My twin brother is an excellent cook. A long time ago I asked him why he didn’t go to school to become a chef, or work in a restaurant. “Because that would have taken the enjoyment out of it for me.”
Another one of my brothers has a knack for buying a used, somewhat beat up car, fixing it up, and reselling it for a profit. When I asked him why he didn’t do this as a profession, he replied pretty much the same way.
It’s an interesting thing that for some the thing they love to do is best enjoyed when there isn’t so much at stake, like drawing a salary from it or depending on it to pay the bills.
Yet in one of my first posts on this blog, I cited one of my favorite quotes from Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream: “If it’s not fun, why do it?” No matter what I did for work, I always tried to make that my criteria. Was it something I wanted to do? Was it fun? I took jobs that paid less because I knew I’d enjoy the environment or the people or the tasks more. And I quit jobs when they stopped being enjoyable.
Of course, the older I got, the harder it was to maintain this criteria. It was especially difficult, for example, to walk away from my last teaching position that came with a yearly salary, health insurance, and retirement benefits (difficult to get those things on a non-tenure track).
But I wanted to do what I loved. I still loved teaching, but I loved writing novels more.
I wrote about a friend for whom writing her first novel had been a lot of fun. It had since felt like work. I grappled with the same thing last year, when the cart came before the horse or, in this case, the contract came before the manuscripts were written, or in the case of Big Skye Littleton, the idea hadn’t even been conceived yet. It wasn’t a good way for me to work, I’d discovered. Writing then became something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.
And now, when so much is riding on rankings and royalties, I wonder if writing will continue to be something fun, something I enjoy, something I want to do every day. Although I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else. Especially not as a job.
By the way, there is absolutely nothing wrong with writing for fun, or for your friends, or for yourself and no one else. Even if you’re writing novels. Or screenplays. Or short stories. There’s no rule that says you must publish, must find a way to make it your full-time job, must use it to pay the bills.
There’s also nothing wrong with making writing your full-time gig because you do love it so much.
Or walking away if it stops being fun.
I don’t know if I have a resolution or even a conclusion to this topic. Except to say this: When it comes to desire, knowing what you want is key to determining how you will get it. And sometimes, figuring out what you don’t want will better help you know what you do want. You may not know until you’re in the middle of it. That’s OK.
It’s even more OK to change your mind. Give yourself permission not to be a full-time writer, if you decide that’s what you don’t want. Give yourself permission to be a one-novel author (there are many out there). Give yourself permission to be a hobbyist. Or give yourself permission to do it for as long as you love it, as long as you want to, as long as it’s fun.
As for me… well, I’m still having fun with the writing part of this gig. I think I’ll keep it up a little while longer.
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