Thursday, 20 June 2013

Writing: Hobby or a Job?

As I sit at the kitchen table, smiling in good humor after telling my mother about my big royalty check that Amazon just sent me, the grand total of which could be spent in a double order at Starbucks, I think to myself, My mother will never receive a dedication in one of my books.

The reason for her blacklisting is that she's just a little too happy to be proven right that my years of effort, poured into make-believe worlds on my word processor until my fingers and wrists ache, culminated in less financial reward than would be met by a panhandler in the center of town. She's not doing this to be mean, I know. She simply doesn't realize any better. I can't explain the passion of creativity to someone who has no interest in the subject, any more than I can describe the texture of the air around her. I tell her it's not about the money and leave it at that. She understands. It's just me enjoying one of my little hobbies.

Hobby. An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. 

As bristling as the word seemed when she uttered it, in retrospect, it's strangely apt. I have a full-time job, and writing is something that I do in my leisure time, something that gives me great pleasure. Though you'll never catch me burning a check, it really isn't about the money. 

Hours later, I find myself sitting back in my chair, staring at the characters that I breathed into life over the past two years, wondering, Is she right? Is that all this is? A hobby?

I'm not so delusional as to believe that I'll ever be as successful a writer as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Honestly, I sincerely doubt that I'll ever be quitting my day job and retiring to a sandy beach to enjoy my bohemian writer lifestyle in the tropics. However, upon consideration, I'm not so sure that I would want to. I know myself well enough to realize that the moment something I enjoy becomes a chore, my interest in doing it wanes. 

For years, I drew web comics. Nobody paid me. I just did it for fun. Strangely enough, it was actually my skills as a cartoonist, more than my IT background, that landed me my first job outside of my home town. An online school hired me because in addition to my technical background, they also wanted someone who could add illustrations and Flash animations in their courses. I drew... and drew... and drew... earning a decent paycheck the whole time. The more I drew in my work capacity, the less I began to draw in my free time, until eventually I simply stopped, moving on to other interests. I didn't think about my dwindling enthusiasm for cartooning as anything negative, but simply as a sign that my tastes were maturing.

I don't want writing to become my job. I'm terrified by the thought of staring at a blank screen on my word processor, with nothing on my mind except worries of having to earn enough to pay my bills and put food on the table. Revisiting the characters I invented and sharing in their exciting lives is like a homecoming. I never want that feeling to diminish. I want to continue sharing the magic that I feel from every typewritten word that shapes their future. 

Writing shouldn't be a job, a means to a financial end. That's just empty. Writing should be a pleasure. A hobby... with benefits.

I lean into my keyboard and begin typing, my fingers easing me back into the comforting world of my imaginary friends, whose every breath is mine to produce. There's a smile on my face. It's the expression that any aficionado would wear as they immerse themselves into their favorite pastime. 

As my characters come to life under my keystrokes, I think back to my mother's words and realize that maybe I will dedicate a book to her, after all. Perhaps my tenth, or twentieth. It will bear these words:

To my mother, who once called my passion a hobby. She's still right.