Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Work/Play: HOBBY

"Work that is play" is something that is done as a means to an end that is an end in itself.

We will call this HOBBY.

Now to my mind, the near and far corners of this taxonomy are easy enough to grasp & the middles can get away from you a little bit. There is a difference, to my mind, between work that is play and play that is work; perhaps it isn't a very important difference, or maybe it is.

But let's talk about the difference between work that is work and work that is play. Something that is done as a means to an end that is a means to an end versus something that is done as a means to an end that is an end in itself. I think this can be looked at from the ant view and the grasshopper view. The grasshopper view is, work that is play is something that you would do just for itself; it's about more than getting this or that done. The ant view, work that is play is something that you better like just for itself: it ain't getting squat done.

Ants are hard core like that.

Hilariously enough, I deal a lot with taxes for work. I don't actually hate dealing with taxes for work, which is a different data point that I might get back to. But anyway, I was reading some IRS publications and noodling over this taxonomy in my head, and had already decided that I liked "hobby" as the term for work that is play, and actually came across this:

What is a hobby? Hobbies, also called not-for-profit activities, are those activities that are not pursued for profit. What is a business? Generally, your activity is considered a business if it is carried on with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit.
So the IRS definition is that hobbies are work that you don't get paid for. Ha, like writing a screenplay. That resonates, but that's not exactly what work that is play feels like to me. What the word hobby feels like. Sometimes you don't define a word so much as you feel or picture what it means: a little old man endlessly and happily pottering away at his workbench, like how I tinker with schedules and charts for my life.

The twist is, I do actually get paid now to tinker with schedules and charts. That's sort of the ideal, isn't it? To turn your hobby into your work? Nnnnnnn. I need different typefaces to show what I mean by these words at any given time. Sometimes I mean that thing you do, like making schedules and charts or writing screenplays or wrecking perfectly good t-shirts; sometimes I mean the qualities of that thing you do, like actual writing, which has a hobby quality, or like writing query letters to agencies, which has a work quality. E.M. Forster says that we can see things steadily or see things whole; if I'm making you dizzy, it's because I'm trying to get it all in. I will tell you frankly, I haven't been writing query letters much in my free time. I've been writing this blog, if that tells you something.

There's that thing you do, and there are the qualities of that thing you do. That's what I'm talking about.