Has anyone made their hobby their job and NOT been happy with the decision?
July 24, 2008 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone made their hobby their job and NOT been happy with the decision? I'm specifically thinking about television writing but other fields would apply...

I have the opportunity to write for television. Creative writing is something I enjoy and do as a hobby, but the thought of the pressure that comes with producing creative things consistently under deadlines stresses me out. It's an extremely unstable field (perhaps the most unstable), and I would have to quit my stable and better-paying (but more boring) job to do it. The future of this career-path is totally uncertain. The only thing that seems certain is that it will be temporary. I don't see it as something I'd like to do long-term. It seems far too grueling.

I could just keep doing little projects on the side, books, screenplays etc. but I feel a huge pressure to take this opportunity. I feel like everyone will think I'm crazy if I don't since I clearly am good at creative writing. If the thought stresses me out this much should I bother? Or do you think I'll regret turning down the opportunity?
posted by Ringo to Work & Money (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
there are the obvious drawbacks: you don't have as much freedom; you are less likely to own what you produce; your contract may restrict how you can do the same thing "for fun". so you can end up torn between putting your heart and soul into your job, but then "losing control" over what you produce, or trying to save time and energy to work on something "for yourself" that is itself constrained.

for me (not a writer) those are annoyances, but it's still a win.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 10:17 AM on July 24, 2008

Is there any reason you couldn't take this opportunity and find something similar to your current job if it doesn't work out? (Other than the economy being crap right now...)

I'm contemplating something similar -- leaving something (sort of) stable for something less so. And I'm coming around to thinking that once in a while you just have to take a leap and hope luck is on your side a little.

A friend told me, "What's the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen in any situation is that you die. And that's unlikely in this case."

But if you are just considering it because other people think it's crazy not to and it's not really something you think you want, then don't worry about turning it down.
posted by Airhen at 10:23 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Before becoming a professional programmer, I wrote code as a hobby for fun. It definitely is a lot more fun to write what I want on my own schedule! Doing it as a job is ... a job! On one hand I don't enjoy doing my hobby so much, but on the other hand, I get to buy food and pay rent, which I quite like doing, and also fund my other creative interests (e.g., photography).
posted by aubilenon at 10:27 AM on July 24, 2008

Speaking from experience, I can say (for myself at least) that it is worth the risk even if it doesn't work out in the short term. When I moved here to Chicago I somehow managed to fall into what I considered my dream job of editing films for a large post-house here. After about two years and a constant onslaught of pressure and long hours I decided to leave the industry. Do I regret it? Not one bit. I met some of my closest friends working that job and I opened a lot of doors for future work in my field, which encompasses film/web work.

Don't deny yourself an opportunity based on fear alone. Until you are in the mix of things you can only speculate about how you will feel. Take the chance. At best, you will love it. At worst, you will have had the experience and met people that can possibly help you move in the direction you want. Money doesn't mean anything if you have no reason to wake up in the morning. Shitty jobs are a dime a dozen if you are an intelligent and hard worker. Think of it this way, would you rather work your ass off to get that TPS report in on deadline, or would you rather work your ass off to get that script in on deadline? Even famous fiction authors and screenwriters have deadlines.

I say do it. I think you may regret it if you don't.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 10:28 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I feel a huge pressure to take this opportunity

It sounds like you feel that you should do this because other people will feel that you are missing out on something if you don´t. Only do this if you will feel that you will be missing out on something if you don´t.

Some things that you do for love lose their luster if done for money, glory, fame, or to make other people happy.
posted by yohko at 10:29 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've done this twice so far and while I definitely burned out on my hobby after a few years, I was never ever sorry that I did it. The highs are so worth the lows.
posted by greenland at 10:33 AM on July 24, 2008

yes - eBay drop shop. I would spend hours on eBay and bought/sold many things. I opened a drop shop and soon learned that eBay'ing for profit wasn't so much fun.
posted by tickettrader at 10:33 AM on July 24, 2008

This doesn't directly answer your question, but it's a little something you may not have thought of.
I wrote for a TV show for 3 years. Now, I aspire in that direction and I love writing, so it was a no-brainer for me to take the job.

