I wanted to link here to a wonderful post I just found on Livejournal, though it appears to be a couple months old. The author, an artist, has written eloquently on something I’ve been finding vitally important but had not yet managed express. Namely, there is a concept missing in our vocabulary about work: we have a serious blind spot for what is between “career” and “hobby.” A career is what you do for money; anything you don’t do for money, gets relegated to the status of an indulgent pastime, a mildly pleasant but unserious way to while away the hours until your real work begins anew.
There’s a hidden, and I think pernicious, assumption underlying such a dualism: that anything not done for money is just not that serious. Feminists have rightly criticized the effects of such an assumption when it comes to childrearing and homemaking; but I think we’ve yet to seriously think about its effects for other kinds of unpaid work.
I do not plan on this blog ever making me any money. Nor do I plan on it advancing my academic career. If either of those happens, great. But those are not the point; I feel an inner drive to do a kind of writing that I can’t make money off of, and that’s more important to me than the kind of writing that does pay. This is something central to my life, and it makes no sense to relegate that to the category of “hobby.”
The original post’s author (who goes by the alias haikujaguar) suggests that we should refer to our meaningful unpaid work with the honourable names of “vocation” and “calling.” I’m less certain about this, because for so long these terms have had the connotation of paid work. The term “calling” comes from the German Beruf, which now simply means paid work. (Was sind sie von Beruf? is German for “What’s your job?”) Continue reading