4 types of writers: professional, aspirational, recreational, advocatory

4 types of writers: professional, aspirational, recreational, advocatory

I recently wrote about

The writers community on Twitter

I love that people there will ask advice of other writers, putting it out to the whole group (not just asking someone they know personally).

I find it fascinating that many of the questions amount to, “Should I write this thing?” For example, someone who has written a novel might ask if they should write short stories about the character.

For me, I need to know more about their situation to answer that.

The main issue for me: what is the purpose in their writing?

People write for different reasons, and that affects those sorts of decisions.

I’m not entirely comfortable with the four terms in the title of this post, but I think the categories make sense…I’ll describe what I mean by them.


A professional writer is dependent on their writing to “put food on the table”. Writing is their job: if they don’t write, they might not be able to pay the rent/mortgage. I’ve never fit that category myself…I’ve always had a “day job” which was by far the largest amount of my income. Yes, it was very exciting to earn enough from my writing that I wouldn’t be poverty level if that was my only income, but I’ve always had the luxury to write what I wanted.

A professional doesn’t have that same choice: they can’t write something which won’t sell or otherwise generate income if it prevents them from writing something which will. I need to be clear: that doesn’t mean that they are artistically inauthentic, but they have to consider the revenue-producing characteristics of the artistic choices they make.

In that case, you write those short stories if they generate income, either directly or by inspiring other sales (they might be given away to followers to generate interest in income-earning works, perhaps).


These writers would like to be professionals, but aren’t yet. They aren’t dependent on their writing for income. Their considerations certainly may hinge on what increases the odds that they become professionals, but they can write things which won’t sell or influence an agent/audience.

I’ve been aspirational in the past, and might become that again after I retire, but I’m not right now. I’m largely free to write what I want, without economic concern.

I do have a lot of concerns about the amount of time and energy I spend on the writing, and I do take into account what my readers want, but that’s a different thing.


This is where I am. I write because I want to write. Certainly, the extra income it generates is great (thanks, subscribers!), but if I wasn’t paid at all, I do think I’d keep writing. I might have to reset expectations: I might not commit to writing as often. The writers’ community seems to be mostly aspirational writers (with some professionals), but lots of people write on Twitter who do it for fun.


This the term I like the least, and I considered others (motivational, inspirational, driven). This group writes to change the world; writing is a tool, a means to an end. They have a cause, and they believe writing will help them achieve it. Whether they earned any money from it or not, they would still write. How does this compare to recreational writers? Advocatory writers don’t necessarily enjoy it. I’ve certainly seen this kind of writer…


Those are my thoughts on it: what are yours? Do you have a suggestion for the name for the fourth category? Have I left off other kinds of writers? Would you consider a technical writer a professional writer by my definitions? Can someone be more than one at the same time: professional technical writer, aspirational mystery writer, recreational fanfic (fan fiction) writer? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Oh, and one other thing which came up recently: what do you consider the difference between an “author” and a “writer’? I refer to myself as a “writer” or “blogger” on Twitter. For me “author” refers to a completed work: you are the author of a book you’ve published, not the writer of that work. However, you could be a writer all the time, without ever having anything published or completed…

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: