Ever feel like it’s a battle between your art and making a living? Author Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic) teaches a key lesson for artists: the difference between a hobby, job, career, and vocation. In this insightful 9 minute video Elizabeth clarifies the possible relationships you can have between your art and making a life for yourself—so you can decide where you stand and how you want to move forward.
Excerpted highlights below
“I’m going to define four words that I think people confuse and sometimes interchange and I think it’s really essential to recognize the difference between these four words: hobby, job, career, vocation.
Something that you do purely for pleasure.
The wonderful thing about a hobby is the stakes are zero. The stakes don’t matter at all.
You don’t have to make money from your hobby you don’t have to get famous from your hobby.
Your hobby brings you pleasure and makes you feel like you’re more than just a cog in a machine.
You do not have to have a hobby; it is not required. It’s a nice thing to have, it makes you feel like your life is not just about the grind.
Here’s what you DO have to have: you have to have a job. Out of that list of four words: hobby, job, career, vocation, the only thing that you actually do have to have is a job.
You have to pay the bills. We live in a material world.
And guess who else has had a job? Almost every artist who has ever lived has had a job.
Most of the things of beauty and value that were made in this world were made by people who were not landed gentry. Melville, when he was writing Moby Dick, was working in the customs office. He had a job. His entire life he was never able to just be a novelist.
Hardly anybody is ever able to just be a novelist to just be an actor to just be a poet to just be a musician.
Here’s the great thing about a job. It doesn’t have to be awesome. It doesn’t have to fulfill you. Your job doesn’t have to be your whole life. Your life can be outside of that.
But yeah, guess what? You have to have a job.
Here’s another thing you do not have to have.
A career is a job that you are passionate about, that you love.
A career is something where you’re willing to make sacrifices for, willing to work extra hours. You’re willing to put your life on the line for this thing because you believe in the mission of what your career is.
If you’re in a career that you can’t stand, quit that career and just go get a regular job to pay the bills so you can do other things. You should love your career or not have one.
A vocation is a calling. It’s the voice of the universe in your ear saying do this thing, use your talents and gifts to participate in the story of creation in this way.
Here’s the amazing thing about having a vocation: nobody can take it from you. Nobody can give it to you and nobody can take it from you.
Somebody can take your job away from you. Somebody can take your career away from you.
But nobody can take your vocation away from you.”
Your art or making a living? That’s not really the question.
“If you’ve confused your job or your career with what it means to be creative and you think because you have a job or a career you’re not allowed to pursue your passion, your fascinations with color and texture, with theater, you are wrong.
You are wrong and I’m going to call you out on this. You’re being a little bit lazy and a little lacking in self-accountability.
You do not have to disappoint your family and throw away your job and your career in order to make art.
You have other time that you can use. If you have a hobby or if you have a vocation then you can live a creative life at the same time as living in the material world.
In fact that is the only way it has ever been done.
So that’s your assignment: think about those words: hobby, job, career, vocation.
Decide where you stand on all of them and don’t let go of this incredibly fierce self-accountability that it takes for you to recognize that you’re in control of all of those things.”
WOW: Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert.
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