Monday, 11 March 2013

What do you do when writing becomes a 'job' rather than a hobby?

Back before I had a novel published I considered writing my hobby. It was something I did for fun in the evenings or if I had a few hours spare at the weekend.

I wrote in a notebook - overheard conversations on the Tube, snippets of dialogue, diary entries, flash fiction (before I knew it was flash fiction) - and it was always for my eyes only. There was no pressure to write anything brilliant, no worries about reviewer and reader opinions, no consideration of sales figures, no nothing. It was a release after a hard day, a way to amuse myself on long journeys, a bit 'of fun'.

It wasn't until I got involved in the online writing community that I considered entering writing competitions or getting my work published. Of course I'd always dreamt of getting a novel published but, back in 2006, I hadn't even finished writing one, so I concentrated on short stories instead. I started entering competitions, just out of curiosity. I didn't place anywhere but I noticed that some of the same names were cropping up again and again so I did a bit of Googling and found that some of them were part of an online 'bootcamp'. Curious to know what their secret was I signed up. And found out. I learnt more about crafting short stories in six months than I had in the rest of my life. It was a fairly brutal learning experience and it nearly put me off writing all together but I learnt loads. I also starting placing in writing competitions. I even won a few.

Next I decided to have a go at getting some of my stories published. First I challenged myself to get some published in online ezines, then some literary journals and then, after I was placed runner up in the Woman's Own short story competition, I decided to have a go at getting published in 'womags'. I didn't meet all of the challenges I set myself (I still haven't managed to get a story into Woman's Weekly) but I met enough. And that's when I decided to try and write a novel - and then get it published.

Fast forward several years and I'm now writing my fourth novel. It's under contract so, officially, I HAVE to write it. I want to write it, I wouldn't continue writing if I didn't enjoy it, but it's not 'for fun' anymore. There are expectations now that didn't exist when I started off (externally and internally) and it's my second job rather than my hobby.

I used to consider kickboxing my hobby but then I got pregnant and I'm far too unfit to consider re-joining a class (though am trying to work on the unfit thing). I tried Zumba for a few months but, while I enjoyed it, it wasn't exactly a hobby. I even asked for a keyboard for Christmas thinking I might try getting into playing piano (previously abandoned aged 14) but it's still in its box (maybe the Spudling would like to learn to play one day?).

And then, last Christmas, I went along to a local Christmas craft fayre that one of the book club ladies told me about. You paid £5, got a free glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and then sat yourself down at one of the crafty tables and got stuck in! And get stuck in I did - by an hour and a half later I'd made myself a felt bird and a little felt house that lit up when you put an electronic tea light under it. I thought that was it - an evening of crafting over - but I was bitten by the bug and the next day I found myself googling 'Christmas toy felt patterns' and buying material, buttons and thread on ebay.

By Christmas day I'd made:
  • SIX birds (one for each of the female members of my family)
  • a Russian Babushka tree ornament (for a friend)
  • a gnome (really should have been a Father Christmas) 
  • and a blue penguin (I didn't have any black)

I haven't made anything since (talk about crafting burn out!) but a new hobby has definitely been born. There's something very relaxing about hand stitching while you're watching TV or a film (and it helps my writerly arse by stopping me from snacking!).

One of the wonderful things about Facebook is all the great crafting businesses you can like, follow and buy from. I follow loads and I've always loved Cupcakes for Clara and her beautiful designs and 'make it' kits. Last week I entered a competition to win her animal kits:

And today I found out that I WON!!! I am ridiculously excited, not least because a lion ("Rawwr!")  is the Spudling's favourite toy at the moment. I can see I'm going to be busy for a while...

What's your hobby? Has it changed over the years or is there one you always come back to?


Nik Perring said...

Love this, Cally. I've started really enjoying cooking again (seriously, you should try my muffins). It's so nice, and healthy for me to do something that's totally detached from writing or even thinking about writing, and fun too, when SO MUCH of my time is dedicated to writing or editing or teaching, or, or, or...!

I quite fancy doing something else arty, but I wonder whether it'd be too close to writing for me. Making good art's bloody hard (as you know!).

Cally Taylor said...

I love that you cook, Nik! I actually find cooking slightly stressful so try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary (eating someone else's cooking however is absolutely fine, send the muffins over whenever!)

