Your Writing – Career or Hobby?

7 Jun

I ask myself this question all the time. Is my novel-writing a career or a hobby? What’s the difference?

Disclaimer: I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. I’m hoping maybe you do.

Once upon a time I had big dreams – to write my first novel, get a New York publishing contract and become a famous author. Or at least one who sold a shit load of books.

That didn’t happen. My timing sucked – story of my life – and the bottom fell out of the publishing industry when I wasn’t looking. One could also argue that my books suck too and that’s why I couldn’t get a New York publisher, but I don’t believe that. I think my books are as good or better than a lot of books out there.

Twelve years later, I’m still writing — my fifth novel — and I have a much better grasp on reality. I’m never going to make a shit load of money, or become famous. That used to bother me, but I don’t care anymore, because I’ve learned the only thing that matters is the writing. It brings me joy.

Webster’s definition of a hobby is ‘something that a person likes to do in their spare time’. A career? ‘A profession or occupation which one trains for and pursues as a lifework. ‘

The most obvious difference between the two that Webster failed to mention is MONEY. Nobody pays you to sit on your ass and tickle your keyboard, unless you’re a journalist or freelance writer. The minute somebody starts paying you to pursue your novel-writing, your hobby becomes a career. Doesn’t it?

TIME is another factor. Some authors keep their day jobs and write as a second job, but most people who work full-time write in their spare time. This allows them to fool themselves into thinking – some day, when I retire, I’ll be able to write full-time and turn this into a career.

I’m here to tell you that I’m retired, and I could write/blog/promote ten hours a day if I chose to, except I don’t. I still manage to write a book a year thanks to NaNoWriMo and a lot of determination, but it always comes back to the MONEY.

Five years ago I won a contract with a small press publisher and didn’t make enough yearly royalties to take my family out for dinner. Now that I’m self-published, I make more money — it always blows my mind when I receive my check from Amazon Kindle — but is it enough to classify my writing as a career? 

Is there a dollar value that separates hobby from career? If you spend every waking minute writing, does that mean it’s no longer a hobby?

2 Responses to “Your Writing – Career or Hobby?”

  1. Denise A. Agnew June 8, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    To me a career in writing is what the individual author defines for themselves. 🙂 I think you have a career in writing if you define it as that. 🙂

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