Writing as a Hobby (#SFWApro)

The standard advice is that even if you’re not published yet, you should approach writing fiction as a business. Set regular hours. Set productivity goals. Keep your nose to the grindstone.
Sometimes I think (and by sometimes I mean lately) it makes more sense to think of it as a hobby.
After all, if I thought of fiction a business … I’d stop. Even though I sell stories, my bottom line as a freelancer doesn’t depend on fiction. In the three years I’ve been full-time freelancing, fiction has never made up even five percent of my income. From a bottom-line perspective, I’d better off working on more Demand Media or other articles.
There’s always the possibility something I write will pay off big, or at least big enough I can afford to do more fiction. But again, that’s enough of a long-shot I’d be crazy to build a business plan around it. As I’ve written, I’ve not been able to replicate the level of success I had in 2007, and even then it didn’t add up to much cash.
But if I think of fiction as a hobby I’m really, really passionate about, it makes much more sense.
Keep in mind, a hobbyist doesn’t have to be a dilettante or talentless. Take community theater, which is the hobby I know most about. It has deadlines you have to meet, hours of work you have to commit to a director who will dress you down if you’re not doing well enough (not all directors are good enough to see you’re not up to snuff, admittedly) and an audience full of people who will see if you fail. When I did it (and hopefully next year I’ll do it again in some capacity), I worked hard to make sure I could deliver a good performance, and I got better as I learned and improved.
Or take golf. There’s a hobby where I know people can be extremely obsessive about improving their game. Or poker, music, art, gaming. Not that everyone commits themselves to get better and improve their skills, but a lot of people do.
And there’s no pressure other than your own. You don’t worry about the fact you’re not getting paid, or whether you’ll ever get paid. Which also makes me much more comfortable submitting to small markets that don’t pay much. If it’s getting published, good enough. Of course, I still shoot for the best markets if I can find some that a story is right for, but if they don’t bite, I don’t feel too bad (and don’t worry about whether I’m taking steps towards eventually cracking bigger markets).
I know of writers who have approached their fiction with a dogged determination to make it as a novelist (or screenwriter or what have you) or die trying. I’d sooner live. And frankly, I don’t believe that if I had yielded up every fiber of my being to writing and honing my craft, I’d have done any better. Whatever keeps me from selling more, it’s not lack of dedication or training.
Of course, even not expecting real money, it still stings when I get rejected. Not getting cast in shows hurts too. But if I remind myself I’m in it for the fun and not the loot, perhaps that will help.

2 Comments

Filed under Personal, Writing

2 responses to “Writing as a Hobby (#SFWApro)

  1. “I’d sooner live.” Amen to that! There’s no reason people can’t be passionate and determined about their hobbies, and still approach them with an attitude that is primarily in it for the fun and not the loot. I love that approach.

  2. Pingback: Copyright craziness and other writing-related links (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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