Elizabeth: Where Does Writing Fit in Your Life?

writingWhether you’re just starting to write or have been writing for some time, it can be hard to strike a balance between writing and everything else in your life.

At time or another, we’ve all faced the problem of no time/ motivation to write, or just the feeling that our writing wasn’t going where we wanted it to go or with the speed we wanted it to go there. Nancy offered paths and strategies in her recent Ready, Set, Goal! post earlier this month and I talked about finding a writing process that works for you in my Back to Basics – Writing Life post.

Recently, I came across this Facebook post by Elizabeth Gilbert in which she talked about the words Hobby, Job, Career, and Vocation. The post was directed toward those who are seeking purpose and meaning in their lives, but I thought it was a very interesting way to think about writing. Having a clear understanding of where writing fits in your overall life can be very helpful when trying to figure out how and where to focus your time and energy.

Is Writing Your Hobby?

According to the dictionary, a hobby is something that is done “in one’s leisure time for pleasure.” You’re generally not trying to make money from a hobby (though you might) and it’s not the highest priority task in your day, though you may be very focused on it. Quilting is one of my hobbies. I’ve done it for years, I’m pretty good at it (based on comments from others), and have even sold a few finished quilts. I like working out patterns and selecting fabrics, but I don’t do it all the time and may go many months between projects so I can concentrate on other things like photography or old movies.

Hobby writing is likely to be more relaxed and fun than other writing and may be something that you do for a time and then move on to something else that catches your interest. You may be more enamored with the process than the end result.

Is Writing Your Job?

Unlike a hobby, a job is a “paid position” or “livelihood.” It’s what you do to earn money for whatever you need money for. Your job can enjoyable and meaningful, but it doesn’t have to be. I have a number of friends who are currently (quite successfully) ghost-writing. They’re not doing it because they particularly love the pieces they are writing – they’re doing it to pay for the mortgage and their kid’s education and whatever else needs paying. They have set projects with time-frames, deadlines, and deliverables.  If need be, they can move on to something else. The job does not define them and it’s not their only option.

I’ve had many jobs over the years – babysitter, sales clerk, cabinet maker, software developer, and more. If writing is your job, then you’ll need to make sure you are giving it the time, focus, and attention that you would any other job.

Is Writing Your Career?

The dictionary is not as helpful as it could be when it comes to the difference between a job and a career (they are listed as synonyms of each other). Basically, a career is defined as a longer-term occupation, with opportunities for progress. It tends to involve strategy, ambition, and relationships. There can be a lot of planning involved in a career – meeting the right people, getting the right exposure and experience – and it’s not likely to be something that you just walk away from one day, although you might.   I had a boss once who had trained for a medical career. She took all the right classes in college, made the right connections, got into med school, did her internship . . . and then decided “you know what, this isn’t right for me after all” and went out and chose a new path.

If writing is your career, you’re probably not just spending your time alone at your keyboard. You may be taking classes to enhance your skills; joining professional organizations to network and gain exposure; and keeping your finger on the pulse of industry trends and changes. You’re not just thinking about writing that story that is in your head, but also publishing and marketing it and following it up with the next story.

Is Writing your Vocation (Passion)

Whether you think of it as a vocation or a calling or your “purpose in life”, this refers to writing that you do for you, because it has meaning for you (not for anyone else). This is writing that you do regardless of whether anyone else ever sees it or because you have stories to tell or things to say that you just need to write. You’re not going to get bored and wander away from this kind of writing. It may not be paying the bills, but it’s something that you do because it gives your life meaning and purpose.

– – * – –

Once you’ve figured out what role writing plays in your life, then your next step is to make sure that you are giving it the appropriate amount of resources and focus. If your goal is to make a living with your writing, for example, but you are treating it like a hobby, then you probably need to make some adjustments.

So, where does writing fit in your life?

7 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Where Does Writing Fit in Your Life?

  1. What I’d like to do this year is turn writing into my treat. My reward for a day of hard work, my retreat into a different world where the laws of physics are just a little different. I don’t want to think about money. I want to stop thinking about craft for a little bit, because that’s getting in the way of the fun parts.

    So yeah, I guess I want to turn it into a passion. I think it could be, but I’m letting too much stuff get in the way.

    • Michaeline – I like the idea of writing being your treat. I think that is where I am right now as well. Putting it in the “career” category and treating it as such was taking all the fun out of it and really impeding my progress. Good luck to you on not letting “too much stuff get in the way.”

      • I just realized that my daughter is telling me the same thing. She wants a career that brings in enough money, but nothing that would suck the joy out of the things she loves . . . . That old “do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” sounds great on paper, but can be awfully difficult to do in 3-D.

  2. Since a vocation can also just be a job, writing isn’t mine, at least not the creative writing. I write grants, and lately policy and procedure in response to the new Uniform Grant Guidance (or UGG, which is what it is). So my writing right now definitely falls under the avocation heading – something I do in addition to my job. It isn’t tripping along very well, either, which won’t turn it into a vocation any time soon, although that’s where I want it to be.

    • Michille – I’m guessing it is a challenge to get the creative writing “tripping along” when you’ve spent your day-job doing the grant writing. I know when I was writing software manuals as part of my day job I was just tired of words by the end of the day, which left little inclination to do any creative writing later. Good luck getting your creative writing where you want it to be.

  3. I don’t earn any money from my fiction (yet!), so it’s not a job, but I gave up a career to free up more time to write so that must qualify as a vocation/passion. I’m hoping to earn some money in the future, but even if I never made a penny, I’d keep writing. So I’m choosing ‘vocation’ though many years in business and a competitive temperament mean it’s instinctive for me to slip into a ‘career’ mindset. My challenge is not to stop that aspect of myself but to be mindful of it.

    • Jilly – I still envy your choice to give up your career to focus on writing. Having your “vocation” also be your “career” is great. The two don’t have to be the same, but when they are that just seems like a plus.

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