How to Treat a Hobby Like a Job (How to Earn a Career in Writing, Part 6)

Making things is a job.

Have you ever realized how short a day actually is? If you’re reading this, I’m guessing the answer is yes. 24 hours seems like a very long time, until you factor in sleep (can’t avoid it), relationships (also can’t live without those), work (a natural part of the human existence), adulting and all things associated (…) and, of course – in addition to everything else – writing.

Writing is a thing you do. You do it when you feel like it, when you choose to act on your inspiration or because you have to.

The problem with “wanting to be a writer” is all in the title. You WANT to do this. The question is, are you willing to put in the time, and the effort – make the necessary sacrifices, within reason – to treat your writing as if you’re getting paid for it, even when you aren’t?

Because regardless of your end goal – whether you want to make money or not – you’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t actually work. Hard.

Yep – even your beloved hobby needs to be taken seriously. At least at its core.

As producer and performer Mike Rugnetta put it: “Making things is a job. Sometimes it’s a really fun job! But it’s never not a job. And the thing that’s really hard and weird and disappointing about it is that if you don’t treat it the same way you would any other job, you won’t be successful.” (The Hustle Economy, p. 57)

Wait. So we’re supposed to write, enjoy it, work hard at it, treat it like a job even when it ins’t, and still somehow balance everything else on top of that? We’re supposed to make writing a priority, even when there’s literally no more room in our lives to do that?


Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (sorta), I had a full-time job that had nothing to do with writing. (!) It wasn’t just a nine-to-five job – it involved an hour commute into and back from the city where I worked. Especially once I started graduate school, that made for some very early mornings, and very late nights.

Yet I somehow managed to revamp my blog, work on a novel and write for a magazine (all for free) during that time – because I knew that if I treated my hobby like an unimportant series of side projects, I would never work my way up to a successful writing career.

Not that I’m all that successful yet, two years later, but I’ve made progress. I can’t imagine where I would be now if, in March of 2015, I would have just thought, “Well, I’m really busy with work and school right now. I really don’t have time to be writing all this stuff.”

First rule of earning a career in writing: there is always time.

You don’t think there is. But it’s there. There are small pockets of time all throughout your day perfect for writing. The train commute. Over commercial breaks during TGIT. The doctor’s office waiting room. Anything works, if you’re willing to make it work.

There’s no such thing as wasted writing time. I’ve spent good portions of time writing things I later decided not to use. Those things taught me more about what works and what doesn’t.

Sometimes you sit down and start writing and “know” it’s not going to be that great. But always keep in mind that you never perform as terribly as your mind tricks you into believing.

Writing is a job. I know it can be hard to believe that, when other people are constantly telling you it’s not a job if you aren’t getting paid well for it, or at all – they don’t get it, and may never get it, and that’s tough. But if you don’t prioritize it, if you don’t treat it as such, you’re never going to master the level of discipline and resilience it takes to succeed in this field. The more you do it, the harder you work at it, the better chance you have at actually Making It Happen.

Work can be fun – just because it’s work doesn’t mean you have to drag your feet about it. I consider managing this blog as part of my work day, even though I’m doing it for free (though you’re welcome to support my efforts, if you like). If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to keep up this daily schedule. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of YOU! I enjoy it – it’s work, but I hope I never have to stop.

So, are you willing to take your writing career to the next level? Start by working just a little harder. And then some more. And then some more.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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