“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.