are paid for it.

      I also don’t define myself or others by a pay packet, and I must admit I take a little offence to that. I have lots of friends that have lots of different jobs and hobbies and I never define any of them by how they earn their money. I don’t define myself by what I do. I write, I blog, I bake, I run, I love films and books and I have a very fulfilling social life. But unless someone asks me ‘what are your passions and hobbies’ I will always respond to the question ‘what do you do?’ with ‘I’m a teacher’ because that’s what I get paid to do.

      However, I’ve loved all the conversation it has sparked! It’s certainly been an interesting read!!! Thanks for taking the time to comment!!

      • Sure- different horses for courses- sorry if I did offend in any way. It’s just that I have had many friends who have had the most revolting jobs while trying to get recognition for what they actually had talent for, such as muscians and artists and it has literally taken them half a lifetime to get a sustainable pay packet for it. I do define them by what they do, not what they get paid to do…and it is only now (because the arts is such a ruthless world) that they can say ‘I make my money painting, making albums etc’…but I always saw them as artists, even when they were cleaners, bartenders…because that was only a means to what they considered their vocation…as I did. I suppose I also take what people’s job titles with a grain of salt because I juggle children and 3 part-time jobs…and so there is not really one thing I could say…I say them all as I love them all and I add my kids in as a job as well, which is probably the hardest job and the one without any pay… 🙂

  40. Perhaps this person you met, when asked what he does, should have responded by stating he does lots of things. While I certainly get the difference between what we do to put bread on the table versus what we do out of passion or to simply amuse ourselves, I don’t think the former has to define us in our entirety, or even in too big a part.

  41. I think my problem with what the guy in your story did was the misrepresentation. The classic “what do you do” question implies work, not hobbies and interests. I think it’s fine to call oneself a writer, photographer, blogger, whatever, because it’s just a name to describe something you do. For example, I’m an athlete, and a photographer. That doesn’t make me a professional in either. It’s the extent that makes a difference, and the fact that someone needs to be deceptive speaks more to their happiness with their choices and circumstances. Own your choices, and own your interests!

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