I’m always curious to note the vocabulary that people use when they talk about how they spend their time. Is your occupation a career or a day job? Is your creative outlet your hobby or your true calling? Which one is your real work? It might seem like semantics to some people, but I find it fascinating.
We’re in a new economy of slash careers, like mine: ghostwriter/website manager/content strategist/social media specialist. Likewise, in this age of instant connection and endless resources, any mild interest can become a passion. With a few clicks of the mouse you can find supplies, advice, a mentor, a community, and anything else you might need to dive into a new hobby. We’re no longer a population defined by one occupation, or an occupation and a hobby—we’re a generation of multi-hyphenates.
The sticking point about this departure from tradition is the sense of divided loyalty. Back to that question of semantics, which activity is your real priority? Work and play aren’t expected to exist in harmony, but rather to be pitted against each other. One pursuit must be more serious, more meaningful than the others. Whether it’s a matter of tradition or pragmatism or some kind of prejudice, people have strong opinions about this idea of balance. Seth Godin’s commentary on this topic has nagged at me for a while, from a post appealing to web content writers to stop using gimmicky blogging tricks:
“Daily, this talented writer trades in his art for what feels like a job writing. But he’s not writing, he’s not building a following, he’s not doing work that matters. He doesn’t actually have a voice, he’s doing piecework… He’d be way better off doing highly-paid work as a plumber for a few hours a day, and then doing real writing in his spare time.”
In essence, Godin argues that this hypothetical click-baiting blog writer should stop settling for an unfulfilling day job that requires the task of writing, and should proceed with a new career that allows the resources, time, and creative bandwidth to do “real writing.”
I think about this conundrum often, and I appreciate the chance to look at it from different angles. I love to write. Obviously. I hope that one day writing, creatively, in my own voice, as myself, for an audience of readers, will be a significant part of my career. Am I really sabotaging that ambition by pursuing a business writing day job? I’m not so sure. I get a lot of satisfaction from all of those hyphenates in my job description. Business engages my mind just as much as literature does, and I love the problem solving skills required for marketing.
Yet, I have to admit that there are plenty of days when my work-work is done and my creative-work can begin, and my mind feels spent. I’m out of words. I can’t stand to sit at my desk for another minute. My hands are stiff from so much typing. When the circumstances are similar in many ways, creative-work can feel too much like another shift of work-work. Like I said when starting this daily blogging experiment, it takes real effort for me to end a day of professional blogging by writing yet another blog post.
I don’t have a solution to this paradox right now. There really isn’t an ideal one. Pragmatic as it is, getting a quick certification in a high-paying trade doesn’t feel like much of an answer. The best compromise I can accept is to keep questioning the way I prioritize my time, making room for the grunt work of ghostwriting/website managing/content strategizing/social media specializing, plus hobbies like music and this blog, and, of course, the artwork of my life, creative writing.