I had to produce quite a bit of writing every day, have it critiqued by the producers, then rewrite it. And that was every day for months and months.
It was stressful, scary and also super fun and exciting.

But one thing I never anticipated - I got SO much better at writing, and in fact was substantially sharper, wittier and, well, smarter, for the whole time I had that job. It was amazing, daily exercise for my brain. No matter how disciplined you are in your hobby writing, I guarantee that having to produce on a daily basis, with a deadline, will make you a much better (and more disciplined writer).

I still write a lot, for my job, and for fun, but I look back at that 3 years as the most important of my writerly career. By far.
posted by Ziggurat at 10:59 AM on July 24, 2008

Creative writing is something I enjoy and do as a hobby, but the thought of the pressure that comes with producing creative things consistently under deadlines stresses me out.

And yet that pretty much describes the life of a professional writer -- producing creative things under deadline is how it works, whether you're freelancing and living gig to gig or writing bestsellers.

I wonder if it's not just the stability vs. instability or fear of the unknown that's daunting about this prospect, but also the commitment level. If you're writing as a hobby, then the point is to write for yourself, and if it's good, awesome; if it's bad, still awesome, because you love writing, and it's all part of the process. But if you're writing as your job, then there's more pressure to be good/successful/etc. It's a much scarier level of commitment, because what if you fail? what if it doesn't work out? what if you suck? or (sometimes more terrifying) what if you don't?

I say go for it. The worst that can happen is that it doesn't work out -- which will still make for some fantastic stuff to write about later.
posted by mothershock at 11:04 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

After designing websites for my own amusement, I became a consultant and did it for a living. I had a great time and appreciated the rarity of getting paid to do something I enjoyed. After seven years I left the field, glad I'd done it but ready to move on. I enjoyed the work but didn't initially understand how much I valued doing things to my own specifications; the difficult part of the job was in adapting and compromising to other people's ideas and vision. It's important to look at not just what you enjoy doing, but the components that make it such a labor of love to you. Writing for someone else might not feel at all like the writing you do for yourself.

In contrast, while I was consulting I was also a volunteer firefighter, which I wouldn't have called a hobby at the time but fulfilled much that role in my life. After closing my business I became a full-time professional firefighter, and it's been one of the most rewarding things I've done. While I was happy volunteering at my own level of commitment and standards, rising to meet the challenges and high expectations of a system has pushed me to work harder for something I already knew I loved to do.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:12 AM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I tried this once. My hobby was music, my profession web development. For a client's big advertisement, we needed the intended soundtrack but there were holdups in the negotiations, so we needed placeholder music. I created a track on my own, and used that.

When the client heard it, they loved it and decided to go with it for the real deal. However, the Creative Manager couldn't take it as-is, and we spent several hours, late into the night, tweaking and rehashing and remixing and adding and removing stuff. He was in charge, but unable to communicate in any kind of musical language, and threw out lots of contradictory statements like "more like drum and bass, but with less drums."

It ended when he insulted me for the upteenth time, so I said "okay, let me try one more time to give you everything you want" and I simply reverted everything back to my original. I played it back for him and he triumphantly said "That's it! Perfect!" after which it devolved into a shouting match when I responded that all I'd done was put it back to the original, and that he'd wasted all of our time.

At that moment, I vowed never again to make music my job in any way, shape or form, unless I had complete creative control. So now I happily make music as a hobby, I'm passionate about it, and nobody can mess with it -- and if I ever do it professionally, it'll be on my own terms.
posted by davejay at 11:30 AM on July 24, 2008

Has anyone made their hobby their job and NOT been happy with the decision?

