Monday, September 27, 2010

Work/Play: HOBBY

Okay so, "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.

As I once said:

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 (4/8/09).

There may be a bit of confusion, too, between my term HOBBY and the word hobby, which more commonly connotes something that's done for relaxation as opposed to one's regular work. So let's look at how HOBBY differs from WORK using our terms as defined. They both begin as something that is done as a means to an end, and what does that mean?

The most obvious work that is a means to an end is the thing that you do for a living, where the end is to get you money to buy you things as the Beatles said. And as I've said, the things that I've done for a living have been about that and just that. Work for me has always been WORK, which I'm trying to change. But this is a monolith to me, I need to look at something a little less intimidating.

So, back to cooking. I cook so I can have something to eat, as a means to an end. Sometimes it's a little bit more than that, but mostly it's just that. If I'm making a perfect little simple pasta dish, I enjoy the process of getting together my three ingredients and doing a little bit of neat knifework and washing my knife and my cutting board while the vegetables are sauteeing so that the kitchen's back to clean by the time I'm ready to eat. I really like that. Anything more involved than that, though, I get overwhelmed by the process and all I want is my damn food, and it's WORK to me. I said all this already; but do you see that thin slice where cooking is HOBBY to me? I'm still doing it as a means to an end, but I enjoy the process a little bit. And you know, some of my best friends actually like to cook and might even say that cooking is a hobby of theirs. But would they want to cook for a living?

Because I would like to write for a living. But besides that, I think that writing is first something that I do as a means to an end. I write to produce something that makes me visible to myself and to others. I don't think I've ever stated it as clearly as that. I don't know if this makes me exceptionally honest or just a lower order of writer, or maybe I'm an exceptionally honest lower order of writer. I don't have pretensions to art, I'm not that particular about how I'm visible. I don't care about writing the Great American Novel, a gear guide is fine with me. Second, I just like to write. Which is to say in sum, I do it for the result but I do also enjoy the process. So, writing is definitely a hobby of mine.

So there's an idea around the word hobby—an IRS definition, actually—that it's work you don't get paid for. Whether or not you get paid isn't what defines it, though. It's a variant of work because it's productive, it produces something that you could get paid for. If I got paid to write, it would still be my HOBBY because I would still enjoy the process for itself. Whereas if I had to cook for a living, I would run amok with a kris in my teeth. This is not theoretical, because I actually am starting to make a tiny amount of money writing; this is what I'm doing the three days I'm not at work, I'm writing articles for Livestrong and also the Pioneer Press. And the Windy City Rollers website, which I don't get paid for. Not to mention this blog, and the monetization thereof.

In an ideal world, we would get paid for our hobbies. Or for play, which is coming up next. And I don't mean in your dreams when I say ideal world, I mean that the idea is to get paid for our hobbies. But part of this is picking something that you would enjoy doing a lot of, as an end in itself.

I'm a lot less confused about this than the last time I wrote about this, which is something.