Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

Nope, not a post on eating, or on embouchure (a new favorite word meaning lipping, or using the lips, face, tongue, and teeth to play an instrument–including our first instrument, our voice). But close.

Today I’m going to talk about singing. Yep, on a reading and writing blog. Stop me. You’ve heard me say here before that my next-life career plan is to be an opera singer. I feel pretty confident my lack of planning for the rigors of this job isn’t going to bite me in the ass, since I’m pretty sure my next-life ass will be incorporeal.

Lack of planning for this-life careers can hurt, however. Which is why I want to talk about the glories of hobbies and my new hobby. Wait for it…

Backstory: I was never one much for hobbies. By the time I was in middle school, ballet had progressed from hobby to vocation, as serious as a religious calling in my mind: all time-consuming and all identity-consuming. I was not a girl with hobbies but direction.

When injury knocked me off that career path, I briefly considered going to culinary arts school. I mean, I liked to cook–it was fun. Why not make a job of it? (Truth be told, I think I was just excited to, finally, eat.)

Next stop: English major. And here I am, writing for my job-and-passion.

However, it’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve been able to start separating job-and-passion and realize I don’t have to make a gig of everything I’m passionate about.

So, we arrive at singing. My mom and her mom both enjoyed singing, both sang with their church choirs, and plied Christmas carols at the piano on the eve. (Can you hear my children groaning at the very thought?) Neither woman conspired to rise in the ranks of the choral world or make a single cent off their voices.

Is it me, or does today’s gig economy-mindset encourage us to turn any talent, penchant, or hobby into a job? To monetize passion. And in doing that, does the passion remain? (I’ll let you know from the afterlife how the opera goes.) Here and now, I have to say, I started this blog as a little passion project and have rejected the idea of making money from it–maybe, partly, because it would make blogging a job. (And I have one of those already.) Do hobbies now smack of privilege?

They say that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life—but what if what you love becomes nonstop work?

From “The Truth About the Gig Economy” by Julia Tache

Who has time for hobbies? Maybe none of us. Maybe we all should be striving to monetize every facet of ourselves. But, really, no one is ever going to pay me to sing.

Yet, that didn’t stop me from belting out the carols as the newest member of the soprano 1 set in my church choir. (Don’t laugh–or do. Either way, I loved it.) I loved it, even when I messed up the last few stanzas of “Come Join the Angels Singing.” I loved it when I probably didn’t quite hit the high note in “Carol of the Bells.” I loved it so much that when my boys hugged me after the concert, I didn’t think to turn the moment into a photo op.

So…jobs, passions, hobbies, gigs. What’s your take? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

But first, Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. I hope that all the voices you hear sing sweetly as angels!

37 thoughts on “Open Wide

  1. Happy holidays to everyone! I worked in restaurants through high school and college, and produced a culinary competition show – it’s a tough job…better to love to cook at home and not worry about making enough for 3-400 guests! I look forward to the day I can say to my wife, also from Cleveland: “I knew her BEFORE she went pro as an Opera Singer!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Holidays, John! Yes, working in restaurants helped cure me of my brief desire to go to culinary arts school. Of course, this was before Hell’s Kitchen and all those shows. I can’t imagine the cut-throat competition involved behind the scenes. No thanks. Really, these days, I don’t even enjoy cooking much–not so fun when cooking for non-adventurous 10-year-olds. Ha–opera. I do love to belt it out. But I think what I’d really like would be to follow an opera singer around for a week. I mean, I would watch that show–wouldn’t you? Then, I’d write all about it. It always comes back to writing for me, so I guess I picked the right career after all! Enjoy your holidays. Cali. isn’t Ohio (and certainly not Parma), but I’m sure you and your wife will manage to enjoy–ha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can just see you smiling while singing and enjoying every moment of it! That’s a perfect hobby in my book! PS…I’m jealous some of us can’t carry a tune – and I’m mighty thankful for those who can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always associate hobbies with handiwork–and I can’t knit, crochet, do needlepoint. I always had too much trouble sitting still. So, standing and singing is about right. They haven’t kicked me out yet! Thanks for reading, Shelley!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rebecca, Yay!! I’ve a bunch of comments on monetizing everything we do but that can wait. Yay for singing. Mine is uneven, a bit ragged, but I love to sing (from the pew in church), and it feels good and, and, and. Meryy, merry Christmas to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours, Cel! Singing does feel wonderful, doesn’t it? “To sing is to pray, twice,” I tell my boys over and over–to no avail. Oh well, they may come around eventually. In the meantime, it’s a hobby that’s all mine, which is nice, too. Enjoy your holidays!

