This one annoys me.
It sounds so simple, so skipping through the daisies with dollar signs dancing around you like butterflies. It sounds like magical thinking to me.
Here’s another way to look at it: Do what you love for money and it might become just another job.
Easy for me to say, maybe. I write for a living and love what I do. But lemme tell you, dollar signs are not flittering around me and landing on my shoulders. Every dollar I earn is dragged in kicking and screaming.
Writing is my second career. My first was as a graphic artist. As a child, I loved drawing and making things. I attended the marvelous High School of Art & Design in New York City. (Think Fame for aspiring commercial artists.) My first few jobs, straight out of high school, were in the art department of various publications. I started as a lackey but learned the trade and eventually became a designer. Not great, but competent. But much as I loved publishing, in time, meeting the demands of the job and my bosses sucked a lot of the joy out of art and design for me.
About ten years into that career, looking to recapture the joy of creativity, I started writing nights and weekends, crafting lousy short stories, terrible novels, nurturing big dreams, and enjoying myself immensely. Things happened, writing eventually became a job, and yeah, I started earning money at it and still do.
So I suppose the truism is true in that regard. Every cent I earn is the result of stringing words together, or editing other people’s words. And yeah, I love what I do, though some days it’s a lot more like making the donuts than making art. (Also, I stopped making visual art as soon as I started writing, though I’m trying to overcome my fear of failure and recapture the love of that.)
But c’mon: the money doesn’t just “follow.” A lot of work goes into finding work. High-paying jobs rarely chase me down. I have to shill myself a lot.
I also stopped writing for the sheer joy of it. The kind of writing I did for love has fallen off my schedule as I produce and produce and produce to pay the bills. I’m a writing machine.
Believe me, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Plenty of people love writing as much as I do but don’t make a living at it. Maybe I’m better at writing or maybe I’m just better at selling myself, who knows? But this magic formula of love=money is a crock.
It should be, “Do what you love, hone your skills however your field requires, identify your markets, sell yourself with the focus and determination of a used-car salesman, meet the right people, make a good impression, and work your ass off, and the money will follow.”
And even then, you’ll probably chase it more than it chases you.
Photo by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr (Creative Commons).