Is Your Writing Just an Expensive Hobby (and So What If It Is?)

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Do you see your writing as a profession or a hobby?

Or both?

While some writers insist that writing is much more than a hobby – it’s a job, a business, even a calling – you might find it helpful to (at least some of the time) treat it like a hobby.

I know that some writers feel that “hobby” has negative connotations … but hobbies have plenty of advantages, after all:

You’re not expected to make money at a hobby. I enjoy reading; I’ve no ambitions to be a paid reader! I can spend time reading without anyone (including me) expecting that I’ll make even a small part of a living from it.

You can spend money on a hobby. Think of golf, sports, craft, even enjoying a particular band: so long as it’s reasonable within your household budget, you don’t feel bad about spending on these things.

Your hobby is (generally) a relaxing break from the rest of life. When I write fiction, I try to see it as something I do – first and foremost – because I enjoy it. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a whole evening working on a short piece that may or may not ever become something I publish … but it doesn’t matter, because I really enjoyed writing it!

 

I’m certainly not suggesting that you shouldn’t be ambitious, or that you can’t turn your writing into a paying job. I do think, though, that treating your writing as a hobby, at least some of the time, can take the pressure off.

If, for instance, you want more writing time but you’re struggling to explain that to your partner or family, then you may find it easiest to frame your writing as a hobby. Everyone needs (and deserves!) some down time. Maybe their hobby is playing football on a Saturday; yours is writing.

What if You Want Your Writing to be More Than a Hobby?

For me, writing isn’t only a hobby: it’s also something I do for a living. Currently, my non-fiction writing pays the bills; I do want to, eventually, bring in about half my income through fiction instead.

If you’re in a similar position – you love writing but you also want it to become a source of income for you – then I’d suggest you:

#1: Set Aside Regular Time for Writing

Hobbies can be put down and picked up pretty much whenever you want: one of my hobbies is cross-stitching, but I’ve barely done any since the kids were born. I still do the occasional bit of cross-stitch and buy the odd magazine about it!

If you want to get to the point of making money writing, you need to write on a regular basis. That might not be daily, but it should ideally be at least weekly. If it’s hard to find the time, you might find these posts helpful:

How Can You Keep Writing if You Work Long Hours?

How to Find the Time and Energy to Write When You Have Young Children

#2: Think Hard About the TYPE of Writing You’ll Be Doing

It is hard to make money from writing fiction. It takes a long time, and a lot of work, to get to the point of being “good enough” at fiction to sell books.

If you’re happy to write non-fiction, you can start making money much sooner. You don’t have to be an amazing writer to write freelance blog posts, web copy, or even magazine articles: “competent” is usually good enough.

(You might wonder why fiction is so much tougher. Here’s a post I wrote several years ago, after my Masters in Creative Writing and before I’d published my first novel Lycopolis: Why Fiction is So Hard to Write.)

Remember, there’s no reason why you can’t mix different types of writing. I tend to see my freelancing as funding my fiction writing, for instance. If you write something that’s unlikely to make much money (e.g. poetry or memoir), then you might want to use your writing talents in other ways: then you can afford to have it professionally edited and printed for family and friends.

#3: Budget for (and Make Good Use of) the Resources You Buy

When you’re enjoy a hobby, it doesn’t really matter if you buy things that you don’t end up using. I’ve bought various hobby-related things over the years that I didn’t end up making much use of (including a guitar..!)

If you’re treating your writing as a business, though, you shouldn’t be spending money without some careful thought. For instance, if you subscribe to a writing magazine, read it and use what you read! If you go on a course, take notes and ask questions. If you’re going to buy a piece of software, then read reviews about it or try it before buying, so you know you won’t be wasting your money.

It’s ever so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that yet another writing book or course will help you – but it may not be what you need right now. For more on that, read Do You Need to Take (Yet Another) Writing Course? Here’s Why it Might be a Bad Idea.