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  4. Congrats on singing in the choir merely for the joy of it! I enjoy singing, too, and wouldn’t ever dream of trying to make money at it (not that good, anyway). We should all have such activities in our lives. Life is not work. At least, it shouldn’t be. Have a Merry Christmas, Rebecca!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Life is not work–so very true! I sometimes need to remind myself to play more. (And, to be clear, no one would ever pay me a cent to sing, but knowing that keeps it play–eliminates the striving that can remove some of the enjoyment.) I hope you have a nice holiday, too, Eilene–with much play!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, it really was. Took us 3 hours longer than normal, and there was a lot of smoke, but we were lucky enough not to cross the paths of any fires. The weather is cooler now, so hopefully that’ll help get everything until control.

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  5. Good for you, Rebecca! And, kudos for leaving the smartphone behind, and forgetting the pictures. I love that you had/have so many different interests. I love coaching soccer, hiking, painting, writing, and spending summer weekends at the family cabin. These passions couldn’t be more different, but I enjoy them all. The only one of these hobbies that I’ve made money with is painting, and it’s not much. 🙂 It’s nice to enjoy our hobbies by living in the moment without worrying about making money. Much less stress, and much more enjoyment! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

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  6. Ah, singing — but you do sing, on the page, Rebecca! 🙂
    I get it though, about singing (and opera, Maria Callas, sigh) and I’m so glad you’re enjoying your hobby, that it’s a passion you are allowing yourself, first and foremost, to enjoy!
    And — Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family! To an enjoyably productive 2020!
    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Deb! My introduction to opera was through Callas, of course. One of my former ballet teachers was also a roommate for a year or so, and he was a total Callas nut! And choral singing certainly isn’t opera, but challenging and fun and just for me, which is a rare thing with kids around! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! I hope you’re enjoying time with friends and family and furry friends, this season. Yes, here’s to much literary success–and fulfillment–for us both in 2020!

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  7. Hobbies are being jeopardized by the constant competition and monetization of social media and gig economies. The secret is the platforms get a little slice of the $$$ from your passion projects. I found this with photography. If you watch enough videos or read enough articles about something it eventually leads to a “how to get paid” path. I think people these days want to feel legitimized, or be paid to do what they are passionate about, but that can be a sticky wicket. I think sometimes it’s best to just work a job, and do a hobby for pleasure. To that end, someday I’m hoping my photos get displayed in my local library. #lifegoals
    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love your #lifegoals! And, YES, I should have known this post would strike a chord with you! You said it–much better than I could. Hope you’re having a Merry Christmas, today. I look forward to a 2020 of keeping up better with other bloggers’ work–including yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Two words/concepts that make me cringe: monetize and brand. Why is everything about the creative process being commodified? What happened to the idea of “sharing one’s gift?” I’m struggling with this as I work on the dreaded “author platform.” I also face this in yoga as other students say “You should teach, your practice is so strong!” And I reply that I just want to enjoy being a student. Same thing…does everything have to become remunerative, professional? Thanks for this post affirming my unease at this trend. And Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hear, hear! My guess at answering your question is that many of us are looking for ways to make a little extra money–and naturally come to monetizing our hobbies. And also the social media powers that be drive us to it, as B.L. says in his very eloquent comment to this post. The whole “author’s platform” thing–ugh. It is a struggle–trying to stay true to the work, to our visions as artists, to our passions, without always feeling that marketing monster lurking. And, oh yeah, trying to enjoy what we began in the first place out of joy! Be it writing or yoga or singing or juggling! We have to wear so many hats these days. I have no real answers, except that I try to work in phases. For a good month, I’m reading and writing–paying zero attention to submitting for publication and to authors. Then, I switch hats, get out on literary Twitter more, make some connections. Best of luck to you!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Very astute. And yes “brand” should be on one of those “most overused words” list. I hate it, especially when people refer to themselves as brands. The commodified pursuits I think are sadly a symptom of larger problems. 1. Tech company dominance allowing them to “share-crop” individuals creativity. 2. At least in the USA, there is the larger issue of people being overworked and underpaid so their hobbies are an attractive additional income stream. Sadly, there are lots of articles floating around about how people are working so much they have fewer pleasure hours to engage in purely creative pursuits. Anyway, this comment is almost a post. No thread jacking on Xmas LOL.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Ms. D,
    Shelley at Quant Revival told me about your blog so I thought I’d check it out. I too cringe at the thought “monetizing”. A few of my hobbies are horseback riding, reading, traveling and of course blogging. I occasionally get paid for some of my travel writing, but I would do it anyway even if I never made a dime. I love writing and look forward to the time I can sit down at the computer, and I think if this turned into a job it would take the fun out of it. Anyway, glad I found you. Keep singing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts! I sang just this morning–and it was a little terrifying (I was the only first soprano who showed today!), but practice, practice… And, I find there’s something really soulful about practice without striving for pay. That said, my passion for writing I have monetized (as a freelance writer) but not here at this blog, which I do just for fun and connections with other readers like you and Shelley, one of my fave blogger friends–and such a talented photographer! Travel writing I’ve never tried my hand at. I look forward to discovering your blog and writing next.

