Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who's a pro?

And while we're at it, what's unprofessional?

About a year ago on this blog I whined about seeing myself referred to online as a minor pro. At least I was called a pro. In the genre world, a pro is someone who has published, well, professionally - i.e., in a recognized magazine or has had a book published by a recognized publisher. It doesn't mean someone who supports himself by his writing. That is, professional isn't opposed to amateur but to aspiring (or, more cruelly, wannabe).

Is there a minimum qualification for being considered a pro? There doesn't seem to be. Even one short story in a small but recognized (don't ask me to pin that usage down) magazine makes one a pro. At science fiction conventions and such places, I often encounter young writers who have published one or two stories and who have about them a kind of self-assurance and pro aura that I still don't have.

I suspect that's self-fulfilling. That is, if they project that aura, they're treated as up-and-coming major writers, and some of them eventually become major pros. Is it the quality of their writing? Is it the aura? Damned if I know. I envy such people even as I find myself annoyed by them. Can one learn to do what they do, or does it have to be innate in one's personality? Could I take lessons and end up projecting the same self-image? And would I then become a major pro, or would people wonder who that pompous ass over there is?

By contrast, in the business world, the words professional and unprofessional refer explicitly to appearance and impression. For example, people going for a job interview are advised not to dress too casually (shorts, tank top, dirty hair). They must be professional, which refers to how they dress and how they speak and even what they have on their MySpace page. That is to say, robots get jobs, while individuals do not. Robots are professional; individuals are unprofessional. So the poorly paid guy processing papers and wearing slacks and a dress shirt and wingtips and contemplating suicide is a professional. The highly paid techie a few cubicles away who's wearing shorts and a torn t-shirt and has dirty hair and is overweight and whistles while he works and is churning out brilliant software that will redefine our world is unprofessional. In other words, in the business world, professional isn't really a word at all. Like respect, it's a rhetorical club that means whatever the speaker needs it to mean in order to impose his will.

Then there's business casual, a supremely silly term used to describe a type of clothing that bears as much resemblance to being casual as the military posture At Ease does to actually being at ease.


TGirsch said...

Interesting. By that standard, I'm "a pro." Heh. Never thought of myself that way...

David said...

You mean you're a robot? :)

TGirsch said...

Heh. No, I have published in a recognized magazine. Non-fiction, however.