Being told writing is "just" a hobby is as dismissive as being told someone is "just" a friend, with similar echoes of disposability and marginalia. Like "friend," "hobby" as a word can have a huge array of meanings, and for similar reasons--because it's a bin of meanings considered miscellaneous, one of the boxes where relationships and activities that don't fall under the Serious Adult Business of "marriage" and "day job" are tossed into.
Since a hobby does not build wealth in itself, under capitalism it is only considered worthwhile and serious to the extent it supports the endeavor of profitmaking and financial security, such as creating connections or opportunities for profit, or as part of the hedonistic catch-all of "recreation."
So where does that leave a "hobby" like creative writing is for me and I believe many others--hard work, not always pleasurable, one that is unlikely to lead to financial security for any but a select few?
Even in those cases where creative writing makes money, it is arguably not only unprofitable but anti-profitable, a net loss in terms of opportunity costs: The vast majority of writers would have made more money if they had used that time and energy in other trades, or had not "diverted" their time to this peculiarly pecuniarily unrewarding pursuit.
@ljwrites can definitely confirm that people still call writing a 'hobby' for me even though it's my primary income and my main occupation. :/ It comes 100% from the need for it to be profitable under capitalism (and it's not as profitable as employment by a long way in my case).
Even if you make money from it, it needs to be dismissed because it doesn't comfortably fit the profile of either 'leisure' or 'work', I guess. As ever, you've explained it perfectly.
@ljwrites I really hate how often I get asked how much money I make as a writer, or even receive a derisive snort and then 'but does it pay the bills?'
Which actually now I think of it, the second one is the most common response to someone finding out I'm a writer.
@vicorva And you've written a few posts about this on your blog, too, about leaving the mainstream farther and farther behind as you write fiction that's true to who you are. Considering what some of the bestselling fiction in recent years has been like, even leaving aside who some of their creators subsequently revealed themselves to be, trying to create profitable fiction would be as soul-killing for many as any corporate job, it seems 😬
@ljwrites You're completely right there. I don't think I could do it. Though I feel the pressure to sometimes, even though surely even if I managed to write it there's little chance it would actually do well enough to be profitable.
It's hard not to grind my teeth sometimes when I see the kind of harmful shit that becomes bestselling -- don't get me wrong, often alongside amazing and deserving things -- and how those authors rarely, if ever face consequences for that.
@vicorva yeah selling well is the luck of the draw anyway, and for best chances requires good promotion--and with publishers increasingly strapped and even trad-pub authors expected to do more and more of their own promotion, the work might as well be something they can believe in and can feel proud of.
@ljwrites You've answered your own question there: writers are terrible editors of their own work! (My blog post from last night made shockingly little sense when I read it again this morning: it was embarrassingly repetitive and one sentence looked like it had been cast adrift and tagged along with a whole nother paragraph. :) )
@bright_helpings so true! One major reason I don't think I would ever go solo in my day job is because I need editors. The other major reason is that I don't want to do customer-facing stuff, but yeah, editors are pure gold.
I'm thinking about a blog post I Did (sorry for the plug: https://blogs.booktoot.club/lapis/the-faustian-bargain-of-capitalism ) last year, because I was frustrated.
Thankfully this doesn't happen with my writing (possibly because I've already gotten a *small* amount of money for it) but I have not been told to turn my writing into a "side-hustle" I also frankly don't know what my family expects. My brother recently bragged about my writing to an uncle, an uncle I remember as a child when I wanted to be a writer telling me he wouldn't read the work unless it was something he was personally interested in 🤣
But like, I made the mistake of accepting Crochet commissions from a relative. I charged what I thought was a fair price (in retrospect that's because she named a number higher than I was gonna suggest... ) And it was SUCH an unenjoyable experience. I don't regret doing it persay, but it was kind of a mistake to turn my coping skill into a "Side-hustle".
I mean, I got into crochet because I saw some 30 dollar (probably knit) legwarmers, decided I could do it better and cheaper (I couldn't, I assure you I've spent more than 30 dollars on equipment, and also it's been a decade and I still haven't made any legwarmers) I'm sure many people have similar stories. I specify those legwarmers were *knit* because we don't yet have machines that can crochet, so if they were crochet, it would have been more expensive, or... it's sweatshop labor, and I think I was in target, so it may have been the latter regardless.
I mean, if it were up to me, I'd have a UBI and just release writing for free, you know? I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about selling-out, it's just, once money is involved there's an obligation of sorts that I don't like. Thankfully getting peanuts and above for writing has yet to stress me out as much as the crochet thing.
There's also disabled aspects I don't want to think about right now.
And I *love* how success doesn't equate to money. Look at Xiran Jay Zhao. They published a best-selling debut, and had to start a second series before we get the sequel to Iron Widow, because of how royalties work, meant that if they wanted to you know, eat, they needed to either get a job or write a different book.
Sorry, this is a bit rambly. Anyway I want Universal Basic Income.
@lapis yeah that's another big reason I decided creative writing would not be something I relied on for income, not only because it pays so poorly but because exposing it to the logic of the market would kill it for me--if it didn't kill me first lmao. Absolutely agreed that everyone should be supported so they can pursue art and crafts or, just, exist without fear for their survival.
A small instance for writers.