Saturday, March 2, 2013

Vocation vs. Avocation

by Catherine Giordano

Has this ever happened to you.  As the “Lovin’ Spoonful” once said (in a different context), “Did you ever have to pick up on one and leave the other behind?”

My vocation my whole life has been market research. I like market research. Some people may think it is boring; not me. I think it is an art form.

There’s an art to designing a good questionnaire. There’s an art to developing a good focus group and then drawing people out to express their opinions while making sure that the focus group experience is an enjoyable one for the participants. There’s an art to taking reams of data or hours of focus group conversation, and “finding the story” (i.e. analyzing the data to find the conclusions).  There’s an art to writing a report that my clients will actually enjoy reading.

And then there is art. When the recession slowed down my market research business, I had the time to turn my attention to a dream that I had long ago set aside. As a little girl, I wanted to be an actress and a writer.

I started writing speeches. There’s an art to writing a good speech. There’s an art to delivering a speech well. It requires a bit of acting talent.

My market research clients often said “good job,” and then gave me a new project.  But the audiences for my speeches applaud, and dozens of people come up to me afterward to say how much they enjoyed my speech and how much they were moved, helped, informed, inspired and entertained by it. And then the program chair invites me to return. Importantly, I get paid to speak. Not enough for me to say I am earning a living from speaking, but nothing shows appreciation like money.

If I could write good speeches, I thought to myself, perhaps I could do other kinds of writing.  I started writing poetry. Many people told me that they liked my poems. I started writing essays (non-fiction creative writing), a little bit of short fiction, and reviews of TV shows. People told me that they liked these also. I have even been published. Alas, I earn writing credits, but not money.

I’ve written a few books and I’ve sold some books. I’ve even gotten a few nice reviews on amazon.com.  Alas, my book sales are not enough to say I am earning a living as a writer.

Since I am not earning a living as a public speaker or as a writer, I must consider these activities an avocation. This brings me to my point.  My market research work has once again become a full time job. Vocation must replace avocation.  Money trumps accolades.

The interval between posts may become longer, but I’ll still be posting.  I hope you will still be reading. And I hope you will continue to find my writing moving, helpful, informative, inspiring, and entertaining.

I am lucky to love both my vocation and avocation.

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