Writing as a hobby, writing as a career

A week or so ago, John Scalzi posted about Dragon magazine’s new all rights terms for fiction, and the problems with same. His post pretty much speaks for itself, and I agree with all he’s saying there.

But I’ve been meaning to pull out one of the side discussions that came up in the comments as a post of its own. An anonymous commenter there said:

Writing as a hobby is like saying you write for yourself: a total lie. We write to be read.

Once, when I was just starting to write and was very intense about it, I would have agreed with this. But I don’t anymore, and I find I disagree more strongly all the time. So I responded to the comment with:

Actually … and it took me some years to fully understand this … writing as a hobby is totally legitimate.

I’ve done things as hobbies that other people do to earn their livings: learn to sing, take horseback riding lessons, run camping trips, learn to run. I had every right to do those things as hobbies, and no, I had no real desire to be seen doing these things or to earn any money from them. They were hobbies, and the wonderful thing about them was that my professional life depended on them not at all. I wanted to do them well, but I had no desire to be paid for them.

Why shouldn’t people have the right to let writing be their hobby, if they choose?

Which doesn’t mean even a hobbyist should give away the rights to their work. But writing as a hobby is no more a lie than knitting as a hobby is.

The whole business of what winds up as a hobby and what winds up as a career fascinates me these days. Because I think there’s a thin line between the two. I know there are some things I love that will always remain hobbies, while other things I love have this spark of being something that could become part of my professional life some day.

I don’t know why writing was always something I wanted to build a career out of, while so many other things weren’t. I don’t know what makes something fall into one category or the other at all, for me or for anyone else. I just know that we all have the right to pursue our passions in whatever way works best for us.

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