Yup. I spent a summer tramping around the woods for the forest service as an intern, and it completely sucked the love of camping/hiking/being outdoors out of me. It came as a total shock, but I'm glad I figured it out before finishing college. Now I sit in front of a computer all day, and spend lots of my free time happily playing in the great outdoors. This desk job has sapped any desire I might have had to sit in front of the computer and play games at home, but that doesn't really bother me.

That said, I still completely agree with the advice that you should pursue your dream. I think my experience was pretty atypical.
posted by vytae at 11:32 AM on July 24, 2008

I regret it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:33 AM on July 24, 2008

If it doesn't work out, you can always go back to a more stable field at a later time.
If you don't take it, you might spend you life wondering "what if...?", kicking yourself.

It seems to me to be the sort of thing you should at least try.

I made my hobby my job. There is good and bad. I don't enjoy my work nearly as much as I did when it was a hobby, but I enjoy it more than other jobs. Overall, I'd recommend giving it a go - even the worst case scenario isn't too dire, and the best case is pretty damn good.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:42 AM on July 24, 2008

Photography. Now it's neither my job nor my hobby. :(
posted by pieoverdone at 11:43 AM on July 24, 2008

itstheclamsname: I enjoyed the work but didn't initially understand how much I valued doing things to my own specifications; the difficult part of the job was in adapting and compromising to other people's ideas and vision.

Truer words never spoken.
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:11 PM on July 24, 2008

Maybe it's just me, but the word "hobby" sets my teeth on edge, especially when people use it to describe a serious pursuit. Many of us do a variety of things, only some of which come with the structure of a regular insurance-bearing job.

I don't know your friends and colleagues, but I do know a few artists without a stable source of income who subtly put down fellow artists with well-paid, enjoyable day jobs by calling them "hobbyists". Sour grapes on a stick!

You may find that your writing is better when your insurance and housing money comes from a different source. Or not; your experience might be more like Ziggurat's. It's hard for anyone outside your own head to guess how it'll work for you.

If your instincts are telling you it's a bad idea, who cares whether other people think you're crazy?
posted by tangerine at 12:26 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you looking to find a new hobby? Because that is what you will need to do if you make your hobby your job.

That said if you like it enough for it to be your hobby, you will probably like it fine as a profession.
posted by shownomercy at 12:32 PM on July 24, 2008

I originally was a reporter and wanted to do creative writing, so I did. Let me tell you, writing is one of those things, especially in a place like Hollywood (or Chicago, or New York) where you will have your ego cut to ribbons very quickly.

I believe I still have, somewhere, 7 or 8 accordion folders full of billboards I did for a local bus transit system. I revised them for four months straight. They were never happy. After I finally quit, the second or third round of revisions magically went up around town and stayed there for three years. I got an award for them the year after I quit.

Imagine a person with bad breath and no manners screaming at you that he took home what you wrote, read it to his six-year-old, and that his six-year-old had a better idea and that's what you are doing.

Imagine saying, no, I won't rewrite this because the way you want it is sexist/racist/stupid/cliched. And they revise it and shoot it the next day without telling you, and you get hate mail from people, even though you didn't write it.

Because unlike a "skilled profession" like lawyer, surgeon, or even another creative job, like metal sculpture, or playing guitar as a studio musician... EVERYONE is a writer. EVERYONE wants you to magically make up words that don't exist or write corny jokes that aren't funny.

This is the last thing I will say: I was a reporter when I was 19. My editor wanted me to do an article on a custody battle over a snake between two roommates. I wrote it, and he made me revise it to things like this: "She eyed them coldly, without emotion, as the two men fought over her. They both loved her; the judge would decide who she belonged with. As she slithered around the courtroom, sinewy in all-black, the jury could not take their eyes off her. Was it a girlfriend? A mistress? No. It was a 20-foot python."

I shuddered writing it. That same week I did a HUGE expose on the appalling conditions at a local teen substance-abuse recovery camp (sexual abuse, beatings, etc.).

Now, guess which one of those won the AP Award? I got that AFTER I left the paper.

