Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Hobby Writer vs. The Career Writer

by Julie Coulter Bellon

I was asked recently how I find time to write and if I felt I was a hobby writer or a career writer. These were some tough questions for me. Especially because lately, my time to write has become very scarce. As a mother of a large family, my first and foremost responsibility is to my children. And things are very busy right now, and on top of everything else I am expecting which adds a whole new dimension to my mothering skills (I won’t say whether it’s a good or bad dimension. I’ll leave that up to your own conclusion.) So my writing time is limited and my writing groove is there some days and gone the others. I do try to find time to write a little every day, whether it’s working on my manuscript or writing in my journal, but there are days where it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes I feel a bit of envy for my writing friends who talk about the thousands of words they’ve written that day, because I can’t remember the last time I actually could say at the end of the day I’d written thousands of words, but I have to remind myself that that time in my life will come, it’s just not right now. But does that make me only a hobby writer?

That’s a question I’ve asked myself several times over the last week. I write in snatches and on days when I can. I don’t write every day. Some days all I can write is a paragraph or two. But, I’ve written and had six books published in the last six years. Do my publishing credentials prove that I’m not a hobby writer? What exactly makes a career writer? Someone who does it full time every day? Or someone who produces a product consistently?

I guess I look at myself as a cross between a hobby writer and a career writer. I don’t think of myself as a hobby writer because somehow that seems wrong to me. A hobby implies (to me) that I don’t really take it seriously, and just do it for fun. Writing is more than that to me. I think it is a talent, something I want to develop, something I enjoy doing, that brings a sense of balance and well-being to my world. I take it seriously because I’ve worked hard to produce something that is suitable to share with others, that they pay money for, and that brings me a sense of happiness when I interact with those people who know my work. I do look at it as my career that I’m carving out, but since I’m a slow (er) and yet a steady writer who doesn’t do it for a full time (or even part time) job at this point, I don’t really think I can say I’m a career writer. I’m just sort of in between.

But does being a career writer or a hobby writer come down to how much time you have? I have heard several suggestions over the years for getting in more writing time, like getting up early, or writing late at night. But I don’t think that that is truly the definition of each kind of writer and I don’t think my particular problem is finding more time to write. I think that at my phase in life, I have to find the balance between my mothering role and my role as an individual. Writing is very important to me. My children are very important to me, more important than anything else. I know that it has been good for them to see me working on a talent, developing something that is uniquely me and going for my dreams. But at the same time, my children are only in my home for a small moment and I don’t ever want them to look back and say, my mom was on the computer the whole time I was growing up. Or, my mom didn’t have time for me, or my mom got up early to write or stayed up late and was cranky my entire childhood. So, for now, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a slow(er) and steady writer, constantly balancing my time with children and writing. And that’s okay. I will just say I am neither a hobby writer or a career writer. I’m a mom writer.

And for me, there’s nothing better.


At 6/17/2010 2:26 PM, Blogger Braden said...

GREAT post, Julie. I am going to borrow your formulation and identify myself as a dad/breadwinner/calling in the Church writer. Thanks for validating my experience.

At 6/17/2010 3:08 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

I like what Braden said, but I'd probably have to add my PH.D in laziness.

At 6/17/2010 3:32 PM, Blogger Debra Erfert said...

I admire that attitude, Julie. I know I never could have written one novel, certainly not six, while my children were growing up. Now your time is stretched beyond anything I can imagine, and to expect you to continue to produce the same volume of words as you had doesn't make sense. Yes, your children are young for only a short time, although it might not feel like it right now. Cherish every moment with them. Even if you stopped writing completely for a few years, I have no doubt you would always keep a big toe in the water, and when the time was right, you could plunge back in, head first, and continue with your successful career.

Realistically? Those little voices in your head will never let you stop writing, at least a little. A writer always has unwanted conversations in her (his) thoughts that don't go away until they're down on paper, or in our computer files. The "what ifs" don't stop coming when we're holding a sleeping baby, or trying to fall asleep at midnight after finally getting all the kids tucked into bed. That’s the heart and soul of a writer, and some things you just learn to accept with grace.

At 6/17/2010 4:33 PM, Blogger Keith Fisher said...

A writer is a writer. if the work touches a heart, it is valid. Even if that heart is the writer. It doesn't matter how long it takes to get it done.

I am a writer first, formost, and always. Hobbies come and go. jobs and family take the front seat but through it all there is the writing.

thanks for the post

At 6/17/2010 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love what you do and do what you love because no matter what you call yourself the public will decide what they are willing to pay for their reading pleasure

At 6/17/2010 7:18 PM, Blogger Taffy said...

A mom writer! That's awesome.

At 6/17/2010 10:02 PM, Blogger Jay said...

The biggest challenge many of us face is how to balance the demands of family, friends, and career.It is important to get your family to agree on what the priorities should be.
-Administration jobs

At 6/18/2010 11:54 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

Julie, I'm not sure you're asking yourself the right question. I like the sporting world's definition. If you get paid, you're a professional. If you don't, you're an amateur. Amateurs, of course, often become professionals. We're all career people at a lot of things if you measure a career by the amount of time you spend doing something, but I'd rather measure by accomplishment. If you're published, and you are, and you get paid for what you do, again you do,then you're a professional writer. If you want to equate professional with career, okay, and I don't see any reason why you can't be a professional at more than one thing. You're wise too in setting priorities in your life. All of life adds to your personal resource library and shows in your writing quality.

At 6/18/2010 12:41 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I like Jennie's definition -- if only because my last royalty check (for $1.52) makes me a "professional writer" too! I only thought I was a loser. :)

I think of writing as a hobby these days. Recovering from cancer is my current fulltime "job," and mothering continues to be what it's always been: my forever ministry, hardest task, and greatest joy.


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