Monday, June 23, 2014

Write Like You Mean It: How to Escape the "Hobby" Lobby

Since last Monday, I've heard from several writers applauding Kim's excellent exercise for exorcising doubts (see: Introducing the Doubt Box).

Suzanne Fluhr had this to say about it:
...[M]y husband views my writing as a hobby (I'm a recovering lawyer). This makes it more difficult for me to see it as more than a hobby even though it feels like it deserves a weightier descriptor. I'm going to find a big ol' doubt box and banish my doubts there. Thanks for sharing this idea.
Doubt Box notwithstanding, Suzanne's "hobby" comment resonated with me. Like a big, thundering, bring-out-your-dead gong.

A hobby is a creative way to pass the time...
Ah, yes, the "hobby" label. Are you as familiar with that particular bete noir as I?

I'm guilty of telling myself that something as enjoyable as writing (no matter how much the words make me wrestle with them, I thoroughly enjoy the process) must somehow be self-indulgent, and must therefore take a back seat to things like laundry... and making meals... and running errands... and saying "yes" to whatever friends need when they call and begin a conversation with "since you don't have a real job..."

Not long ago, the realization that I had no problem making it a priority to finish clients' writing projects, but continually put my own on the back burner, smacked me upside the creative head.

Appalled at how cavalier I was toward my own writing, I resolved to allow myself to value my creative endeavors more highly. To schedule non-negotiable time for them in my week. To make my writing a priority.

Then I read about Charlie Munger selling himself the best hour of his day, elevating his personal pursuits and putting them on a par with his paying clients, giving himself permission to validate his own interests. That resonated enormously with me. I took a page from Mr. Munger's playbook and resolved that, for at least three days a week, I would dedicate the best, most creative part of my day to my own project.

... but writing well takes WORK.
Yes, client work still gets done. Yes, life still encroaches. (When, for instance, one's mother falls and fractures bones in her face and is life-flighted to a distant hospital, one's creativity suffers a setback.) But, barring emergencies, that time is MINE. Not mine to do with as I please. Not at all. I guard it jealously. That time is mine to work on my current Pet Writing Project.

I do not squander the time on social media, or answering email, or even answering texts or phone calls. I do not do laundry. I do not run errands. I do not clean, or cook, or do any of the thousand and one things I have allowed to distract me in the past. I am "on the clock," so to speak, and I do my darndest to make the most of it.

The payoff of the decision to stop treating my writing like a guilty pleasure was immediate. I now approach the day with my Pet Project at the top of my to-do list -- and, as a result, have made more progress on this project in the past three months than I have in the past three years. God willing, it will be finished by the end of July. And that, I don't mind telling you, feels goooooooood.

Paying myself the best part of my day has allowed me to banish the "hobby" doubt permanently. For the next two months, I challenge you to make your writing a priority and pay yourself in a similar manner. Kim and I would love to hear what happens when you do.

Here's granting you permission to fully embrace your writing aspirations!

Onward and upward!

1 comment:

  1. Oh I love this! It's such a turning point when you finally cast off the "hobby" label and put your writing on par with other priorities in your life. I feel like this happened to me last fall, and I almost feel silly that it took me this long to accept and own being a writer. Now I happen to have two young children so my time is limited, but like you said, much success occurs when you carve out those best hours and stick with it, as I try to do - during the school year at any rate :)

    Good luck with your end of the month goal!