I'm an editor now and I make sure I'm not an asshole to my writers, and their voices stay intact. I do creative writing for myself, at home, as a hobby. It'll always stay that way.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:10 PM on July 24, 2008

I had some regret the first time I leapt into making my vaguely artsy-fartsy hobby into my full-time job. You may find your bosses and other people on the business side of things talk a good game but are the most ruthless, cut-throat, backstabbing SOBs short of being actual gangsters who take glee in shaving off a small-to-them but big-to-you piece of your slice of the pie. You may find that the other people on the art-side that you'd like to work with and call friends will stab you in the back just to suck up to the bosses. This can sour you on the whole idea, or teach you something valuable.
posted by K.P. at 1:22 PM on July 24, 2008

I'd guess that the streets are filled with people who regret making their hobby their vocation. There's a big gulf between doing something for personal pleasure and interest and doing it for profit. As a hobby, you have only yourself to please and you can take your time to craft and hone your skills as you please, exploring the directions that truly excite and interest you.

Once you start doing it for profit...as your job...you have to deal with other's opinions, pressures, deadlines, and direction. You aren't your own boss anymore. And there's the business of doing business...self-promotion, billing, networking, etc. It all can very quickly turn your love into a drudge, potentially poisoning it for you.

Or not. How it all turns out really depends on your mental make-up and the breaks you get.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2008

I was going to simply post "YMMV", but I'll throw my story on the pile:

Since I was a teen there were three things I enjoyed (did in my free time) and had an aptitude for. Writing, animation, and programming. I went to college and studied writing and programming, with a heavy emphasis on the writing. (It's what the university is famous known for.)

I was a successful freelance writer and it was a blast for about 6 months. After that it was like grinding glass into my eyeballs. After 18 months I stopped, taught myself some basic animation and did that freelance for about 3 years. I found I hated professional animation after about a year and a half. The last 15 years I've done mostly freelance application design development and quite enjoy it. For me, even though all of the work had similar work environments, I only found one of the three more satisfying as a job.

However I don't regret the time I spent as a writer or animator. I learned valuable skills, met some great people and have, years later, positive memories of those times.

I say take the chance. You can always quit and move on to something more interesting, and it's a great way to network into other jobs. But think about why you like writing, what it gives you as a hobby, and see if that still exists when there are deadlines and expectations.

People tend to regret the things they don't do more than the things they do.
posted by Ookseer at 2:00 PM on July 24, 2008

Not exactly the same, but I decided to pursue a Creative Writing degree after having writing as my passion for almost all my life.

Big mistake.

I had to learn the hard way that I HATED being graded for my writing. My writing is usually very personal and heartfelt and is a way to express either ideas bouncing in my head or emotions I'm feeling at the time. It was heartwrenching to see things I poured my soul onto get a 4 (D, barely pass) not because of the structure or writing style (which was often fine), but because the characters were supposedly unbelievable. (The characters are based on my life! They've either done those things, or will do them!) It was like judging me, really.

I've now lost that passion for writing. I still write, mainly non-fiction articles (Blog articles mainly) but I don't write stories and poetry like I used to. It's been zapped out of it. I took the degree to get into writing regularly and now I don't even want to touch it.

I might go back into it, but I don't know when that'll be.
posted by divabat at 5:08 PM on July 24, 2008

Shortest reponse: read the Way of Art by Stephen Pressman. The book is about resistance; and mentions what happens when your 'Art' becomes a 9-5 prospect.
posted by filmgeek at 7:44 PM on July 24, 2008

Are you looking to find a new hobby? Because that is what you will need to do if you make your hobby your job.

This was a huge advantage in my eyes - I'd need several lifetimes to do all the things I want to do, so any time I can kill two birds with one stone (shift hobby into professional work, thus freeing up more time for other things), I try to do so.
The work will never be as good as the hobby, but being freed up to pour some of that hobby time into new avenues is a big plus.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:02 PM on July 25, 2008

That's The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. Excellent book.
posted by zanni at 3:47 AM on July 27, 2008

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