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?