An expensive hobby
Is writing your hobby or your job?
Mull this question over in your mind for a few moments as I explain a few thoughts, then we’ll return to it.
Yesterday I was reading the literary supplement of a national newspaper and on turning the page was confronted with a full-page advert for The Faber Academy, writing programmes run by publisher Faber & Faber.
Very interesting. Very exciting. Very expensive! The course I want to go on (and I assure you, this is not a plea for donations) requires a deposit of £1000 followed by payment of a further £2500. So £3500 in total for a one year part-time course. Given that tuition fees for part-time academic courses in the UK are only c. £1600, and even full-time courses stop around £3300, that’s quite a price.
More than I can comfortably afford, or justify, especially in the current economy.
But it got me thinking. The price is obviously so high not simply because of the quality of the course and the tutors, but to dissuade those with only a passing interest from signing up. The Faber Academy only want serious applicants (and there is an application process, including interviews and a critique of your work). By the end of the 6 months, you will have a completed first draft novel. They expect participants to attend the weekly lessons, and the periodic weekend courses, and to spend most of their free time working on the course. High demand and high expectations.
A hobby is something that you do for enjoyment in your spare time. You may incur expenditure on it (club fees if you play sport, materials and equipment), and you may set aside time for it. But a hobby doesn’t eat into all your free time, and if the expense begins to overtake the enjoyment in return, then you start to question why you are doing it.
For instance, my hobby is drawing and painting. Artist materials vary in price and quality. I can buy a landscape sketchpad for £1, or I can buy one for £25. I can buy a tray of watercolour paints for £10, or the same number and colours for £60. It all depends on the quality versus the return.
I have a preference for Winsor & Newton paint. They sell two types of watercolour, Cotman and Artist. Cotman is the cheaper of the two, using less expensive pigments, with a trade-off in quality and range of shades. I get the same level of enjoyment from painting with Cotman watercolours as I do from Artist’s watercolours. For me, as a hobbyist, it makes sense to buy the Cotman type. Were I painting pictures to sell, or had been commissioned to paint something, it would be better to paint with the Artists range, and recoup the cost from the buyer.
If you treat something as your job however (whether or not it actually is) then you are more willing to incur expenditure, because there is an investment aspect to it. An expensive course, such as the Faber Academy course, is a skills investment; training for the long-term.
When writing is your job, a new computer can be justified as a necessary tool. When writing as a hobby, you can get by with the existing computer, or switch to pen and paper, because unless you need a new computer generally, then it doesn’t seem something you can justify for a few hours a week.
And so back to the starting question, and it isn’t a question about earnings, but about attitude. I took a look at the costs of the Faber course, and realised it wasn’t possible yet. I viewed it as expenditure rather than investment. For me, that is a sign that I’ve slipped back into viewing writing as my hobby, not my job.
How do you view your writing? Is it your hobby, or your job?