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  10. This touched my heart in so many ways. My oldest daughter sings, and she has been taking voice lessons for seven years now. She loves musical theater, and loves performing, but loves singing in the church choir most of all. One thing she loves about it is that she gets to be a part of something bigger than herself. She’s humble by nature, and when she does get a part in a production she always feels like it means she will get negative attention from others who didn’t get the part. She likes the togetherness of being in the chorale, or in a chorus in a musical, because it doesn’t make her a target. She’s considering a career in musical theater, but we’re just so worried about the world out there. And you’re right–why does she have to monetize her passion? It doesn’t necessarily bring happiness.

    I have a passion to teach, and that did bring me great joy–but no money. The problem there was that the students were paying through the nose for my class–just none of it was coming to me. I don’t mind working for free, but not when someone else is making a massive ton of money on my labor and not sharing. So I quit my absolute passion and am trying my hand at my other passion–writing. Staying home and writing my novel also brings me no money, but no one else is making money on me either, so I think that’s fair.

    Have you ever read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic? There’s a line in there where she says, “Never make your muse support you,” then adds something like, “It’s great if it does” (because obviously she’s made a solid living off of writing) “but don’t expect it to.” In essence, she says to have a day job. That’s what I’m talking to my daughter about, now. Does she want to make her muse support her? Does she want to hustle for work her whole life? Does she want to be where I am, relying on my husband to be my “patron?” Because that’s often what a career in the arts entails–someone with a career in the sciences or in business or law to “subsidize” our living. It’s awful and unfair and I hate it, but I don’t think the world is going to change any time soon.

    My best friend’s dad was a cop, and he used to say, “Work to live, don’t live to work.” When we make our passion our work, we end up living to work. I remember when I went back to teaching as an adjunct after the kids were born, I looked up at my students once and blurted, “I love doing this more than anything else in my entire life.” I had two kids and a husband at home, and I truly DID love teaching writing more than being home, cooking, cleaning, even spending time with my family. I absolutely could work myself to distraction, and I started resenting my family when they pulled me away from my work. I couldn’t let that stand. I just couldn’t. I left after that semester.

    I think it can be dangerous to love our work too much. I think it’s just as dangerous to love or kids and our spouses too much, as well–for all concerned. For ourselves it’s dangerous because all things end–jobs, child-rearing, even the best marriages will end when death does us part. For others, it’s dangerous because it’s distracting, or because our love can be smothering. That’s why, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized the wisdom of putting God first. He’ll never leave us, and He’ll never be smothered by us. He’ll guide us to temperance in our work (when to put in the effort, when to ease back) and in relationships (when to hold on, when to let go). And no matter how we feel about ourselves, He’ll always love us. That, alone, is more precious than anything.

    I’m so glad you’re finding joy in singing. I know, albeit not firsthand, how that feels. And I’m sure you’re much better than you give yourself credit for–and I’m pretty sure God thinks your voice is perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you liked this post—and you are so good to comment, Diane. I love hearing about your daughter and her singing. She must be pretty amazing—7 years of voice! I written about my childhood as a ballet dancer some here at the blog, and I would imagine the dedication needed to excel at musical theater is on par with that. I quit at 19 because of an injury, and by that time my passion had waned enough that thoughts of college finally starting wooing me. And, like you said with your passion for teaching, passion (as the word implies) does carry with it devotion to the nth degree! I remember thinking, I’m not crazy enough anymore to continue ballet. My brain was telling me: this hurts, I’m really poor, I’ll never be spectacular (I was destined for the corps), and I’ll be moving to a new place every year to survive. It might just take the expending of your daughter’s passion to get her to a decision. Tough choices to make! For me, common sense (and the lure of college parties) won out—as did temperance. Such a good word! I mean, what teenager is temperate? Maybe yours.

      We’re so lucky at this stage of life to have a passion—writing—that doesn’t require such total sacrifice. Though you do hear about the aspiring novelists whose work gets in the way of family, etc. It’s easy to succumb! Like you said with your teaching—it becomes your one and only focus. I’ve never read that Gilbert book, but she’s right. The passion might dry up if you have to wring it out, daily, to make ends meet. Of course, it’s hard to work at something until retirement that doesn’t light a fire under you, at least a little.

      I have always struggled with temperance, so I think I go hard on one thing at a time, and then shift focus. If we never came back to our kids, they’d have to go off to the wolves! And I love what you said about being temperate in all that we love—except God. Of course, we live in a culture where, if we’re supposed to be temperate in anything, it’s our faith! Singing is definitely my way of trying to reach the heavens while I’m down here. There’s no feeling like it, as your daughter knows.

