For every professional author, artist, poet, photographer, there are thousands* of aspiring amateurs; milling around, filling the forums, the blogosphere, and the twitverse with their drive and enthusiasm.
You know the ones I mean. They’ve had a poem published in Poetry.com, and have their “book” proudly on display at home (not to mention many copies sent to relatives). Their walls are covered with paintings of lopsided buildings, mentally challenged cats and psychedelic flowers. They post their stories on message boards with the cheery demand of “I just wrote this what do you think?!?”. They write fanfic about their favourite show/book, because they can’t bear to think that it’s over.
They love what they do. Their enthusiasm is boundless.
Their skill, not so evident. They’re the ones whose blurry photos get sent in to magazines. Whose NaNoWriMo novels end up in the slush pile every January, without fail. Who are completely over the moon about getting published in an obscure little non-paying journal**, and will post it on their blog as a “writing credit”. Who firmly believe that “no new authors are getting published”.
I’m sure you’ve met one, or two, or a hundred or so.
But before you roll your eyes and mutter rude words, take a moment to consider this.
The people who write, or paint, or take photographs do it because they love it. They may not have the skill, but they have the enthusiasm. And it’s more than likely that they started to paint, or photograph, or write, because they bought something that moved them. Something that made them think, “I’d love to do that.”
And whatever their skill level, or lack of it, they’re going to continue to buy books, and art, and magazines about the things they love.
These are the people who pay for writing classes. Who buy anthologies about vampires, because they just can’t get enough. They purchase subscriptions to e-zines. They buy prints from their favourite artists. They have a library of novels large enough to start their own bookstore.
These people are fans. And fans are more precious than gold.
So next time you’re tempted to laugh behind your hand at someone’s songfic epic with matching pictures of characters in skimpy outfits, don’t.
That person may have bought a short fiction magazine with your story in it. They have, indirectly, paid you. And one day, they may be drawing disproportionate pictures of characters from your books.
Most of them will never produce work of any decent standard. You are not competing against them – you are competing against other professionals. A goodly number of these amateurs don’t even care about the standard of their work – they just want to share and enjoy. And I say, good for them.
A little less mockery, people, and a little more appreciation. Your life is funded by these enthusiasts. Try not to forget that.
*Rounded to the nearest thousand