The nature of work

People always say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” but I’ve come to the conclusion that this simply isn’t true (or else finding what I truly “love” to do still eludes me.)

I’ve actually found the opposite to be true and now so has my daughter: making a living from something you enjoy is more likely to make you start to hate doing that thing than it is to never feel like work at all.

Maybe we’ve all been sold a lie to make it more tolerable to have jobs that feel like, well, work.

As long as you still have some fantasy of some other way that would be more fulfilling to spend your days, whether it’s writing that Great American Novel or making a living from playing guitar, you still have a dream. And you’re still more likely to enjoy that activity when you’re not working.

It’s possible that I’m too cynical. Maybe a lucky few become professional musicians and love their lives. Maybe some people absolutely love making a living from writing. But I’ve also known of full-time musicians and writers who still had days or weeks or months when they just feel totally burned out, when they take no joy anymore from how they spend their days. Yet everyone tells them their lives must be so awesome, and sometimes it can be hard to say, “actually, not really.”

To admit that professional musicianship or writing (as examples) can sometimes feel like just any old job doesn’t line up with what people want to believe.

In many ways, though I’m grateful to have made a career out of professional writing, in many other ways, I also wish I hadn’t. I used to be more creative and the words used to just pour out of me freely, back in the early days of the internet where hundreds of readers was considered a lot.

Part of it is that the landscape for creatives has significantly changed. You can’t just “create” anymore; now, you have to be a brand and monetize yourself. If you have a few hundred followers, you aren’t getting enough attention to be on anyone’s radar.

In my case, pursuing writing as a career has all but killed both my creativity and my desire to write. I now write according to what my clients want, be it an article about signs of breast cancer or a piece for a real estate investor about why people should invest in X market. I can do it and do it well but I increasingly do it with less and less enthusiasm and find myself procrastinating more on my work because I don’t honestly want to do it.

I want to go back to having just a job, one that’s not pretending to offer personal fulfillment but instead gives me a predictable paycheck every two weeks. Expecting that any job will be your dream job is a luxury for all but a few. If I’m going to trade my time for money, I think it’s too much pressure to expect it to fulfill me.

3 Comments

  1. Yup, I loved graphic design and doing it professionally for a short 3 years made me completely hate it and I had a creative block lasting at least 5 years.

    I’m sick of jibs which use “passion” to exploit labour — I just want a steady paycheck at a job that pays me a livable wage where I don’t have to burnout working 50, 60 hours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, this is so true! Both graphic design and writing are fields in which clients want to underpay and act like you should just feel grateful to be getting paid at all.

      I relate so much to earning money from a hobby causing major creative blocks. I’ve felt creatively blocked for at least 15 years. I don’t feel like it was worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

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