So there's this.
I consider myself a professional writer. I consider a lot of my friends to be professional writers. But I’m equally comfortable with some friends who write at a non-professional level. I don’t call them “amateurs” because that word comes with implications of lesser talent. I call them “hobbyists”.
The only time I get upset with hobbyists is when they call themselves professionals. Working in any job at a professional level involves not just making money at that job, but thinking of that job as your career. When you have a career (as compared to simply a job), you sacrifice for that career and you look for ways to advance in that career and practice it way more than just forty hours a week. If it’s wrong to get irritated at people who call themselves professional writers but haven’t really put in the hard work that I have…well, I accept that judgment.
I recently stumbled into a discussion group of people who I thought had called themselves professionals, but their conversations revealed them to be hobbyists. They chatted about health and told jokes and moaned about personal problems…anything, in other words, but writing careers.
I will preface this by by saying I'm not an expert. I kind of wandered into the field of writing by accident. I never expected to be able to write because of my shaky grasp on grammar and spelling.* However, I'm here now, and am a paid writer. So here are my opinions.
My first reaction is no. Just no. God no. If you get paid to write, then you are a professional writer. I grant that language changes over time and usage, but you as a single person do not get to decide what the meanings of words are.
Secondly, just because you don't have a life or interests outside of work, it doesn't mean the rest of us don't have these things. God, watch a Hollywood movie. They are always trying to tell us to spend more time on things like family, friends or fun things. As much as I roll my eyes at the incredible privilege these movies show, they are least showing that there is more going on in people's lives than just work.
Thirdly, some of us are lucky enough to write about our interests. It behooves us to have outside interests.
Even if you are a fiction writer, interests are important because they provide the foundation of writing. I mean, Ray Bradbury wrote at least two stories about Laurel and Hardy and that is hardly a needed interest for a SF writer. And don't hard SF writers have interests in science, physics and tech?
*I have since found out there are such a things as drafts, spell checks, grammar checks, beta readers and lastly editors.