I know what you mean about something arty. I tried life drawing for a while, a few years back, but I felt an internal pressure to improve my skill which meant I didn't find it relaxing. I think I might get into knitting again at some point too (tried crochet but it turned into one bit knot!).

womagwriter said...

How on earth do you have time for a hobby? You have a job, a baby and the writing - ain't that enough?!

I do know what you mean about wanting to do something which carries no pressure or expectation. Thinking back, I had a bit of a cross-stitch period when my kids were small (though I wasn't writing then). And the idea of being under contract to write a novel fills me with fear, though I would love to be published.

Cally Taylor said...

Womag - Ha! That's very true. To be fair I did most of my crafting during the Christmas holidays so I wasn't doing the day job but I have developed a bad habit of surfing the net while I watch TV in the evening so figured I should do something not involving a screen instead as I already spend 8+ hours in front of one each day.

I did some cross-stitching when pregnant with the Spudling but still haven't finished it!

Kelly said...

When I was pregnant with Piran and had started my maternity leave I bought myself a cheap sewing machine and as you know I have never looked back. I am thrilled that I love making and creating things so much, I have always had more of an academic head before that. I love your little felt creations.

I am loving crochet at the moment, because I can still do something while I watch TV and it means that I put my phone down for a while which is no bad thing.

I know it can be hard to fit a hobby in but it is one of those 'pebbles in your jar' - things that you do for you that help you relax and give you more energy for the things you have to do.

Awen said...

My hobby was my job for over twenty years. I taught craft and sewing, designed and demonstrated sewing, knitting ,felt making, embroidery hand and machine and dressmaking. Also wrote for craft magazines. Then the meds from cancer treatment speeded up joint problems and arthritis and I have had to get rid of most of my crafty bits because I can no longer work in that field. What I can still do is pricey when you are jobless so I have gone back to my old love of writing and hope it earns me money too. Even if it doesn't I will still write but the childhood dream of having a novel published is still waiting to be fulfilled. How can I let down my inner child ? So to break up writing i walk and go to chi ball and yoga classes. Glad you are enjoying craft. Shame I didn't know about your new hobby, I could have sent you all my boxes of felt, patterns and thread !

Cally Taylor said...

Kelly - I LOVE the things you've made and am so jealous of your sewing machine skills (I just end up sewing big tangles and getting frustrated!).

Wish I could crochet too as you can make such pretty things. I bought a subscription to a 'how to crochet' magazine last year, received 17 magazines, and then had to unsubscribe because I STILL hadn't got round to watching the 'how to' DVD that came with the first magazine! One day I'll get round to it!

Love your pebbles in a jar analogy :)

Cally Taylor said...

Awen - WOW, we've got a professional crafter in our midst :) That must have been awful when joint problems and arthritis forced you to stop, but so glad you can write instead. Cultivate that childhood dream and it WILL come true. Perseverance is as important as talent in this industry.

Wendy's Writing said...

What I do, Cally, is dance - salsa, jive, Argentine tango, ballroon, latin - you name it, I dance it! I started dancing nearly twenty years ago and it is the perfect compliment to sitting on my backside writing magazine stories.

Karen said...

Congratulations, those little critters are gorgeous!

I think I still consider writing a hobby as well as a job, as I love doing it more than anything else, but I still hanker after learning to play my guitar properly, and every now and then I get an urge to knit something - my gran taught me years ago, but I haven't done any for ages.

Cally Taylor said...

Wendy - that's absolutely the best antidote to writer's arse! I've got two left feet so I'm officially in awe right now.

Karen - OOoh, I wish I could play guitar. I bought a crappy guitar (I didn't realise it was crappy at the time) off a chef I once worked with and tried to teach myself Beatles songs using only three cords. I sung 'Hey Jude' to my sister and accompanied myself on the guitar. I'd never seen her look so embarrassed (I can't sing either!)

Mama J said...

I hope one day writing will become a job for me *crosses fingers* Still very much a hobby for me.

I love your felt creations. Nothing better than a bit of crafting.

Flowerpot said...

My hobby's always been walking but that's become a job now with twalks books. My most recent hobby is singing and four of us have just started a breakaway group and have been asked to sing at some folk clubs. things have a habit of taking off!

Deborah Carr said...

Congratulations, they are lovely.

I've no idea how you fit everything into your day! Apart from my writing hobby, I think I'd like to take up painting, but I'm not at very good at it, or maybe making jewellery.