Can it be both?
I'm in a transition from hobby to calling. How's that for a cop-out answer?
I think that a key distinction is whether you write as a career, i.e., that's how you intend to make your living or whether you have a non-writing career or source of making money.
Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive, but I think people would call his poetry a calling.
Do you live for your writing or do you live off your writing? I'm not sure that's an important distinction as to whether writing is a calling or a hobby.
Actually, I want it to be a calling for me. So, thinking about your question was helpful. Thanks!
I agree with David. Writing has been a hobby for years, I'm not very good with conversations, but I love writing. During the past three years, though, writing seems to have become a calling. It isn't about making money, it's about expressing my thoughts and sharing my years of experience with others.
— Intriguing question, intrinsic answer. If “to write” means the same as “to try”, and, to try is the only possible way of writing, as with everything else in life, it must be a journey rather than a destination. I have been listening to “the calling” and its most purposeful duet, which is composed of plausible openness and proper opportunity. Xo.
What a fun and equally stressful question. 😂
The "hobby" bucket never really applied to me because writing is too closely related to how I function and present myself to the world. (Most other forms of communication don't work well for me.) I rely on writing too heavily for it to be purely relaxing.
The "calling" label is probably a little closer to how writing functions in my life as an editor and writer, but "calling" feels loaded.
Did you ever read that poem by Pablo Neruda where he says:
"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love..."
That's how I most often feel about writing.
It is part of my Capital W Work for the rest of my life. The bridge to everything I must do—I must lean on writing to get me there. I write because I don't know any other way to live. (This is both freeing and terrifying!)
My hobby is painting and designing my house. I’d say it is also my calling despite never doing it for a living (paycheck), because it’s my passion and I am driven (in a good way) to do it. I think it you feel something from the depth of your soul it can be whatever you want it to be.
What an interesting question!
I write primarily as a way of showing up in the world. Maybe it's a hobby, maybe it's a calling, maybe it's a practice.
My focus area for the year (and for the foreseeable future!) is Notice and Name (what's arising in me, those around me, and the environment). To which I've added "...and write about it." Or, as Joan Didion put it, I write to find out what I'm thinking.
It's just part of me now, like speaking.
I do think about this sometimes — thanks for bringing up this topic. The word "hobby" seems minimizing to me, and writing definitely feels like a calling to me, but I've only recently begun to write regularly for myself (as opposed to for work, which I've been lucky to do more in the last decade but didn't do for much of my career). If anything, it's both, but I guess I've never liked the word "hobby." ;-)
The Cambridge definition of calling seems very restrictive and boxed in. To me a calling is something we feel from the depths of our being, something we do despite the misgivings or comments of those around us and, speaking for myself, something I’ve tried to walk away from but keep feeling the need to return to. My writing seems to be a calling.
Yet it’s also a hobby because I do it for enjoyment, it takes a lot of time and costs me money.
Also, I’m curious is BYOB at the end means Bring Your Own Brain? Haha!
I feel like both of these categories - calling and hobby - are concepts we've developed in capitalist culture so that people other than the writer can feel justified in judging the quality or value of the writer and their work. As with all labels, they are usually oppressive and divisive if they are forced on us, and can also be liberating and empowering if we reclaim them for our own use. I really like Donna's definition of "calling" because it then becomes a way of the exploring my own relationship to my interest in writing. In the end, I only find these differentiations useful if I am trying them on to see how they fit; how they feel to me. I will never consent to anyone else applying them to me. I got off track there, but I'd say yes, writing is my calling. I would like it to be my livelihood, but don't feel it's practical or realistic to believe that it will ever support me financially.
I would say that unless any writer is mainstream (and even then, unless they are being paid well), most writers have a second income stream. So assuming that, surely we are all writing for love.
I know I am.
I have a primary income which keeps me alive. If I relied on my booksales, I would be living on the streets.
That said, I do write because I love the word, I love the creative style, I love imagination.
I write fiction and my only goal is to entertain any readers. I never hope to change the world. It's going to take far louder and more forward people than myself.
