Writing as a career vs writing as a hobby

I just started a PhD program this fall, and I love it.

When it comes to my career goals – eventually, I intend to be a research analyst at a national thinktank, looking at education policy as it pertains to low socioeconomic status and minority students – I don’t mess around. I’m strategic. I know what I want to do, and I evaluate every class I take, every relationship I form within the school, every decision, with respect to whether it’ll get me closer to my goals. If it doesn’t, I don’t do it.

Since classes started this fall, I’ve identified three possible research organizations I could work with next year AND talked to people involved about getting on with them. I’ve narrowed down faculty I could do research with, both for my research practicum next fall and for a research assistantship. I’ve made a list of classes I plan to take, as well as how they’ll fit into the generic schedule given to me by my advisor (not surprisingly, I’ll be taking extra classes because at this point, I definitely know what kind of courseload I’m capable of). I’ve looked at the job qualifications at places I’d love to work someday and compared my skills to the list. I’ve gotten the go-ahead to do my own research projects and I’m in the process of putting together a team of master’s students to help me.

In short, I’m focused.

When it comes to writing, however, not so much. I know what I want to do – I have a list of goals for the year – but I don’t do much to reach this goals.

For example, I set myself the goal of writing at least two hours a day while I’ve been on fall break from my school social work internship. I’ve probably spent two hours total over the last two weeks.

I know a lot of writers who are very focused on their writing. They treat it as a career – and I think that’s the reason I’m not putting as much time into it as others, because for me, writing isn’t a career. I love what I do, in the field I’ve chosen (not to mention the huge cost in terms of dollars and time in getting several advanced degrees). I have no intention of quitting my day job to be a full-time writer.

At the same time, I want writing to be more than just a hobby.

If you’re a writer, is it a hobby or a career for you? If you’re like me and love your career, how do you balance time for writing as well?

1 Comment

  1. For me, it is definitely a hobby. I’m retired, have been for a number of years, originally not by choice. Writing was a means of keeping active, I was bored out of my mind … so wrote a novel.

    If writing is something you have to block out hours to do, like fiction, it’s a hobby, imo. Like knitting or boating … you try to squeeze in time around work and life.

    Non-fiction might integrate with work…

    If I was still focused on career objectives, I’d be writing in the career arena … technology for me. I was writing manuals … moving in the direction of career in addition to writing. Working on building a portfolio of expertise and a reputation in a specific field means writing materials for that arena. That’s where I was headed, life got in the way :-).

    But then … writing novels is more fun escapism … rather than non-fiction. Only so many hours in the day, huh.

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