The Professional Amateur

I was reading some writing blog or other yesterday, when I came across a tidbit of wisdom that went something like this: “Hey writers, be careful who you listen to. Any jerk with a WordPress account can start a ‘writing blog.’ It doesn’t necessarily mean they know that they’re talking about”

This is good enough advice. There’s plenty of advice out there you should totally ignore, and plenty of amateurs trying to pass themselves off as experts. Except…well it’s time for of confession.

I’m no professional writer.

Seriously. This guy I know who spent fifteen minutes writing a greeting card that won five-hundred dollars in a contest? He’s made more money at writing than I have.

So reading that post got me to thinking about what I’m doing here. It’s not that I’m trying to pass myself off as some great and revered writer whose wisdom must be adhered to without question. I’ve tried to be upfront about the fact that I’m just a guy who works at Wal-Mart, trying to make something of myself as a writer.

But for me it wasn’t a question of honesty. It was a question of qualification. Does an unpublished writer really have anything worthwhile to say to the world? Or am I just spinning my wheels trying to look important?

I talked it over with my writer friend who also works at Wal-Mart. She asked me, “What is your blog about?”

I told her, “I’m just trying to share my experiences. Maybe give people some encouragement. That’s all.”

She looked at me and said, “That’s all anyone can do.”

I thought about it for a while, and realized she was right. The world’s greatest writer could dispense writing advice until his fingers fall off, but all he can really do is tell what has worked for him.

So, I’m here and I have a blog. If I tell you, “This is how it should be done,” it’s just an opinion. It’s something that has worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you, chuck it.

I’m not here because I know it all. I’m here because I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one who has big dreams that sometimes seem impossible to achieve.

We’re all in this together. We all share the same kinds of hope and heartbreak. And even though writing may be a solitary craft we still need to connect, to know that we are not alone. And if this humble blog can be one of those points of connection and encouragement, it will not have been a wasted effort.

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19 responses to “The Professional Amateur

  1. Just because a writer is unpublished and unpaid doesn’t mean he has nothing to offer. At the very least, he can join in on the commiseration of us writer-types. But one need not publish something to understand craft, and that’s always valuable to add to the conversation.

  2. Writers are unique in that so much of what they do cannot be taught. Once technical concerns are out of the way, no one on earth can be sure that this idea (as opposed to that idea) is the better one to tell, is the one that will resonate with readers and get you invited out a lot. It is always a crap shoot, no matter how many books you’ve sold. There is many a famous writer who suddenly realized he’d just wasted eight or nine months.

    But instinctively we muddle through all that. By sharing your journey this way you are helping someone else who is almost ready to give up, who is tired of being at that party where the snide friend is asking, “Are you *still* working on that book?” Maybe that is the person who reads your blog the next day and finds hope and a kindred spirit and experience that gives him the strength to look at the clown the next time he asks and answer, “Yes, asshole, I am.”

    Blogs like this are good for the spirit, both mine and yours. I’d a hell of a lot rather read this than someone telling me how many words I’m supposed to write in a day.

    It’s a nice and generous job, this one. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the great comment. In some senses it’s easy to look at blogging and say, “Oh, well that’s just egotistical BS.” But I am truly grateful that in opening up about myself I have been able to make a difference for others.

  3. What I love about your blog and your voice, Albert, is how very human you are. Not only that, you represent the quintessential American dream. A smart, talented man from humble beginnings who works hard to make his dreams come true. You speak for all of us when you talk honestly about your insecurities and ambitions. You don’t just write the story, you are the story, and I know I’m not the only one who’s behind you all the way. You may not be able to expound from experience like Bob Mayer or Kristen Lamb, but you can tell about the journey from where you are, and you do that very well. Thanks for taking the time to blog. I’m glad I’m not alone in this struggle. Adding you to my blogroll.

  4. I’m also unpublished, and I consider myself very much a learner. What I share is my experience of learning to be a novelist. I’d never say “this is the way it’s done” or “this is how it should be done.” What works for me might work for someone else. If my point of view is somewhat offbeat, and differs from what’s usually offered, that might be exactly what someone else needs. If nothing else, it tells them that they’re not alone in having an offbeat way of writing or thinking about writing.

  5. Thank you for writing this.

    I’ll second Ms. Bayard and say your writing has a distinct “human” voice. (And I really think “human” is the best word to use here.) That’s why I enjoy your blog. Keep it up! 🙂

  6. I’ve only recently taken learning to write more seriously and only been blogging on WordPress for two months. I’ve learned a lot from your blog, enjoy reading it and sometimes when I’m fatigued, it’s one of the very few I read because it isn’t overwhelming and hyper. From what I’ve read, you’ve always seemed straight-forward and authentic. And I agree about the human thing someone above commented on.

  7. Author Kristen Lamb

    Nobody is born an expert…except for me. I have never made a mistake *thunder rumbles.*

    You are more of an expert than you realize. You are transparent and that is admirable. In fact, the reason I am here is because I need to go search your archives to answer a question posed in my comments :D.

    I love your writing voice, but if you don’t start tagging and categorizing your posts, I am going to give you a digital kick in the tush. Your blogs are excellent. Tag em so people can find them. Also, get your name in bigger letters at the top. Make it “Albert Berg’s Unsanity Files.” This is an excellent blog. Own it. I’ll stop now. Eat your broccoli, and put on some clean socks.

    I’m finished for real now.

    Okay…off to pilfer your archives.

    • Acutally I’ve been pretty good about tagging and categorizing lately. I just dropped the ball today. I’m a little queasy about putting my name in giant letters on the top, mostly because I don’t want to look like an egotist. But when you’re right you’re right. Thanks for swinging by.

  8. Author Kristen Lamb

    Yep…it’s like how our house is clean until someone unexpectedly pops by to visit, LOL. No worries. But get your name up there :P. Great blog. Claim it. Make it yours.

  9. My first blog commenter! Of course you must keep blogging, you were my motivation to keep blogging!!!

  10. Yes, I haven’t been paid for any of my fiction writing yet, but I’ve done a lot of reading and research into the craft. So I share what I’ve learned. 🙂

  11. Hi Albert. At the end of the film “Shadowlands” Anthony Hopkins asks a student “why do we read?” and the answer through the film was “we read to know we are not alone.” So Albert, if you do not write, how will writers like me ever know that we are not alone?

    Though I agree with others who have commented here that being published is not the be all and end all, I would encourage that you strive to be published. Why? Because like Kristen Lamb and Piper Bayard say, ‘you have a voice’.

    Had I not read your blog this morning, I still would not be tagging my posts!

    Good luck.

  12. Well, I was going to wax poetic this morning when I read this post, but it appears everyone has said what I was thinking about. So all I will say is, I enjoy reading your posts, you’ve given me many things to think about and try, and you contribute to the writing world more than you probably know.

    I enjoy your posts immensely, and I hope you keep writing.
    (on a slightly side note; I’m envious as all heck that you have the ability to write an interesting post every day)

    Kate

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