Amateur Label Is Too Limiting

When this word came up in the random word selection, I had a fairly strong reaction to it.  I left the word in (sometimes I redo a random choice if the word is too strange or too ordinary), but spent some time considering why I didn’t like it.

There are two definitions to the word amateur:

  • A person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science as to music or painting; especially one who cultivates any study or art, from taste or attachment, without pursuing it professionally.
    She is an accomplished amateur woodworker.
  • Someone who is unqualified or insufficiently skillful.
    The entire thing was built by some amateurs with screwdrivers and plywood.

It doesn’t bother me to be labeled as someone who pursues a passion without beind paid.  But it really bothers me that the word amateur is mostly used as someone who is lacking skill.  And that seems to be the primary use of the world.

Maybe that’s rightfully so.  The line between being paid or not being paid is pretty small these days.  Most writers and professional photographers make very little money and are lucky to cover their expenses.  For others, such as myself, we work a day job but would hardly be considered a unqualified or insufficiently skillful.  When I’m at the botanical gardens, I see a lot of weekend photographers with some serious equipment.

So how to better describe myself?  Serious amateur?  Passionate writer and photographer?  Professional?  I have made some money with writing and photography.  Not much, but how much do I have to make to be a professional?

Hmm. . . . even with thinking this over and looking at some options, I’m not sure.  On the other hand, is a label even necessary?  Nobody’s asked me so far.  In fact, people are so impressed that I have a blog and take pictures, the question doesn’t even come up.  I guess it doesn’t need to come up now either.

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – THWART.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.


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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Maybe “freelance”? Could be brave confident independent professional or a brave independent amateur who is confident / good enough to take a risk? (Some people think all artists / writers are “amateurs” because of the money thing. But then those are generally the label people – so who believes anything they say?) Nice post

  2. I also think heart has a lot to do with it. In my book, if one takes their work, passion, or hobby seriously and expects quality in what they do, I would not consider consider them an amateur. And you my dear, put a lot of heart in all that you do!

  3. I’m with you, not sure I like the whole “labeling” aspect. Amateur really isn’t a word that is heard much, unless it is in a derogatory sense. Maybe it’s another victim of the slaying of the English language.

    • I think that’s why I had such a bad reaction when that word came up – it is usually used as in a derogatory way. I think it is another victim of the English language going downhill.

  4. First I must say that weather vane shot is terrific.

    I agree with your sentiments about the word amateur. I taught music, I have a degree in Music Ed. But I am not a professional performer, yet I have been paid to play for weddings, funerals, church services. And I don’t think it would be correct to say that I am an amateur musician either. I know people who claim to be amateurs in the arts who have the skill level and education of a professional but because they also have advanced education in other fields, fields in which they make a good income are not considered ‘professionals’. Too confusing, but great fodder for discussion & debate.

    • Thanks for the compliment on the photo. That was taken from the porch at my daughter’s house.

      Your thoughts on the differences between amateur and professional are a great example of what I was describing. Technically you’re not a professional, but realistically you are way past amateur because of your technical proficiency. My husband and I find the same thing as you observed – there are some very good “amateurs” out there who do it as a passion and are very accomplished at it.

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