When it’s better to be an amateur than a professional

if you love what you do, it shines through

amurca via pixabay

As Charles Chu said below, ‘amateur’ has a bad reputation these days. Professionals reign supreme, assumed to have greater skill and commitment to their chosen field. But the article got me wondering; is that true?

As a health professional myself, I accept that there are many roles in which an amateur wouldn’t inspire confidence. I want a professional to remove my appendix, or fly me across the Atlantic. But as a creative, it seems to me that the status of amateur is a veiled insult, implying failure.

We need to redefine success.

The amateur does his thing for the love of the game. Many creators do the same, making things without certain reward. Writers find it hard to make a living (a subject for another day) but many write for the joy of it rather than monetary rewards.

When we do something out of love, doing is its own reward. The process is what drives us. If that creation finds success, as defined in the narrow terms of recognition and/or financial recompense, that’s great. But if ‘success’ becomes the sole reason for making, if there is no joy in the process, then professional becomes synonymous with soulless.

We’ve all seen films where the leading actor seems absent, bored, phoning in their performance. They are there for the money, but they are not truly present. We’ve read books in which professional authors mine their past work without creating anything new, creating a sense of staleness and déja-vu.

I went to a concert once where my idol played a perfunctory set, with never a glimmer of enjoyment. It showed. He was totally professional, but the music didn’t touch his heart; and so he could not reach out and touch the audience.

Perhaps your entire working life consists of being professional, which is to say devoid of expression, always correct, never emotional. But art cannot live without emotion. Let feelings drive you to paint that picture, write that fan-fiction, or grow those prize-winning giant vegetables. You’ll be a better human for letting love guide you to creative outlets.

When people ask, why spend all your free time and cash on something that you can’t make money from, smile. Remember those moments of flow when skill and challenge are matched, and time flies by unheeded as you wrestle a dream into reality.

Remember that time isn’t wasted if you enjoyed spending it.

Tell them you do it because you love it, and that’s reason enough.

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