I’m always looking to improve my writing, so I downloaded a free writer’s guide advertised on the Internet as essential to succeeding financially as a writer. Financial success at my age is mainly based using coupons and careful redemption of my credit card bonus points. I’m retired and have no Pollyanna dreams of a garage full of Lamborghini's just because my muse brilliantly nudges my fingers around a computer keyboard. I may be the only reader who enjoys my writing, but then all authors enjoy their own writing, I write compulsively and continuously, I just don’t make any money at it.
I will never be successful like J. K. Rowling - 500 million copies - and Mickey Spillane – 225 million copies – who both triggered the precious “Gimme more!” response in their readers. I would love to spark that desire in millions of readers, but I’d still write for free. That’s one difference between a professional writer and a compulsive writer.
Don’t get me wrong, the free guide for copy-writing as a profession is an outstanding piece of work, invaluable if you want to write and still make mortgage payments, but it subtly defines the major differences between compulsive writers like me, usually untrained, and those who write because they are really good at it. Most have been trained, and usually at great financial expense or time. There are, however, more than a few autodidact writers who have succeeded in the commercial or academic literary word. That’s what I am. No, not a successful writer, but an autodidact.
It’s the difference between reality and fantasy, the difference between vocation and avocation; the difference between work and a hobby. Yes, hobby, the money losing proposition you get to deduct from your Federal Income Taxes. Compulsive writing is as much like owning a bass boat or a hang-glider. I can’t think of a single professional hang glider pilot although professional bass fishing guides can do quite well. Most of those people are autodidacts. I can’t think of a single university that has a baccalaureate degree in sport fishing. Golf? Maybe, but not fly casting. Yet there are masters at fly casting. They are all autodidacts.
And therein lies the difference between the two types of writers: the ones who paid to learn how to write and the rest of us who hammer away simply because we enjoy doing it. That’s the whole point of a writer's group: we amateurs and semi-pros get to compare notes and pretend we can get out of a new Corvette without embarrassing ourselves.