I am a hobbyist writer

Hobby writers are wasting their time. If they're not ready to commit 100% to their art then they should give up straight away and save themselves a lot of time, stress and money.

This isn't my view but one I came across recently in the Twitterverse - "Better to be a non-writer than a hobbyist".

I suspected that this was trolling in the original sense of the word -  taking an obtuse, provocative position with a view to baiting others - however, the individual in question defended their view fairly robustly. Sufficient at least for me to believe they were serious. They provided quotes from respected authors as proof:

"If you can quit, then quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer." -R.A. Salvatore

"The only advice I can give to aspiring writers is don’t do it unless you're willing to give your whole life to it." -Jim Harrison

As you may have picked up by this point, I do not share this perspective.

"But Gem, of course you would say that, you ARE a hobbyist writer!"

Well, yes, that's true. Nevertheless, I don't think this 'hobbyists are wasting their time' view holds up to much scrutiny. Furthermore, I believe this kind of attitude could be harmful or discouraging to those who come across it at a low point of self-doubt. So, whilst I'm not in the business of calling out anyone I disagree with, I do have this platform to express my own opinion on the matter and shall do so now. This is why I don't agree with the criticism of 'hobbyist writers'.
  1. Plenty of very succesful writers balanced writing with other jobs, hobbies and interests.
    One that springs to mind immediately is Stephen Fry, the British comedian, satirist and intellectual. He writes novels, non-fiction books as well as doing huge amounts of TV, radio work and performances at events and on stage. Similarly Trollope, Kafka, Lee, Stevens, Pratchett and countless others all continued other careers and interests as they wrote. I'm sure some writers live and breathe their art every waking moment. I'm also sure some don't. Plurality is yet again the key - there are lots of ways of doing lots of things. To take the experience of myself and a few others and mandate it to everyone is faintly ridiculous in a world of seven billion people.
  2. The anti-hobbyist view seems to rely on the "effort in = success out" fallacy. That's just not how life works. Sometimes the most committed authors are rewarded with success. Often they can go unrecognised. Success in writing can be down to literary fashions, pre-existing celebrity (David Walliams, anyone?), personal connections, natural born talent and maybe, just maybe, dumb luck. As such, I suggest that it's entirely possible to soak your manuscript with blood, sweat and tears and still fall short of success.
  3. The anti-hobbyist strikes me as a particularly macho, all or nothing kind of approach. It's very black or white. Give it everything or nothing, you're in or you're out, you got it or you 'aint. Whilst this attitude makes a great soundbite, it lacks nuance. There's an exclusionary element to it that grates me as well - a kind of one-upmanship. You're not a pro, you're just an amateur. The term 'hobbyist' is used to diminish others. To me that's a cheap shot. It's also pretty unverifiable. How do you measure commitment exactly? All or nothing? I'm better than you? No thanks.
Anyway, that's my two pence worth. I am a hobby writer. I balance writing with family, my career, sport and exercise and, well, a bunch of other stuff I like doing too. Sure, one day I'd love to be able to give up the day job and write full time. But I can't just yet and that seems like the normal trajectory of a writer. I'm certainly not going to flay myself for lacking commitment simply to fit in with the idea of the writer as the tortured genius and I don't think you should either.



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