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      1. At some point I’m going to post some of my daughter’s performances. I just want her to be more of an adult before I put her face out there. I think she has a YouTube channel where she sings but doesn’t have any video–it’s like a picture montage or something. Wait, here’s one of her singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables. It’s her voice, but the photo is someone else: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9xpj1Pv3Sg

        I have a few friends who were dancers, gymnasts, runners– and had to step away from it. I think any field that requires intensive physical activity makes it so easy to injure yourself. And I know how the loss of that dream can hurt. I agree that writing is one of those “safe” passions. It’s why I loved teaching it so much–no one was going to die if a paragraph came out wrong. I wanted my students to be good communicators, critical thinkers, and smart readers, but if they didn’t have it down perfectly there would always be more time. That’s how I feel about my novel right now–it’s not perfect, it needs work, and you know what? I have time. Or I don’t. But if I never get it out there, I may be sad, but no one will really know. It will just be yet another unpublished novel.

        As for temperance, I think that’s just one of my strengths. I’m generally risk-averse and I default to inaction rather than action. My grandmother was practically temperance queen–if she could have controlled things, Prohibition never would have been repealed. So I come from a long line of very temperate people. Maybe too much so. It’s why I love the ideas in the Divergent book series. It shows how different qualities are good in their own ways but also hamper those who have them. The one that would include temperance is “abnegation,” people who are so likely to put others before themselves that they end up being the leaders of the world, but can’t defend themselves from an attack. I ended up loathing the ending of the series, but it certainly gave me a lot to think about in terms of there are no good or bad qualities–just good and bad ways to use them.

        Boy I’d love to have a cup of coffee with you sometime. I’m sorry these comments come in spurts like this, but I so do enjoy reading your responses and responding back to you. Thank. you for always engaging. You’re probably my all time favorite reader!

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      2. Oh my gosh, Diane! Your daughter is amazing—what a gorgeous job she did on that piece. Tell her I would have given her a dozen thumbs-up, but I don’t have a Youtube account. What a talent! Did she play the piano accompaniment, too? Whatever she ends up doing for college and career, I do hope she keeps up the music.

        So, I’d love to hear more about your novel. If you ever need a beta reader, I have done that before. Mine’s out on submission to agents but I think I might be looking at another edit—we’ll see.

        I have to admit I am new to the Divergent book series—so your comments have me intrigued. The take on abnegation is fascinating, and it all sounds very thought pprovoking. The only thing I’ve heard about the series, really, is what you said, that the ending was terrible.

        If you’re ever going to be in Maryland or the D.C. area, I’d be so happy to drive to where you are to meet you for coffee. Wouldn’t that be fun?! I always enjoy our conversations here, too. And I have to say your posts have done a lot for my courage—to write my heart, as you do, and not be too worried that my post is going to come off as “churchy,” maybe. I don’t think I’ve given readers enough credit, in the past. Bloggers really are a generous sort—and you’re at the top there!

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      3. Thank you for your kind words about my daughter. It’s not even one of her best pieces. I’ll send you something of hers someday, somehow. She did not do the piano, no. She’s nowhere near that skilled a pianist.

        Ah, the novel. It’s on hiatus right now because I can hardly think, but I would love to have another set of eyes on it. Thank you so much for offering. It’s YA fantasy. I submitted mine to an agent and she said she “couldn’t connect with the characters.” I had some other folks lay eyes on it and they suggested I look at a bunch of YA fantasy–my novel was written in third person limited past, and all the other novels I read were in either first person present or past. So I’m reworking the whole thing into first person present. GAH.

        If you have the time and inclination, you only really need to read the first Divergent book to see the system she created. I love it because, like I said, it shows that every type of person is both valuable and flawed. There is abnegation (government) but also dauntless (military), erudite (science and research) and amity (farming and child rearing). Of course, being “divergent” means you have the capacity to be many of those things, which is a threat and cause for elimination. But the way the author shows each of the qualities, it’s like, oh. Dauntless. They love to jump off buildings and fight. That’s very military. That makes sense. And erudite aren’t very nice but very logical. Amity are really kind and loving but, honestly, not very bright. But none of those things are problems for what they do in society. And all are necessary and equally valued. It’s a fascinating idea.

        If we’re ever allowed to leave our homes again, I would love to head up to Maryland or D.C. I actually have friends who live in Bowie, MD and who would also love for me to stop by. So if I plan a trip there, you can bet I’ll let you know!

        I’m so happy my posts have in some way helped you. Your regular comments on my posts have really helped me, too. It’s nice to know I have one person who’s reading my stuff with kind eyes!

        And yes, you keep writing from the heart–I’m convinced the only way to mend ourselves and the world is for us to go out there, be vulnerable, be as honest and real as we can, and encourage others to do the same.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. YES, Bowie is so close to us, Diane! Be safe through all this quarantining, etc. A sobering way to spend Lent, that’s for sure. Take care and keep writing. You have a devoted reader here!

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