Are You Still Having Fun, or Are You Writing Professionally?

As a writer I’ve talked a lot about how I am not doing this full time. I’m pretty convinced that I don’t want to. Writing is fun because I can turn it on and off as I need to. That is not so for professional writers. They pretty much get paid by the word count and the price per word seems to dwindle with time. If you want to make money, you have to turn it on way more often.

But I know this is not true for just writing. Turning a hobby into a career is a big transition for anything. Someone who loves fishing is going to have to make some strange adjustments to make money at the hobby. Perhaps running a fishing boat is the path chosen, or opening a bait and tackle shop. Now we’re talking more about buying boats, buying stores, tending stock, and doing payroll than we are about fishing. That’s the cost of going professional.

But I think that there’s more to it than that. I’ve come in contact with professional competitive video gamers in the past. It’s a wild difference between people playing for fun and people playing for money. Do you use your mouse with your whole hand? Well that’s just wrong. You’re supposed to have your sensitivity so high that you just tap it to make pixel shots.

Do you enjoy that nice looking sky texture and crisp water effects? Well they are supposed to be solid colors with brightly skinned enemies for ease of seeing. You go from fighting tooth and nail over weapons, to timing item drops and spending more of the competition considering map order than playing the game. And don’t even dream about using your professional alias when playing other games. Imagine the embarrassment when a 10 year old posts a photo of how he owned you in COD. This crazy mixed up world is what it takes to go pro. A lot of what it means to have fun has to be categorized and enumerated into a money making scheme.

Think of a natural talent that you have. Now write a short a step by step instruction on it. The next time you attempt it, follow those instructions. There’s something missing. All that talent and knowledge cannot be condensed into a codified pill for someone to swallow. I go further, though. I honestly believe that by codifying a talent into a procedural process, you become worse at it. Whether you’ve started focusing too much on trivial steps that seem important, or the brain gets caught up on describing intangible concepts, the creation of the bland process hurts the execution of the talent.

This is what it has always felt like to me when I’ve tried to turn a hobby into a money making venture. In my own life, I end up codifying out some sort of raw talent or unquenchable passion that originally made the products of the hobby so great. I think about shopping Timeless around to Publishers all the time but never get it past an idea. This is a fun hobby and for me it will probably always stay that way.

A little known fact about me is that I’m an old school FPS fanatic. I’ve spent an unusual part of my life engrossed in the Quake and Doom franchises. Without question, the most famous mapper in the Quake II community is an extremely talented fellow by the nickname Maric. He’s been professional grade since the game was released and has always seemed to pump out more and more beautiful works of art. But I will never forget a conversation that I had with the man. I asked why he wasn’t making maps professionally and he said that he tried it once. What was once fun became a chore and he was never allowed the time to work towards perfection. That is poignant.

I’m not looking to hand out any advice or promote some universal truth with this post. I just hope that readers will take a pause and reflect. I think every writer needs to take the time to make a decision like that. Will you still love writing when it’s not fun? Will you still love it when you can no longer chase perfection?


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