I am professionally retired, which means whatever I do — like write or take pictures — is (by definition) a hobby.
“Professional” has a specific meaning. To be a professional anything, you have to earn money at it. The only thing I get paid for these days is not working, which means my profession is retirement.
Professional equals paycheck. This isn’t a judgment on the quality of anyone’s work, talent, or dedication. No matter how hard or well you labor, if you don’t get paid, you are not a professional. I’ve had people argue with me about this, but I don’t care. There is a definition for professional. It isn’t a matter of opinion.
A professional is someone who gets paid to do that thing. Even if it’s only a little bit of money, if you never get paid anything, you can’t claim “professional” as your title. Mind you, there’s nothing demeaning about not being a professional. Especially in the arts, the finest creative work is often done by people who can’t earn a living at it. I’m pretty sure Van Gogh never sold a painting.
Creativity and professionalism are often at odds. I worked my whole life as a professional (commercial) writer. If I had not worked my whole life as a technical writer, I might have written something else. Like a novel or two. Would it have been great art?
Maybe. Maybe not. How would I know? It never happened.
You can’t write for a living and have anything left at the end of the day to create great works of fiction. You have to choose what you want to be … and be prepared to sacrifice to achieve your goal. I have a passion for writing, but I have a greater passion for a roof over my head and food on the table.
In the past, I got paid to be a writer. Now, writing is a favorite pastime or activity. A hobby. My standards are no less professional than ever. Just — no one pays me for my efforts. Pity. I could use the money.
Photography is and always has been, a hobby. I’ve been taking pictures nearly as long as I’ve been writing. Except for a very brief stab at wedding photography, it’s been a labor of love. Which translates to “unpaid.”
My foray into professional photography lasted exactly long enough to reinforce my belief that baby pictures and weddings were not my career path. But photography has proven to be the perfect hobby.
You never outgrow it. You are never too to take pictures. It’s never boring. You can spend a lot of money … or a little bit.
Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, the best equipment in the world will not guarantee excellent pictures, but a good eye will yield great photographs using minimal equipment.
Meanwhile, used and refurbished equipment offers a viable route to owning quality cameras and lenses on a tight budget.
So in retirement, my previous professional occupation — writing — has become a fun hobby. And my previous fun hobby — photography — is still a fun hobby.
I merely wish professional retirement paid better.