Hobby Writer vs. Career Writer
Learn The Difference To Clarify Your Writing Goals
Recently, I attended a webinar hosted by Nadine Brandes and Sara Ella on the differences between a hobby writer and a career writer. Listening to them discuss these distinctions and how to decide the right path, inspired a moment of deep self-exploration in me. Examining these reflections has given me clarity in my writing goals. So, I'd like to share the highlights with you here in hopes that it will help you to do the same.
First of all, here are a few key differences that were highlighted in the discussion.
Writes simply for the love of writing. Writes to process the world around them. Writes because a story is living inside them.
Considers audience, marketing, deadlines, and industry standards. Willing to prioritize writing consistently.
Might not want to deal with deadlines.
Might be seeking income from writing, either as supplemental or as sole earnings.
Does not need or want to use writing to pay the bills.
Still passionate about writing, but also willing to invest in improving craft and career growth.
Pros: Hobby writing allows for more flexibility. Hobby writing allows you to wait for the muse to show up so that you can write from a place of pure inspiration. You are free of contracts and the expectations of others.
Pros: Career writing builds a consistent readership. It can motivate you to improve your craft and write more frequently. It helps you build a back list and can provide income for your family.
Cons: Hobby writing might lead to an inconsistent readership. If you are waiting for the muse to show up it might take a lot longer to finish your project. It might inhibit growth if you are not motivated to hone your craft. It will most likely produce low or no income.
Cons: Possible burnout. Can feel impersonal. Deadlines can be stressful and affect inspiration.
The main difference between a hobby writer and a career writer is whether you are ready to or interested in putting on the business hat of writing.
I know this can sound overwhelming but it doesn't have to be!
Nadine and Ella shared that one of the best ways to shift from writing as a hobby, to writing as a career, is by clarifying goals and managing expectations. Here are some thoughts to consider as you decide:
Know your own hopes and dreams.
Research what writing as a career involves at different levels.
Do you want to publish a book that the world will see or that only your friends and family will see?
Do you want to write for a small added monthly income or as your sole earnings?
Do you want to write and have other people handle the marketing?
Do you want to traditionally publish or self-publish and what do those two options look like?
Do you want to be a bestseller and go on book tours and have your book turned into the next blockbuster with public speaking and public appearances?
All of these are perfectly fine options, but it helps to know what YOU want and what each thing entails. Contemplate what is in your control and what is out of your control and then manage expectations realistically.
Another important question to ask yourself is:
How do you define success as an author? You really have to be the one who decides this. If you decide on book sales you might find it much harder to have success in your control. If you decide it's defined by honing your craft, querying, and building your business. These are all things you can manage more easily.
I think my favorite bit of advice from this webinar came when Sara shared that when looking at success, instead of looking outward at sales, fame, or how others define success, we should look inward and decide what our definition of success looks like. This will change as you grow, so continue to evaluate as you go. Seek upward and pray about it. What does God have for you? Where does He want writing to be a priority in your life? Be diligent with the stories He has given you.
“An author who is seeking a successful and rewarding writing career is both hobby and career writer. You won’t have a successful and rewarding career as a writer if you lose the heart and focus of why you started writing in the first place. If you choose to wear the hobby hat alone, great. But if you decide to venture into the often frustrating and ever-changing world of writing as a career it’s important to keep your focus and goals in perspective. Remember inwards and upwards. Write the story that God has put on your heart and give the rest over to Him.” ~Sara Ella
As I spent time in reflection after this webinar I asked myself questions, such as:
“Would I still want to be a writer, if I never reached a New York Times best-seller list?”
“Would I still pursue this as a vocation if it never made me a decent amount of money?”
“What if I never even become traditionally published?”
"Would writing still be something I find worthy of dedicating my time and attention to if I am the only one who ever reads the words I write?"
Yes! A million times yes, because for me it is all worth it. Every day, no matter what. Writing is not just a hobby, nor is it just a career, it is something I want to dedicate my life to.
Did you watch the super bowl this year?
If so, you might have seen the Disney commercial celebrating its 100th anniversary as a company. They are celebrating 100 years of wonder, 100 years of bringing stories to life, and 100 years of imagination. It has been 100 years since a man with a passion for bringing dreams into reality, created something more special than, I would venture to say, even he could possibly imagine. It only took about ten seconds of me watching this commercial, to burst into tears.
Story resonates with me.
This was just one more confirmation. I knew I could spend every day honing my craft and never get published and every second would be worth it for me because this is how God has hardwired my soul.
So once I committed to writing as a career, even one that might not ever make me money or be successful in the world's eyes, I began asking myself what does that look like?
Of course, we all want to be the next C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling, but what if we aren’t? What is in our control that we can set as reasonable goals?
Here is what I decided:
I want to write every word with love. With love for writing. With love for people. With love for a God who has graciously given me this gift.
I want to dedicate myself to stories. Not just writing the fictional ones but participating in the real-life stories of those around me. I want to encourage others and be a positive part of their narrative.
I want to work towards reasonable and controllable goals. I want to be traditionally published, but I understand this is out of my control. So, I also want to teach classes, run retreats, and offer developmental edits. I want to immerse myself in the whole wide world of writing and publishing. There is so much more that goes into this career than just writing. This excites me!
So, now I have some questions for you.
Why do you write?
What do you want from your writing?
Are you writing from a place of fulfillment?
Are you writing as an offering of love or are you writing for validation?
What is your intention when you sit down and type your words?
If you get to the end of your life without ever being published or reaching your idea of success, would this writing life be worth it for you?
I think examining these questions is vital to keep from burning out and to keep our writing fun and light and worthy.
Defending your heart as you switch to career writing is important. Many writers lose their passion as they enter career writing, but it is because they lose their love of story telling and begin obsessing over the next contract or book sales or reviews. ~Nadine Brandes
Art gets tricky when you move it from free and fun to confined and necessary, but as Sara and Nadine teach us, if you protect it well, you can maintain writing as a passion while pursuing it as a career.
I encourage you if you haven’t given this thought, to go light a candle, pour yourself a beverage, pray if you feel comfortable, and really examine what writing means to you. It has changed my intention and has given me the freedom to pursue writing with a light heart, knowing I’m in it for the long haul and for a purpose that is authentic to my calling.
Nadine closed out the webinar with this quote and I think it is absolutely beautiful.
"The same God who created the imaginations behind Narnia and The Hobbit and Harry Potter, created your imagination and gave you your story and He’s perfectly capable of making that story what it needs to be and getting it into the hands of the people who need to read it. So, invite Him into the journey hobby or career and everything in between. And remember, just because writing and publishing are hard doesn’t mean that you are doing it wrong." Nadine Brandes
Sara and Nadine discuss so much more in this webinar such as "Seven Habits Career Writers Have" and "Practice Tips For Career Writing" if you want to dive deeper into this topic I highly recommend checking out the full webinar here.
Following them on Instagram is also super fun! They share wisdom, sweet moments with their families, and of course all the info on their new book releases! You can find Sara at @saraellewrites and Nadine at @nadinebrandes .
Their next webinar is a community write-along where they provide encouragement and tips as we all write together. I am really looking forward to it! It's in April and they will be announcing all the information for it on Instagram. (Another great reason to give them a follow.)
I want to thank them both for allowing me to share this information with you. I hope you have found it as helpful as I did!
PS. If you want to check out Nadine's and Sara's latest books you can find them here!
"Wishtress" by Nadine Brandes
"Her tears grant wishes. Her next tear will end her life."
"The Wonderland Trials" by Sara Ella
"Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials."