When you meet someone in the DC area, you are always asked two questions in the following order: "Hi. What's your name?" followed by "What do you do for a living?" It took me a while before I was able to respond with "I'm an artist who does hand-drawn illustration and some graphic design work with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign on the side." Most of the time, people politely repeat the second question "No. Really. What do you do for WORK?" as if I didn't hear it. Other times, they'll just say in a snarky tone "Oh. That's not work. You must not do anything for a living. Humph. Must be nice." My response is usually "Yes. It was hard for the first decade, but things got easier once I settled into a rhythm of practicing as often as I could."
I can understand people thinking I'm not "working" when they see me painting. Decades of practice taught me to create each watercolor or acrylic painting with ease and speed. It sometimes appears to be almost effortless and as if the brush is dancing in my hand on the page as the painting creates itself. The entire time, I'm smiling, happy, joyful, even singing to myself.
If a task makes your soul go "Aaah" and your body relax and unwind, how can it be work!?! According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, work means "to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort" and "to make way slowly and with difficulty; to move or progress laboriously."
I've struggled with this myself for quite some time. I wanted to be an artist since I was 11 or 12 when I discovered that people could paint, draw, and write for a living. It always came naturally to me, so I didn't think it was valuable at the time. I studied science and IT in college because that's where I had to "work" and I drew from nature every chance I could get to relax because I didn't have to struggle with it as much. I put creativity on the side for almost twenty years before I could embrace an identity as an artist. Now that I have, there's no going back.