Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is Writing a Hobby?

A few months ago I was talking to someone about where I was at with my writing process and the long waiting period while if floated out there in the agent universe. “Who knows if anything will happen, but it’s out there!” I told them. To which their response was, “Well, it’s a really nice hobby, Sarah.”

A hobby. Huh.

That thing you do in your free time, but never take too seriously. I mean, sure, I crochet hats and sometimes I sell them, but would I ever be able to do that successfully in a full time capacity? Probably not. (Though I’m not saying I wouldn't enjoy that!)

Even months later, when I think about that conversation, I still have this child-like desire to stomp my foot and say “NO! My writing is NOT a hobby! I might actually make it as an author one day!”

I know that there is a valid sentiment in the community that you shouldn't write for money. You are writing for you. Because you have to. Because you love to. Because there is a burning need inside you to do it.

That doesn't pay the bills unfortunately. At least not my bills. Here’s the deal, I’d quit my job tomorrow if I could be a full-time writer and manage to earn a paycheck doing it. And I wouldn't feel like a sellout for a minute. I’d feel like I won the lottery!

Not to mention, writing itself is an expensive hobby. You wouldn't think so, right? But it is. The workshops, retreats, conferences and memberships. Like hundreds of dollars. Each. Yikes! How do you justify those expenses when you haven’t “made it” yet? How do you go to your spouse and say “Here’s the deal, I need like $500 to go to this conference in Seattle and do you mind taking 3 days off work so you can be with the kiddos? K, thanks, bye.”

Except that really happened. (Do I have the best husband or what?!) I couldn't even believe I did that! The experience was invaluable and unforgettable, but I mean…that’s A LOT of money for travel, hotel and the conference itself! And that’s just one event. These things happen, like, multiple times a year!

The funds I spend on my “writing stuff”, on sending the kids to the babysitter for an extra few hours, on buying more coffee at the coffee shop I’m writing at so they don’t kick me out, do I rationalize them as an investment? An investment that I have little to NO guarantee on a return? I have to. Because the alternative is writing only in my free time. Pulling it out of a box when everything else is done and tinkering away at it.

Yes, writing is a commitment and time intensive, but it’s part of me now and I need it to be more than a hobby.


  1. My wife and I had the same talk about our respective obsessions only a few weeks ago, but we went the other way. For us, it is a hobby even though I spent 15-20 hours a week writing on top of my job and around raising the children.

    Our justification was the profits. I spend more than I make, therefore it's a hobby. It doesn't matter if I have a book out or not. Of course, I have family who have expensive hobbies: my brother skydives and drops $500-1000/weekend to jump off planes, my step-father drops thousands on model trains. Compared to that, spending $2-3k for a book... doesn't seem to much.

    Now, if my books sold more than I spent for over a year, that is the point we are going to call it a job. The same with her photography business.

    Of course, that just means I'm trying harder so I hit that threshold and turn it more than just a hobby. :)

  2. I can see your point as I am definitely spending about 100% more than what I'm making :) I think maybe the term "hobby" is slightly dismissive. It feels like it should be MORE than that. As I'm sure most people feel about their respective passions!!!

    For people that have the money for expensive hobbies, more power to 'em! Though I don't think I'll ever be brave enough to go skydiving. But how to pour money into writing ventures when you don't have that much extra to give! When that money could possibly be put to better use than a long weekend away at a writer's retreat. That's where a little of the guilt settles in sometimes.

    But you're right, you just keep doing it! And hopefully one day I'll get to call it my day job :)