It is ironic that I’m writing this blogpost on whether blogging can be a hobby at 11pm on a Saturday night when I’m technically on annual leave for a week.
I’m working this late because I made time to have a family dinner and catch up with my sister and her partner.
I also chatted with my partner about our well-intentioned and erratic packing for the camping trip that starts tomorrow.
What I didn’t do was spend time working on the post… until now.
This post is about how academics choose to spend our time, and how – quite often – when I’m not working, I’m blogging, or thinking about blogging.
I’m realising that writing for blogs has become my hobby. Other people may knit, play instruments, or cook.
A hobby is “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure” (thanks, Google). I’ve always enjoyed and had a passion for writing in various forms. I have two half-drafted novels in my proverbial bottom drawer (one a Brisbane horror novel, the other a post-apocalyptic Australian narrative). I’ve entered story competitions, and dabbled in fan-fiction (extremely fun).
Now most of the writing I do is for blogs.
It’s important to me that what I write is not always work. What gets tricky is that I consider the Research Whisperer (RW) partway between work and fun – real fun, not ‘work fun’.
Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) wrote about self-care, balance and overwork late last year, and it made a lot of sense to me. When you realise that certain habits and (often self-set) pressures are leading to illness and exhaustion, it is time to assess and pull back.
What I find both confusing and exciting is that the more work I do with the Research Whisperer, the more I like it.
While the weekly publication schedule can have me stabbing calendars every once in a while, the discipline that it has brought to scoping topics, writing, editing, and formatting the writing is fantastic. There are so many things I do automatically now that I only realise what my blogging process is when I have to explain it to others.
I tend to spend my days trying to do much work as I can before switching off to dive into domestic sphere activities. After the kids are asleep, I’m often doing a strange hybrid leisure/work thing where I’ll be watching a TV series or movie with my partner and working on one blog or Twitterfeed or another. It’s often the Research Whisperer, but is sometimes also my AASRN work, or occasional leakage now from the RED Alert (La Trobe University research culture blog).
I started this habit when I was working full-time as a grant developer, and creating and nourishing the Research Whisperer on the side with co-founder, Jonathan O’Donnell. We started the Research Whisperer in 2011, and didn’t have that kind of work included in our work-plans for quite a while. Working on it in the evenings and on weekends, trying things out, was my answer to getting a handle on the new project. I didn’t know how else to give the project a red-hot go.
After a while, Jonathan and I used our Friday #shutupandwrite sessions as Research Whisperer editing, writing, and formatting zones, but that’s only a couple of hours a week. Not really enough to charge up the blog with our own writing, start and grow its social media streams, and start soliciting from guest-posters.
Hobbies usually bring you into the orbit of like-minded souls. You get together, and nerd out about things that only you and a chosen few can get so involved and excited about. You create materials and share what you have. You swap stories. This happens to me when I meet up with fellow bloggers, particularly those like our buddy Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer), who also fulfil the promise of their blogs with face-to-face gigs.
It’s also hugely satisfying to introduce people to the culture of sharing that exists online (particularly among the people in my networks). That moment when someone newly active on social media gets it? That’s a big bonus! It’s great to see them understand the rewards that come from sharing online, and have them know that ‘giving knowledge away’ online doesn’t actually flag a loss.
What I get back from these blogger’s relationships goes beyond affirmation of my written word, or the occasional piece of well-received advice. It’s a gateway to a community that keeps helping me do what I like doing, furnishes me with the tools and know-how, and supports me to get better at it.
To me, that’s exactly what a hobby is, and should be.
What I haven’t worked out yet is whether I’m allowed to count blogging as a hobby, particularly as it overlaps with my day-job and professional persona. Is this my form of being a workaholic? Does all this work shore up my academic identity. Am I unaware of its insidious nature?
The most salient question is, I suppose, whether it’s something I’ll feel pressured to keep on doing even when the love dies.
I’ll have to wait till the love dies to answer that one.