I used to think I had this curse: every hobby I have, I turn it into work. I want to monetize it. I want to make a living doing it. I want to be revered and celebrated. But what I actually want is to be able to do it every day and get progressively better. Understanding the distinction between wanting to make something a job so you can make money is very different than wanting to have time to practice every day.
It may seem that the best way to do something consistently is to make it an obligation or a responsibility, as we would with work. Because we need money, a job forces us to punch in and out even when we don’t want to. Additionally, there’s no better achievement than to make a living — maybe even a fortune — doing what we love. Even if we just make enough to get by there is something to be said about becoming a professional.
The thing is, turning your passion into work is a dangerous transition. Yes, there is this quote, often attributed to Confucious, that goes: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” What tends to happen is that choosing a job you love will make what you love a soul-sucking endeavor, especially when your passion is art and creativity.
If you want to monetize your passion, you risk “selling out” and “chasing the market.” You probably heard these two phrases before. Selling out refers to compromising your integrity or principles in order to make more money. While chasing the market means following trends and copying others’ successes in hopes of reaching a bigger audience yourself.
While both can offer a nice payday and some level of fulfillment, you may potentially lose sight of why you’re pursuing your passion in the first place. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing bad about making money. Money is essential to survival, and while you might not be able to buy happiness, you can buy convenience and comfort. Still selling out or chasing the market is an apt way to turn your passion into a soul-sucking venture.
In a biography about the director, Martin Scorsese, he says, “Do one for them; do one for you. If you can still do projects for yourself, you can keep your soul.”
What Scorsese means is that when you pick your projects you should choose one for money and one for art. That way, you don’t lose sight of what you love and why you’ve gotten into this craft.
As a writer, making a full-time living off of your creative work is challenging. Many writers supplement their earnings by taking on copywriting gigs, teaching jobs, or writing articles on topics they aren’t interested in. But they need to remember not to solely pursue these commercial projects but also to find time to work on their art.
You see this occasionally with actors who sign on to one movie to leverage or finance another. One example is Bill Murray. It was said that Murray only did Ghostbusters so that he could play the lead in the adaptation of The Razor’s Edge, a 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham about a WWI pilot. That’s not a movie that crosses your mind when you think of Bill Murray. But it was an amazing performance.
I need money, but I also need to prevent my passion from becoming a soul-sucking endeavor. That’s why I hold this tightly as I move forward. One for them and one for me. This approach is essential in helping me distribute my resources, energy, and time.
When I see a piece take off and become successful, I ask myself if that is something that gave me pleasure. If not, I will only do it once in a while to appease the market and reach new audiences. I acknowledge and appreciate the success, but I don’t sell out to it, and I don’t continue chasing it, because it’s not what I’m only here for.
Take this YouTube channel, for example. My top-performing videos are notebook reviews. I understand their popularity. They serve a purpose. This could easily become a notebook review channel, but that’s not what I want to do all day. I want to write in those notebooks, not just review them. Will my channel be more successful if all I did was review notebooks? Maybe? Maybe I’d be as famous as Ryan Gosling. But that would become a soul-sucking job. Not Ryan Gosling, notebook reviewing. With all that being said, if you want a new notebook, check out my reviews (lol).
There is time to make money, and there is time to make what you want. You must strike the perfect balance to live a fulfilling life and prevent your passion from becoming soul-sucking. When you pursue money, look at the numbers. When you pursue art, numbers don’t matter. Turn your head away and look inwards because it’s not about selling out or what the market wants. It’s about what you want.
For more writing ideas and original stories, please sign up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, they’ll only include my proudest works.
Join my YouTube community for videos about writing, the creative process, and storytelling. Subscribe Now!