 

 

It’s absolutely fine to see your writing as an enjoyable hobby. Plenty of writers do (think of fan fiction writers, for instance) – and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Writing can be a wonderful, immersive way to spend an evening … or a weekend.

Don’t waste a moment worrying whether it’s a hobby that people will understand. Some people simply won’t get why you’d want to spend your leisure time writing. That doesn’t matter – what matters is that they agree (and they should!) that you have the right to spend your leisure hours doing something you enjoy.

(There are plenty of far weirder hobbies out there, too. Quite a few of my friends are into Live Action Roleplay – which I enjoyed the one time I tried it! – and that involves dressing up in costumes and acting out fantasy stories and battles. I also spent a couple of years at uni playing Dungeons and Dragons every weekend. Writing is positively normal by comparison. ;-))

 

Whether your writing is purely a hobby, or something that you enjoy and want to make money from, I hope you have a wonderful time getting those words down on the page. 🙂

 

Thanks for commenting! I read all comments, and reply to as many as I can. Please keep the discussion constructive and friendly. Thank you!

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6 thoughts on “Is Your Writing Just an Expensive Hobby (and So What If It Is?)

    • Of course that’s very important to keep in mind! Do, of course, check the applicable tax guidance for your own country once you start making money. In the UK, it’s straighforward to register as self-employed and file taxes accordingly.

  1. I started to write in June 2010 completing a million draft words by January 2014, only six months later than my target. I went through the self-publishing process with a small book of short stories in late summer 2013. Since then I have been editing more than writing … less enjoyable. Writing is certainly a long-term activity. It took me until late last year to determine how I wanted to write finding my way through the jungle of how one is expected to write. The latter destroyed the freshness evident in my writing of the first two years which I have now sought to recover. Taking Stephen King’s advice to read widely is right. Perhaps a poor story written well is worse than a good story written badly. I now write under the mantra of ‘Writing and reading for pleasure’ which gives me fun and contentment. Whether I consider publishing again after completion of my editing or ever finish is an open issue.

    • Wow, a million words — what a fantastic achievement! Editing can have quite a different sort of energy to it than the drafting part … hopefully you’ll find ways to enjoy the editing too, even if the drafting is what you continue to love the most.

      It can be easy to over-edit or to get tied up in lots of expectations, and it sounds like you were right to take a step back from this to rediscover your own writing voice. Very best of luck with it all … whether you choose to publish or not.

      • Thanks for your helpful comments. Writing can be a very lonely pastime. My breakthrough on self editing has been using editing packages for the last two years. After trying lots I use two simple ones as many are either too complicated to use or too expensive. Also, a free version of Grammarly runs behind my web writing mainly for my awful spelling! The old version of Autocrit gives me a readability index and weeds out overuse of the same word in each paragraph. StyleWriter picks up long sentences and gives a rating for flow, active over passive, style and ease of reading. Editing using these tools and adding some additional text takes about an hour for every 750 words. Currently, I am working on a 75k word book drafted in 2012 to 2015 which will take some 100 hours to reach a near-final draft. As most of my books are linked together another extra time-consuming exercise is checking consistency. The average for new writing for my million draft words was 750 words a day. I tried to keep ahead at nearly 800 words a day, my original daily target. The target was a great motivator to write and I recommend this approach for new writing. As another blogger said writing is about keeping the tap dripping! Every time I pick up an old draft I am amazed at what I have written. This justifies my approach from 2010 to empty my head and get the ideas down on paper before improving the way the stories are told. I bash on. Taking a few weeks off from editing now and again is also worthwhile. I did pay for two professional edits way back in 2011. They both said my writing was “unusual” perhaps code for not very good! Overall these edits provided a good foundation for progress.

        • It sounds like you’ve got a lot of useful tools to work with, and I’m really impressed how well you know how long it takes to complete different tasks (I only ever have a fairly woolly idea with my own writing).

          “Unusual” isn’t necessarily a bad thing..!