Hobby, job, career or vocation?

Or why it’s OK if your job sucks

On a whim, I signed up to Udemy’s Liz Gilbert “course” on creativity. I say course in inverted commas because it was actually a series of interviews plus a workbook and she basically riffs on things she’s talked about before.

However, one video really struck a chord with me. It was an answer to a question from a reader asking if he should give up his career to pursue art and disappoint his family.

Her answer was one of the most lucid breakdowns of the whole “money versus calling” discussion I’ve ever heard.
It goes like this – there are four words you need to understand: hobby, job, career, and vocation.

A hobby has no stakes. You do it for yourself, it’s purely for fun, entertainment, to pass the time and prove you’re not a robot. No one even need to know about it and you can have loads of them. Liz rattles off karaoke, cooking and so on.

A job is the only thing you have to have, because you have got to pay the bills like a grown-up. You don’t have to love your job, you don’t even have to like it. Just show up and make the exchange, which is usually your time for their money. Don’t sweat it, most creative people have one.

A career, on the other hand, is a job you love. You kill yourself for it, work long hours, devote most of your life to it. It’s a part of your identity, but it is still a money exchange, for the most part. She warns that if you don’t love it, you should definitely stop doing it and just get a job instead. Especially if it keeps you from your calling (if you are lucky enough to have one).

A vocation is your passion. It’s the thing you feel called to do. It’s the thing you do whether you need money or not. It’s a thing you do whether people are interested or not. Liz says writing is her vocation and she did it long before people paid her for it. It is now her career, but if, in the future, no one buys her books, she will just go get a job again and keep writing in her bedroom, just like she did before she got paid to do so.

She made a lovely point that very few people are paid solely to do the things they love. The majority of people write, act, play music and make art, whilst also having one or multiple jobs.

So her advice to the reader? Keep your job. Make your art the rest of the time.