The myth of doing what you love

Broken heartDo you want to quit your job and become a freelance writer (or open a restaurant, or start a bookkeeping company) because you love writing, cooking or numbers?

There could be a hard reality slap coming your way.

Over the years, I’ve read many articles and books that make “doing what you love” THE work-life goal to have. After all, when you do what you love, it’s all rainbows, lollypops and unicorns, all the time. Every day is filled with happiness and every task is more fun than the next.

What a load of bull.

I quit my “real job” almost 20 years ago because I wanted to be a writer. I was one of those “sunshine and lollypop” people who thought that every day would be easy-breezy and the money would roll in without even trying.

I learned my lesson fast.

Mind you, I don’t regret my decision one bit. But I’ve also learned some pretty important lessons along the way. For instance:

– Want to be self employed? You have to be an excellent businessperson. Period. One of the reasons I started the Copywriting Business Bootcamp is because I saw too many good freelance writers fail as business people. They loved to write – yes. But they blew off important things like invoices, paying taxes, marketing themselves, networking and all the other things that need to be done. If you’re not taking care of the hard business tasks, it makes no difference how awesome you are. Your business will fail.

– You may fall out of love with your passion temporarily – or permanently. For instance, I love cupcakes. They make me happy. I could eat a cupcake a day for about a week or so – and then I wouldn’t want to see another cupcake again for a long, long time. When you’re in business for yourself (or even when you’re working for someone else,) you don’t have the option to say, “Hey, I’m a little burned out on writing right now. I’ll pick it back up next month, m’kay?” There have been times that I would rather stick a needle in my eye than write another word. And I LOVE writing. I know other people who stopped doing what they love because it wasn’t fun anymore.

– Doing what you love means doing things you don’t want to do. Choosing to build a career around what you love can mean some pretty extreme highs (“Wow, I’m actually getting paid to do this?!”)  But you’ll also face the inevitable drudgery. You’ll have to do a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, too. That could mean managing people. Or keeping track of taxes. Or heading to a networking meeting after work – when all you really want to do is curl up in front of the fireplace and read a book (::raising my hand::)

For an interesting take on this, check out Matt Linderman’s post, “Forget passion, focus on process.” (Hat tip to @benwills for posting this article on his Facebook page.)

If you’re in a committed partnership, you know that a relationship takes hard work, dedication and compromise. You may face really hard times – but you deal with them because staying in a committed relationship is what you love.

If you run a business, there may be times that you’re working 20+ hours a day and scraping by on peanuts. But you deal with it because being self-employed (and the freedom it provides) is what you love.

If you work out for fitness, there are times that working out hurts. Every muscle in your body screams for a break. But you keep going because being fit and taking care of your body is what you love.

The key is knowing that there is always some bad with the good. Some days are like puppies and unicorns and rainbows. Other days, well, you wonder if you can keep going. There may be weeks like that. Maybe months.

The important thing is to recognize what you don’t love – and make sure that you’re handling it anyway. Don’t like to handle your own bookkeeping? Hire it out or learn how to do it yourself. There is no other choice. Don’t like to market yourself? Get over it and get out there. It’s how you’ll drive business. Tired of writing and you’re a freelance writer? Try to take some time off and come back fresh. Need a break? Be honest with yourself and take a freakin’ break, already.

Recognizing what you don’t love and doing it anyway (or finding a way to handle it) will keep you moving forward. You’ll never love every single day. But you’ll love most days. And that’s what “doing what you love” is all about.

What about you? Are you doing what you love? How have you handled doing the “not-so-fun”  tasks?

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8 replies
  1. Craig Wright
    Craig Wright says:

    Good points and very timely, because right now I’ve got that burnt out feeling…not good when I have contracts right into next year.

    Something you didn’t mention, but which is taking its toll on my time (and patience) is that you have to keep up to date with all the latest goings on. I try to read a few SEO blogs a week to keep track, but it can be tough going. It’s probably worse for me because I’m following two writing careers at once, so that’s 2 lots of stuff I need to keep track of.

    Reply
  2. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline says:

    Hey Heather, my ‘no likey’ is the networking so I try and choose the more glitzy events where I get the rare chance to wear, dare I say it, big girl shoes with matching hand bag! The event might be a buffet lunch at one of Glasgow’s trendy new hotels or a breakfast meeting in a country house on the Ayrshire coast. By choosing events that I think I’ll enjoy I tend to get excited at the prospect of all the interesting people I’m going to meet, rather than dreading the ‘networking’

    Reply
  3. Heather
    Heather says:

    @Jaqueline – that’s a brilliant idea!. I wear yoga pants when I’m working, and the only time that I really dress up is for conferences. Knowing that you can wear your “big girl shoes” is a GREAT way to get excited about a networking event! And wow – the locations sound beautiful. A country house on the coast? Nice!

    @Craig – you’re right. SEO is a very demanding task master. There’s new “stuff” almost every week, and falling behind can be bad news. Is there any way that you can take some time off and beat the burnt-out feeling?

    Reply
  4. jennifernice
    jennifernice says:

    Excellent post! About 6-8 months after I launched my web writing business, “reality” set in after the adrenaline high wore off. I remember thinking, this is waayyy harder than I thought it would be! But I ride out the lows with the highs and it just keeps getting better. And the worst day as a freelance writer is still better than a good day at my old job!

    Reply
  5. marty weiss
    marty weiss says:

    Love, like “meaning”, is in context. Nobody really loves superficial stuff like rainbows, etc. Love goes to the bone and the marrow. Harnessing that elemental force to commerce demeans it. Commerce is predicated on the surplus. And as we all know, love is the one thing that the more you give, the more you get. Love feeds the soul, commerce feeds the body. Love is effortless, commerce is labor. Love holds the stars in their courses. Material rewards pale compared to the intangible and ineffable expression of bliss beyond the pedestrian and mundane comforts of bread and board.
    As Antoine de St. Exupery said, “What is most important is invisible to the eye.”– or something like that. Don’t depreciate love by equating it with materiality.
    This said, I love reading your work, anyway. I admire and respect your determination and grit. Spunky, smart and sassy is my kind of woman. Perseverance furthers.

    Reply

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