Monday, February 13, 2012

Where is the line between hobby and avocation?

So, it's National Hobby month? Who knew?

I've had a few hobbies in my day. I've won awards for crochet and needlepoint, I've tried watercolors, sculpture, etc. I have a long-time love of gardening and have done extensive landscaping at all of my homes. I usually last in a hobby long enough to get very proficient, then I lose interest and move on.

I have a theory -- I think some people NEED to be engaged outside their normal daily activities. Most of us go to work, have a family, have a routine. But some people really look for something to catch their interest and their passion, if you will, beyond what they get from daily life. It's not just entertainment, although that's part of it. Many of us want to be entertained. Some of us use TV or movies or books, but some people use hobbies and other interests as a way to keep entertained, a way to keep their minds sharp and moving.

My writing is something that gives me that feeling of entertainment, passion, and interest outside of the daily routine. I've always written books, but I didn't set out to be published until about 6 years ago. That's when I got serious about my writing. When I first started out, I was totally engaged in the whole process: learning the craft, researching publishers and agents, attending conferences, taking classes. That has mostly slacked off now, that initial "how do I make this all work!" phase. Now I'm in the "I'm writing and leave me alone" phase. I'm not sure what the next phase is, but I'm sure I'll be there in a year or two.

Does that mean my writing is a hobby? No, it's more than that. I view a hobby as something that can be picked up and put down without much loss. But think of some of the quilters you know, or people who sew their own clothes, or some painters you know. It's more than a hobby to them. It's an avocation, it's something that helps keep them balanced in an otherwise unbalanced world. And sometimes it becomes a career.

Some people make money from their avocations and others do it just for the joy of it. I'm one of those people who need to have something outside of daily life. I can't sit and watch TV and be entertained. I can do it for a few minutes a day, while I'm doing something else (reading a magazine or cooking). I need to have something to do that engages my mind. I'm not competitive, so most sports are out (and it's too darn crowded on the golf course anymore to be much fun). When I "found" writing, I realized that I had found the perfect outlet for me: I can kill off people I don't like in my books (yea!), I get paid to do this, and it's something I'm good and I don't have to suffer to do.

Win win win.

My relationship to publishing is changing and evolving. I'm not sure where it's taking me or what might change in the future. I do know that my relationship to writing will continue no matter what. I love to write and the time I spend with my characters is often more real to me than real life (and more fun, sometimes!) So I will be curious to see what the future holds for this long-time hobby of mine that turned into an avocation and career.

It's been 6 years and about 20 books. What will the next 6 years hold?


Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Interesting post. I'm glad to see someone else can't stand to simply watch TV. Rarely is anything stimulating on to catch and hold my mind.

Colleen Connally said...

Greatly enjoyed your post. Everyone needs a release. Writing is my obsession.

Alison Henderson said...

Writing is much the same for me. At this point, it's an avocation, but a passionate one. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about it. In a few years, when I retire from the day job, I hope it can be more.

Barbara Edwards said...

I'm always surprised at how similar our histories can be. I was a crafter, too, and didn't take my writing seriously until the year I decided to be published.

Jannine Gallant said...

Good points, JL. Writing for all of us is more than a hobby, I believe. Though because most of us aren't making a living from it, others tend to treat it as such. An avocation is the perfect word to describe it. That or obsession! LOL

Fiona McGier said...

When I started shopping my books around to publishers I hoped it would lead to enough money coming in so I wouldn't have to work 2 jobs. Alas, no. The IRS won't even let me claim any part of the office as a work space, because I make so little it's a "hobby" to them. And when the 2 jobs have me feeling beat, I don't have any time to write...then I get REALLY cranky!

I hope when all of my kids are done with college that I can spend more time writing. Until then? I need to learn to sleep less, that's it!