[Warning: self-indulgence ahead] Chris Garrett has touched a nerve with his post Get a Real Job, about how he sometimes gets nasty comments on his blog by readers telling him exactly that, in regards to his full-time blogging. Several of Chris’ readers joined in, in defense, and also related how people tell them something similar offline. Blogging, it seems, is not considered a “real” job. At least not yet. But then, writing careers have always had those sorts of negative remarks.

Here’s a story that may or may not help put some of this in perspective, depending on who’s telling you to get a job. I’d almost forgotten about this, and hope my father will forgive me for telling it. My father is a retired math professor who is now nearly 80 and has a health blog that I’ve been helping him setup. He’s okay with blogging now, but consider the following story…

When I was very young (7 or 8), I heard the Beatles on the radio. Paul McCartney’s guitar playing inspired me, and I told my father that I wanted to be a rockstar like McCartney. He put me in the local music conservatory but they thought I was too young and shrimpy for guitar and stuck me with accordion. (Watch out Weird Al Yankovic and polka king Walter Ostanek.)

To make a long story short, I took the accordion lessons and passed with flying colours. But the next accordion size up weighed more than I, and I had to stop. I became resentful of conservatories and the guitar until I was 17 and the rock of the 70s, especially Marc Bolan and T-Rex, Sabbath, Purple and Zeppelin called to me. I just had to play guitar. I bought a guitar (followed by at least 12 more over the years, along with many other instruments, and for a short while, a recording setup). I’ve been writing songs for myself ever since.

My father always taught my brother and I to appreciate art, music and literature. Problem was, he did such a good job of instilling that respect in me that I decided I wanted to be a writer at a very young age. And a musician. And at some point a comic book artist. (I knew my limits – I’m not a painter, as much as I’d like to be like Leonardo da Vinci.) And damned if that didn’t touch off a great deal of tension between my father and I for many, many years. His comment to me several times was, “You can be a rockstar if you want to, but you can’t live in my house.”

This is very old-school/ old-world thinking, and now that I’m older, I fully understand what he was saying. Despite his own love for the arts, despite having wanted to be a theatre actor and often playing hooky by watching movies in theatres his father owned, and despite him naming me after his favourite actor (Raj Kumar), he wanted me to have what he thought would be stability in which to raise a family. That would be through a profession such as engineering or computers or medicine. I could still respect the arts, but in his mind, it was an unreliable career.

Now, many years later, we’re both obviously older and fortunately gained some maturity. And when he sees how happy I am blogging whether I get paid or not, he knows that a career is what you make it. There are disadvantages to freelancing, such as instability of income, but there are numerous ways to make a legitimate living online. And the opportunities on the Internet are endless. You just have to see them, choose what inspires you, take what loved ones say to heart, but ultimately decide for yourself. If you can’t do that, you cannot succeed at freelancing.

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