Writing: Your Vocation or Your Avocation?

By Ruth Barringham

A few days ago, I was reading Stephen Pressfield’s amazing book, The War Of Art, (a MUST-read for all writers IMHO) when I came across the word Avocation.

I’ve read this book many times so I’ve seen the word avocation before, but this time I decided to look it up. I knew what a vocation was but I’d never heard of an avocation.

What I found on Wikipedia was that an avocation is (as I’d expected) something that a person does as a hobby outside of their usual vocation.

The interesting thing was that it said for many people, it’s their avocation that is their true passion in life, not their vocation, and that many famous people are better known for their avocation than their professional career.

It also said that often, a vocation leads to an avocation, So, for example, a person who works in law, may also campaign, and be heavily involved in human rights as an avocation.

Some people even continue their vocation as an avocation, such as someone who works in mental health, may run free counselling groups in their spare time.

I also found a long list of people who are well-known for their avocation, not for their vocation.

Below is an example:

  Avocation  Vocation 
Robert Baden Powell  Scouting  Military Officer 
Rudolf Hass 
(Hass avocados) 
Botany  Letter Carrier 
Charlotte Bronte  Author  Governess 
Nicolaus Copernicus  Astronomer  Roman Catholic Cleric 
Sir Edmund Hilary  Mountaineer  Beekeeper 
Barbara Kruger  Artist  Graphic Designer 
Henry Rousseau  Painter  Tax Collector 
Anthony Trollope  Novelist  Royal Mail Executive 
J R R Tolkien  Novelist  Philologist (language study) 
Joshua A Norton 
(Self-declared US Emperor) 
Eccentric  Businessman 
Kenneth Grahame 
(Wind in the Willows) 
Writer  Bank of England Executive 

And sticking with fiction (writers) I also found these two on the list:

Bruce Wayne  Crime Fighter  Philanthropist/Industrialist/Heir 
Clark Kent  Super Hero  Newspaper Reporter 

Naturally, it also goes the other way, that many famous people are actually known for their vocation and not their private avocation.

Just out of interest, here are a few:

Avocation Vocation
Woody Allen  Jazz Musician  Film Director 
Harrison Ford  Carpenter, Pilot  Actor 
Jeff Goldblum  Jazz Musician  Actor 
Mary Shelley (Frankenstein)  Political Activist  Author 
Tracey Ullman  Knitter, Author  Actress 
Jean-Claude Van Damme  Martial Artist  Actor 
Hedy Lamar 
(WI-FI, Bluetooth, GPS) 
Scientific Inventor  Actress 
Richard Feynman  Drummer  Physicist 
Olivia d’Abo  Singer-Songwriter  Actress 
William Barr  Bagpiper  Attorney 
Micheal Balzary 
(Red Hot Chilli Peppers) 
Non-Profit Manager  Musician 

And while this is all very interesting, or at least I thought it was, you may be wondering what this has to do with writing?

Well, it’s showing that it is possible to not only be a writer while having a day job, but it’s possible to be an incredibly successful writer, even if it isn’t yet your vocation.

I began writing while I had a full-time job and over the years I put more time and commitment into my writing, untill eventually it was both my avocation and my vocation.

Be passionate about your own writing dream until you live it.


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