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A Job or a Hobby?

I'm always fascinated by the questions students ask when I do school visits. Sometimes you get the usual ones, like "What inspired you to write this book?" or "Who is your favorite author?"  Sometimes you get off the wall questions like "Are you getting married?" and "Are you going to write an autobiography about your life?" (both of which I was asked today).  And sometimes you get really insightful, awesome questions that you need a minute to think about.

Today, while speaking to a group of tenth graders, I was asked, "Now that you're a full-time writer, do you look at writing as a job or a hobby?" That is a really great question, one I had to stop and consider before answering.

I think everyone's answer to this is going to be different, but for me, I try to make writing a little of both. When I'm drafting, I make myself see it as a hobby. Something fun and entertaining that I enjoy. I try (though I do not always succeed) to keep the pressure of "job" away from my first drafts. Writing started as a hobby for me, and that's where the passion came from. I'm afraid that if I let the "job" part of it get too close, I'll lose that passion.

But there is a time, for me at least, when you have to bring in your "this is work" mentality. Elizabeth Scott once told me, "Writing is an art, but publishing is a business." This is so, so true, and it's a mindset I've tried to adapt into my daily writing life. The minute my first draft is done, I put on my Business Hat. My job is to meet deadlines, find ways to promote my books, etc.  Those can't be hobbies, because I can't just put them down when I don't want to do them.

Hobby. Job. Hobby. Job.  For me, it's a tight rope, finding just the right balance. I still haven't nailed it, and maybe I never will.

So kudos to that tenth grader who asked me the question today. It wasn't an easy one to answer, but it's one I'm glad to be thinking about now.

What about you? Whether you're published or pursuing publication, how do you treat writing? Is it a job or a hobby or both or neither? I want to know how you find your balance!
Kody Keplilnger

Kody is the NYT bestselling author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare, all from Little Brown/Poppy, as well as Lying Out Loud, Run, and the middle grade novel The Swift Boys and Me, from Scholastic. Born and raised in Kentucky, she now lives in NYC.

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  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the government (IRS) sees writing as a hobby until you make money. Right?

    Great post, and I like the question, because I too see it as both...some days leaning more one way than the other.

    1. Christine, If you have an agent and your MS is on submission to publishers, you can claim writing as a business even if you haven't made money from your writing. This means you can claim tax deductions for writing supplies, books, periodicals, professional groups, mailing, writing conferences etc. It's best to set up a separate business bank account for that. I actually report 2 businesses to the IRS: my art business makes money and my writing one is in the red, which is often the case with new businesses.

      Kody, thanks, I enjoyed your post. I like how you distinguished between the creative part from the marketing part of writing. I love your writing too.

  2. This is so great! You put into words what I've been trying to communicate for a long time. Once I was ready to start the publishing process by querying agents, if felt like MORE than a hobby (priority-wise) but still no income yet, so I'm still not sure I can call it a job. Or explain what I'm doing for six hours a day to anyone. It's that weird awkward, in-between phase.

  3. Oh jeez... This is so appropriate for me right now!

    Writing is most definitely a hobby at the moment, but I would LOVE for it to be a job. The only thing is that I'm scared to make it a job for fear it would lose it's fun!

  4. I like to think of writing as a calling. Whether or not we make money, find commercial success, or even publish, we're called to write.

    1. Here, here! I think that's a great mentality to have.

  5. I currently have a "day job," but I consider writing a second, part-time job (even though I'm unpublished and haven't made any money off of it yet, other than a little bit of online writing). I would love for writing to be a full-time job, and if that ever happens I suspect I'll see it as something that began as a hobby and became a job.

  6. I'm with you on the seeing it as a hobby until you need to see it as a job. Drafting and coming up with new ideas is a hobby. Finishing and first revisions is like a club sport - responsibility, but essentially fun. Fighting your way through the trenches of -nothing is working and I hate this story, I don't care if there's sixteen typos on every page- is a job. :)

  7. What's hard is that I'm not published or agented or anything, yet I'm so driven to get there that I often treat it like a job too. This was the reason I was able to finish my first draft amidst the craziness of fall semester, but when I'm lucky enough to be in a situation where I don't have to rely on writing for a living, I think i need to remember to take a step back sometimes and just do what I love because I love it.

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  9. I'm writing a lot recently (3 different WIPs), but this year I decided to make it more business oriented. I researched agents and publishers for all three of my works. Wrote mock queries and am writing as if I had a deadline. Otherwise my first WIP wouldn't be done (I've had it going for the past year already and am only 1/3 through the draft. I still have all my passion and use my freetime to write because I still feel like it's a hobby, but I'm simultaneously working out all the business aspects for publication. I guess they run together (2 track mind and multitasking at its best).

    But maybe that's just me.

  10. I agree that you have to balance it. I'm trying to be better about making writing more job-like. For example, I am the worst when it comes to social media. I just don't do a very good job of posting regularly and of meeting new people to connect with. But I'm working on getting better, knowing that it's a key business piece that I need if I want to succeed in writing.


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Item Reviewed: A Job or a Hobby? Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kody Keplinger