For much of my adult life, I've read and listened to analysis about how specialized and professionalized life in the USA has become. I know this is true. The examples abound in academia, athletics, politics, medicine, music, and elsewhere.
Many of us, however, are resisting specialization and are undaunted by not being professional in much that we do. In my whole life, at age fifty-three, I've never seen so much admirable amateurism in daily life. Much of it is right here on the Internet, but not all of it.
Using myself as an example, I revel in all the things I do that I am far from accomplished at, that no one would pay me to do, that I have no real training in, but that I enjoy immensely.
I'm an amateur actor. I'm an amateur photographer. I'm an amateur when I use Windows Movie Maker. I'm an amateur song mixer on CD's. I'm an amateur historian. I write memoir passages on this blog as an amateur. I am an amateur student of the working class and how work is experienced and how workers express themselves in writing and art. I'm an amateur movie buff and verbal film critic.
If you are reading this blog right now, you are reading the thoughts of an amateur writer. In the world of professional writing, I would have no business writing about what I'm writing about right now. I'm no sociologist.
One of my favorite blogs, Huckleberries Online, is like many blogs of its ilk in that it gives amateur journalists and commentators a place to write scoops, observations, raise questions, keep pressure on public and private entities, and write with a freedom often denied the professionals. The amateur doesn't have a professional reputation to uphold. The amateur can swing and miss, but can hit some pretty towering home runs sometimes, too.
I can hardly wait to get some writing together and go to lulu.com or a similar print on demand service and publish a book or two. Why put myself through the time consuming meat grinder of the book publishing profession? Do I need their cred? No. Am I looking to make money off my writing? No. Am I looking to groom and maintain a reputation in the world of publishing? No.
I'd like to publish some of my writing and give it to friends and family and if I sell a book or two, fine.
I want to approach it as an amateur.
I hope the glories of amateurism will flourish again. I enjoy knowing that so many people are taking writing, music, acting, journalism, sports reporting, and other avocations seriously, putting their work out for others to enjoy, but are not hamstrung by the idea that it's only worth doing if you get money for it or if it's nothing short of superb.
Amateurs don't have to be superb. Often there's not time to be superb. There is, however, time to enjoy doing a handful of things enjoyably, not letting the perfectionist demands of professionalism and specialization get in the way, or ruin what we love to do.
Together, we are restoring the luster to the word amateur that it has lost. If you tell me my efforts at writing and photography and acting seem like the work of an amateur, I'll smile and say, "Thank you. You can tell?"