Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Monday, July 14, 2008

This Isn't a Hobby

At least for me, this isn't a hobby. Let me explain...

Just now I was reading Nathan Bransford's blog post from Friday. If you scroll to the end, you'll see comments a writer left on one of Mr. Bransford's other posts. Now, I realize the author of that comment was defending writing. I know we take a lot of crap for sitting here day after day plunking away at words that may never be published. But she (I assume it was a she) defended writing by comparing it to other hobbies.

Umm, sorry. This isn't a hobby.

To me a hobby is something you do to pass the time. It's something you do for your own enjoyment only. And it's something you never envision seeing a profit from. Model builders don't expect to sell their finish products. Marathon runners don't expect to ever get the big corporate sponsorships. Most fisherman don't expect to get on the big bass circuit and win money for the fish they catch. (Commercial fisherman notwithstanding.)

I may never make a dime off this writing, but it's not a hobby. I don't just write because I have nothing better to do and I think sitting in this chair typing away is an enjoyable way to pass the time. If I wanted to do that, I'd crochet or draw or look at online properties to dream about owning. I could spend countless hours reading (which I did this past weekend) if I wanted to indulge in a hobby.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant, but the whole thing just rubbed my fur the wrong way. Like last year when I got an unsolicited e-mail inviting all amateur writers to join some club-thingy. I don't bust my ass almost every day - inviting backaches and wrist cramps and flat butt - because this is a hobby. I'm not that committed to frivolous pursuits.

Don't get me wrong. I know hobbyists also bust their asses to achieve their goals. I can't imagine spending countless hours putting together a model car - all those tiny pieces would kill me. I can't imagine running even a little bit without something large and hairy chasing me. I'm not taking anything away from those people. They work hard, but they aren't looking forward to those pursuits as careers.

This is my career.

I also know it was an analogy, and like all analogies it has to break down at some point (otherwise, it wouldn't be an analogy - it would be the exact same thing). You know me, I'm all about analogies. Love 'em. But this one was off base. A better analogy would be to liken this to getting a doctorate degree.

Think about it. When a person starts out going for a doctorate, they don't have any guarantees they're ever going to make it. They don't know how much money they'll make at the end - if any. But they spend all those years and all that money working toward the goal of a Ph.D. anyway. Maybe when they get it, they'll still find themselves working at McDonald's, but that's the way things go sometimes. Maybe at the end of all this work, a writer will find themselves with a harddrive full of books and no sales. In either case, a lot of people quit before they reach their goal, but even then, the experience wasn't a hobby. True, some people only take a class here or there to amuse themselves - like some people only write parts of stories. Those people aren't going for the degree or the publication. For them, it truly is a hobby. (And I say, good for them.) But for those people who are striving to reach the goal and won't let anything get in their way, this isn't a hobby. It's not even close.

So, what's the answer to the problem of people not giving writers their due? How do you react when you tell someone you're a writer, and they look at you like you dig ditches?

Ignore them. They don't get the amount of effort we put into our work, and they never will. Smile politely and shrug it off. When you see your name in print, every slight will become what it always was. Nothing.

Because people, if you look at this business like it's a hobby for you, you'll never be able to put forth the effort it takes to get where you need to be. Look at it like it's a job and sooner or later, it'll pay off. It has to.

Otherwise this whole thing is pointless.

:end rant:


JenWriter said...

What bothers me is she's lumping everyone into writing hobbyists when writing is clearing not a hobby for some people. Painting is also not a hobby for some people. Illustrating is not a hobby for some people. They've made it their career.

And those people who want a career out of it--like you and me--probably won't be satisfied until we see our books in print. Heck yeah, I'll feel like a legitimized writer when that happens. It's not my hobby. It's my job.

Erica Ridley said...

This makes me so crazy, too! My family constantly refers to my writing as a "hobby", and I finally put my foot down about it just this past week. Gah.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Exactly, Jen. I don't want to be lumped in with dabblers. This is work.

Ack, Erica. I'm lucky my family doesn't do that (at least not that I know of). Good for you putting your foot down.

KAREN said...

Great post! I've often tried to explain to people why my writing ISN'T a hobby despite being unpublished (as yet) and you've just put it perfectly :0)