Blogging as a Hobby, Writing as an Affliction

a vintage typewriter
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What makes something a hobby? For me it is something you do because I love to do it. You love it so much that you are willing to pay to do it, rather than be paid. The thing that matters most is the enjoyment it brings me. People can and do make money from their hobbies. I did that when I was writing fiction and nonfiction articles for various publications. But it is not about the money. Indeed, I make no money from this blog and I have continued to work at it for more than 16 years because I enjoy it. For me, when money becomes involved in a hobby, it begins to feel like work, and my hobbies are one escape I have from work. I was reminded of something I read in Oliver Burkeman’s book Four Thousand Week: Time Management for Mortals:

In an age of instrumentalization, the hobbyist is a subversive: he insists that some things are worth doing for themselves alone, despite offering no payoffs in terms of productivity or profit.

This is true for me, and is the main reason I pass on offers to monetize what I do here on the blog. Here is a place where I can write about whatever I want, and have it in front of an audience as quickly as I want. There are no submissions, no dealing with contracts or expenses. There is also, alas, no working with editors, which is one part of freelance work that I particularly enjoy because I learn so much from them. But I am fortunately to have readers who are kind and gentle in diligently pointing out the spelling, grammar and typo infelicities in my writing. That is almost as good. It means people are reading closely.

Over the years, I’ve considered reading to be my hobby, and writing stories and articles to be my hobby. But in truth, writing for the blog here is my hobby. Blogging is writing and through the transitive property, writing is my hobby. I think it is better for me to hold writing as a hobby than as a career. I’m not sure I’d could make it as a career. I like what E. B. White had to say about writing as an occupation while filling out a government questionnaire during the Second World War:

Writing is not an occupation nor is it a profession. Bad writing can be, and often is, an occupation; but I agree with the government that writing in the pure sense and in noblest form is nether an occupation nor a procession. It is more of an affliction, or just punishment.

White goes on to justify my own position, someone for whom writing is not a primary professions, but which takes place in the spaces between everything else I do: my day job, time with the kids and family, reading, chores around the house. He wrote,

I think the best writing is often done by persons who are snatching time from something else–from an occupation, or from a profession, or from a jail term–something that is either burning them up, as religion, or love, or politics, or that is boring them to tears, as prison, or a brokerage house, or an advertising firm.

There are many writers out there who make their livings from their blogs alone. I find that amazing and encouraging for writers. For me, I enjoy writing as a hobby. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I look forward to this writing I do each day. I enjoy my day job, too, but there is a edge to that, a level of stress that doesn’t seem into this daily affliction of mine. Nor does this daily writing add to the stress of the day. Indeed, it acts as a stress absorbent. If something bothers me, I sit down to write about it, often in a humorous way, and feel the stress of the thing evaporate.

I sometimes wonder if my writing has improved at all by writing here on the blog. I’m not an objective observer on this matter, but when I go and look at older posts–posts going back 12 or 15 years, and compare them to the ones I am writing today, I think I can see some improvement. I like to think of these posts as essays, and it seems to me that no one can write more than 7,000 essays without showing some measure of improvement, especially when spurred on by readers of said essays.

I like thinking of writing as an affliction. For me, there could be no truer expression. I was afflicted by this particular bug as far back as at least third grade, when I wrote a story about two friends visiting Moscow for a social studies class. (This was the early 1980s and I’d seen pictures of the Kremlin splashed over the television news.) From that time on, I wrote, unable to resist the virus running through my veins. I can’t help but write, and if blogs didn’t exist, I’d be writing anyway, for an imagined audience, to imagined cheers and accolades.

Fortunately, I have this blog, and this audience upon which to spread the germs of this affliction.

At the beginning of 2021, I had a goal of trying to jump start things here on the blog. I had written only 51 posts in 2020, 47 in 2018. As of today, I’ve written about 417 posts in 2021. That is more than all of 2017-2020 put together, and a good part of 2016 as well. I set out to post every day of the year, and as of December 1, when I am writing this piece, I have managed to do just that, with quite a few days containing multiple posts.

This hobby, this affliction of mine has produced about 265,000 words so far in 2021. I might have spent the same amount of time and words attempting to write two novels, and not nearly have as much fun as I am having here.

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