I take no time at all to examine why I write. I just do. It's the medium I prefer in the same way as an artist might prefer oils, a sculptor marble or a printmaker ink. It's the way I create and that makes me feel inordinately content.
I rarely look at my various publication dashboards . If I relied on the income, I would be tearing my hair out in fear and the love of writing would disappear, I'm sure.
So I just try to remain equanimous and enjoy what I've been given - a small skill with words.
Oh, Ramona, thanks for this, and I appreciate all the other comments here, too. For me it’s complicated by also being a profession, but I think you’re asking something deeper about motivation. Because both “hobby” and “calling” seem too narrow, I’d opt for practice - in the sense that yoga and meditation are a practice - a way to make meaning but also to question meaning. I also agree with others about calling writing (or any of the arts) a passion - passionate curiosity about the world and ourselves and our place in the whole.
Yes, mountain out of a molehill. You've created a false dichotomy. Why are you assuming that "hobby" and "calling" are mutually exclusive. And then you bring in the question of earning money too. Few of us will ever earn our living writing, I hope someday to break even, but I assume I probably won't, although I've published four books so far, with five more to go. When I'm writing, I feel good. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about it. What more do we need to know?
And when someone asks you what your writing is about, that's like asking "How high is up." It's different things on different days depending on what you're working on. If someone asked me that question, I'd just say, "I mostly write novels but lots of other stuff too." Then I'd wait to see where the next question took us.
I’m more than happy to discuss this topic, but if it were just the two of us in the conversation, I think we’d just be saying, “Exactly. That’s how I see it too.” I might add a bit to the conversation by asking, “Why do we have to decide?”
I used to get upset when people said my writing on my blog or website was “hobby writing,” because I took what I was writing seriously, and hoped my readers did too. I still take my writing seriously, but I guess some might see it as a hobby because I don’t have to make a living at it (thank God), and I don’t even want to have that kind of pressure on me when it comes to writing. I’m too old for that.
I do like to think of my writing as a calling, or maybe, more of a purpose for getting up in the morning and sitting down at the computer and typing out words on my memoir or on my newly created Substack site.
I made my living at one point from a BA in English and a teaching certificate, so I guess that qualifies me as a professional person when it comes to the realm of words and syntax and sentence structure and the like. If I stepped back into the classroom as a teacher of writing, no one better call what I would be doing a “hobby” because I would find such a remark disrespectful of my education, experience, expertise, and calling. I retired from my profession, but I did not lose all that went with being a teacher of language arts and writing.
On-line writing is seen by many as a hobby if one is not a published writer, or doesn’t have a book in the works, but I think that speaks more about the one who views my on-line writing as a hobby, then it speaks about how I see how I pursue the writing I’m doing.
On the other hand, writing here is so relaxing, and it also provides connections to other like minded people, so maybe it is a hobby.
I enjoy writing and intend to keep doing it in any form it takes for as long and I love doing it. That is the beauty at being in the stage of life where I find myself.
Thanks for your great post!
Writing is off and on for me. I write when I am dealing with major life moments. It helps my health. When the pandemic hit I was forced to be home & I felt that I couldn’t have any control over many things so I wrote a novel about a world I could control. Now I am working on a second novel & I write on Substack. I think it was Aristotle who believed that in a good society people had time for amateur activity. It had to be challenging & individuals also did these activities for the love of them. I like the process of writing more than having people reading my work. Weird feeling even when I receive great reception. Lately I have been thinking that I write for the Lord. I heard this in a group & it resonated with me. I am moving towards writing to counter the negative forces in the world. That is helping me continue.
When I retired from a 35-year teaching career to start a sustainable farm, I bristled at perceptions of hobby farming. I took my new calling seriously. After eight years of farming that overlapped with historical research, I sold the farm and became an author. Since then, I’ve been writing articles. I may have another book in me. Writing has become a way for me to connect with a wider world, a world full of chosen interests and passions. If I don’t make any money, this will still be a calling for me.