Do What You Love

“Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

That familiar quote has been attributed to everyone from Confucius to Mark Twain to Mark Anthony. I don’t know if any of those three actually said it or if it was someone else. What I do know is that whoever said it was wrong.

I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first “novel” at age seven when I stapled a stack of paper together and penciled “Life With Sam, The Great Ape,” inspired by documentaries about Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall. A couple of years later my parents bought me a mimeograph machine when I decided journalism was my calling and I was going to produce my own neighborhood newspaper.

Over the years more writing followed. Journals and diaries, stories — long and short, terrible poetry, and stints on school papers and yearbook committees. I had other hobbies and interests, but the writing was always there.

And then, like Robert Frost, I stood where two roads diverged and I – I took the one more traveled by, and that made all the difference. Yes, rather than taking the rougher, tumble-down creative road of the writer, I was lured by the siren song of a steady paycheck and company benefits. I became a cog in the perpetually moving machinery of Corporate America.

Foolishly, I thought corporating would be my side-gig, the way actors work as waiters to make their money. But in an ironic twist, I was good at being a cog. I was recognized, I was promoted, I made more money. Yadda, yadda, yadda, years flew by, and I woke up one day to discover I was trapped like a rat in a cubical maze. I panicked, I had to get out.

I didn’t make a dramatic exit or announcement about how I was going to go live barefoot in the woods with just my notebook and a pen, and not return until I completed my masterpiece. Instead, I conveniently wrecked my car and shattered my ankle, which took me out of the game for a couple of months. Then I just sort of arranged not to go back. It was all pretty unexciting for such a life-altering transition.

So the big question: Now that I’m doing what I love, is life a breeze? Am I just footloose and fancy freelancing?

I have never worked harder in my life! It’s a non-stop gig. And that doesn’t mean I’m turning away clients because I’m so overloaded with actual work. A huge part of work as a freelancer is trying to find work. I spend hours scouring the job sites, tweaking my various profiles, applying for jobs and messaging with potential clients. And that’s all in addition to the to the real work that I have to do. I still have my current deadlines to meet while I’m trying to snag the next job. It’s kind of a work-work balance.

If you’re expecting the next line to be “But it doesn’t feel like work, because I love it!” Keep waiting. It feels exactly like work. Because it is work. It’s freelance work. But — of course, there’s a “but” — it’s satisfying in a way that being a cog never was.

This is my work. There’s no team. There’s no company. There are no other departments. I am solely responsible for the content and quality of what I produce. If I succeed, it’s all me. And if I don’t, well, that’s on me, too. It’s scary, but it’s also hugely rewarding. And if it means being available eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, then that’s what it takes.

Because when you do what you love, you’re willing to work harder than you ever have for it.

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