Growing up, I heard so many people tell me to “do what I loved.”
That gave me the wrong idea of what living in the world as an adult actually meant. I’m pretty sure there was a point at which I really thought I could write all day every day, with no outside obligations, never having to do anything I didn’t want to do or write anything I did not want to write.
Someone on the internet called out this flawed advice recently, and it really spoke to me.
They said something along the lines of, if I did what I loved, I’d just sit in bed eating Doritos and watching Netflix all day.
I mean, that’s what I’d do.
No matter how many successful entrepreneurs or motivational speakers tell you how much they love what they do every day, no one — NO ONE — loves everything all the time.
To tell an aspiring creative to “do what they love” leaves out the most important part of “making it” in a creative field — which is that you have to work to make good things happen for you.
Plus, I can’t be the only one who would get tired of doing what I loved all day every day. I need some kind of challenge. Some reason to actually get out of bed and face the world with something resembling a half smile.
I don’t like the advice to “do what you love.” I prefer, “do work you love.”
I mean, look at half the things we talk about on this blog. Writing is work. Writing is tough. Writing is a long, slow process that very rarely makes us feel satisfied. I personally still hesitate when people jump to the conclusion that “I like to write” when I mention my job. That’s not always true. Most of the time, I write not because I love it, but because I would not be me if I stopped.
In the context of work, though, I do “love” what I do — at least in the sense that I get more pleasure out of writing all day than I would doing pretty much anything else.
Find work you love.
Find one or two or maybe even three things that you can tolerate doing for a paycheck day after day.
Or, better yet, things that fulfill you. That make you feel like you’re doing something that matters.
And do that knowing that at least 30 percent of the time, you’re not going to enjoy it.
Work is work, after all. There are always going to be parts of it you can’t stand. Segments that are the wrong kind of challenging or that you, in all honesty, feel are a major waste of time.
That’s why you have to do the work that supports you as well as the work that excites you. Some people are lucky enough to have one job that fills both of these requirements. But not everyone gets that lucky.
Whether you hate your job but love your hobby or love your job so much it doesn’t feel like work, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re putting some effort into something that matters to you.
It’s not realistic to expect everyone to be able to do what they want, whenever they want.
But anyone can do work their proud of, that makes them feel good, that feels important. Not working isn’t an option. But that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable for the rest of your life. Sometimes, you have to make the most of all the time you have. It’s not just the hours between nine and five that matter. It’s all the rest of them, too.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.