Not a hobby.
When I was an artist in my 20s, I had good taste but not the skill or experience to effectively express what mattered to me. I was also dealing with the chaos of being a 20-something. From figuring out my medium—writing—to figuring out my sexuality—queer—to searching all over the world for a creative community that fit, I was just trying to keep my head above water.
Now in my 30s, I am finally settling into my creative practice. Empathetic to the growing up that my 20-something self had to do, I understand why it took so long for me to be able to make good art. All things considered, I am still young for a writer who is so clear on the work she wants to create.
Despite this, I have become painfully aware that I am woven into a social fabric that has little desire to understand this process of creative development. In my 20s, the artistic exploration I did was tolerated and at times celebrated. In my 30s, however, there is a noticeable shift in others’ patience with my creative pursuits.
Outside of the supportive community of writers and artists I have found at Room Project, I frequently land in conversations that—in ways subtle and obvious—ask, “When are you going to get a real job?” Having had a “real job” as a freelancer my entire life I am less annoyed by that question than by the comment that inevitably follows. The one that suggests that maybe my writing is better treated like a hobby.
The thing is, it’s not a hobby. Writing isn’t something I do in my free time because it’s enjoyable and of little consequence to my life. Writing is my life. As much as I wish I could find small chunks of time outside of the “real job” I’ll never have, I am trying to figure out how to make writing—specifically the things I want to write—my full-time job.
Unlike other professions, however, there’s no linear way to do that. And at some point, the volume of time required to create a substantial piece of creative work is more than can be found in the after-hours moments of our lives. What’s more, there comes a time in every creative’s process where the only way to evolve their practice is to give it their undivided attention.
The thing I find most disheartening about the suggestion to get a real job and to treat my writing like a hobby is that whoever is sharing their well-meaning advice with me doesn’t see how they’re essentially asking me to become someone I’m not. What’s more, instead of offering ways of making what I’m already doing more financially stable and sustainable, they’re asking me to go do something completely different. Something where I’ll most likely have to start over instead of pulling from the experience and expertise that I already have.
In my 20s, I would respond to these sorts of comments with defensiveness and a desire to convince the person whom I’m speaking with that my creative practice is something to be taken seriously. In my 30s, I respond by getting back to the writing that I take seriously.
How do you respond when your creative work is called a hobby?