I recently came across somebody quoting software developer Jamie W. Zawinski:

Professionalism has no place in art, and hacking is art. Software Engineering might be science; but that’s not what I do. I’m a hacker, not an engineer.

If the quote is accurate, that’s a shockingly ignorant and wrong-headed thing for Jamie Zawinski to say. I know artists, including Mrs Impala, and they not only take their art seriously but they also treat their fans and customers with the greatest of respect — often more respect than they probably deserve. To paraphrase something Mrs Impala says, “When I’m on stage, the audience owns me.”

The artists I know — well, most of them — behave with great professionalism, and get incredibly frustrated by the dilettantes and prima donnas and selfish, lazy artists who don’t act with professionalism: the ones who turn up to gigs late or too intoxicated to work, the ones who fight over credit, the ones who have no respect for their audiences (paying or not), the self-indulgent and egotistical ones, the ones who ponce about demanding attention and respect and giving nothing back. Even if they are talented, they’re poison.

I have no idea whether Zawinski is one of them. I’ve never worked with him, so I couldn’t say. If he wants to proudly proclaim that he’s unprofessional, that’s his decision to make. But for him to impugn the artistic credentials of those writers, musicians, actors, programmers and other actors who aren’t jerks because they aren’t jerks, well, that’s pretty poor, and a big clue that perhaps Zawinski is one of those jerks himself.

One should also remember that, fundamentally, “professional” just means you get paid for doing it, and as Terry Pratchett wrote in Soul Music:

‘In my experience,’ said Glod, ‘what every true artist wants, really wants, is to be paid.’