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The ever indomitable MagenCubed had a great comment on Twitter about how we often feel we’re not allowed to have fun. That writing, art, everything fun has to have Some Deeper Meaning, or Some Potential Profit. I have to agree with her, the idea that our fun must somehow Become A Big Thing seems very pathological and way, way too common.
Sure, I write on how people can use their hobbies on the job, but as I’ve often stated know the value of your hobbies and just fun is fine. I feel it’s best we’re honest and clear on our interests, and part of that is to say something like “shut up I’m playing Overwatch to goof off, go away.”
It seems everything has to be monetized. Or therapeutic. Or advance our careers. Or it has to have some meaning beyond what it is. I actually remember when it wasn’t this way! Really!
So I began asking why. What happened? I think there’s five factors affecting turning fun into work.
The longest trend is simply our culture, which idolizes work and productivity and earning money. The idea that somehow if we’re not making money or planning to make money or working real hard something is wrong. It’s sort of an unholy fusion of American Capitalism, Protestant Work Ethic, and a fetishization things having to be “useful.”
Secondly, in the last few years, we’ve also seen the increase of the gig economy, from contractors to Uber drivers. This kind of economy is one without permanent employment or reliable income, and thus one is always hustling and scrambling. It’s too easy to have that attitude leak into our hobbies, and in many cases the “permanent hustle” leads us to constantly worry about tradeoffs of profitable versus unprofitable time.
Third, even when employment is reliable, it doesn’t seem too reliable in the last few years. There’s always the temptation to add a second stream of income, or just see if one can monetize a hobby. How many of us are worried that one corporate acquisition is going to kill our jobs, and isn’t the temptation there to have some cover . . .
Fourth, with all the other crap we have going on, it seems that we think that art or tv or whatever has to have some Great Healing Purpose or Deep Personal Exploration. It’s as if something can’t be good for us because we enjoy it. It has to be some deep thing that transforms us utterly or has some great deep meaning. Also, of course, this justifies us not making money at it – we’re pursuing something Great And IMportant.
Finally, we’ve also created so many tools and options, from Patreon to self-publishing, it’s easy to try and monetize any work. It’s not much effort to shave the serial numbers off of fanfic and hit up Kindle or Draft2Digital. Sure you like art, but it couldn’t hurt to try a Pateron, could it? It’s so easy to try and monetize we may try it before we ask if it’s a good idea.
Our culture, our economy, the push to have deep healing meaning, and the ease with which we can try to monetize hobbies is a powerful combination. I think it’s left us constantly worried we’re not working, and turning fun into work just in case – and because we can.
So no matter, have fun. Fun is it’s own purpose. Fun is fine. Fun is good. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just have fun.
Even me. Now and then people like me need to be told “back off, I’m goofing off.”