Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Question #9: Hobby AND Work?

(This post is part of a series for July 2013 entitled “Question Month.” Read the intro to the series here.)

My Facebook post earlier today:

“Question No. 9: Can work be a hobby, or a hobby work, or are they two distinctly separate things?”

I have always loved animals, especially cats. As a child I love, love love, love love love loved cats so much that I would cat-whisper them while supposedly visiting their people. A standoffish cat was a good challenge, nothing more or less.

I spent several years volunteering at a cozy one-room cat shelter in Boston. I had a weekly shift cleaning cages and giving the cats attention and was one of the people handling adoptions, also on a weekly basis. We often brought cats or kittens home to foster.

During that same time period, I tamed a feral (not just shy, really truly ear-tipped feral) cat out of our backyard and into our laps. It took a few months to get her comfortable enough to come inside and a few years before she would snuggle up and snooze on a lap for any duration.

At some point, I picked up a few cat-sitting jobs. Same as volunteering, no?

No. As soon as you are being paid, a little accountant comes and sits on your shoulder and asks quietly but persistently whether this is a worthy use of your time and extensive musical training. One of the jobs was for people with a spectacular collection of books, so the answer was yes, I don’t mind a little litter box cleaning in order to cuddle with your sweet cat and read voraciously. Otherwise, you know what, no, suddenly no amount felt like enough.

Recently I looked after some friends’ cats just as a favor. Confirmed — no pipsqueak accountant, right back to the happy-doing-good vibe I had working at the shelter.

Weird, huh?

I have heard crafty type people who have tried producing enough of their craft to sell say they just don’t like it, that whatever made it a hobby instead of work gets lost in the pursuit of income.

My dearest hobby is playing music. My work is primarily teaching music.

One and the same?

There are wonderful, blindingly beautiful moments while teaching where the wall between hobby and work melts. (I usually get at least one per lesson, and it is not unheard of to shift over for a whole lesson.) But I think there is simply a different mindset to doing what you love for the heck of it whenever you want to and doing something (even something you love) at a set time for profit.

I will end with the response of one wise commenter:

“Yes, especially when the degree of independence in doing the work is high and the need to maximize income from the work is relatively low, meaning that one can do it at one’s own pace and in interesting ways rather than having efficiency and/or pleasing superiors/customers as paramount concerns.”

At one’s own pace. That is the crux of the matter for me.

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