Somebody lied to me. Over and over. They told me, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Hi, excuse me, this isn’t true, ok? Because I love what I do. I get an absolute rush out of making a story unfold on the page. I get a high out of fixing sentence structure and putting commas in the right place. Words are like magic to me. Having the power to make them do as I will genuinely makes me happy. Being a wordsmith isn’t just something I enjoy, it’s what I’m destined to do. I love it.
But listen to me very carefully: this shit is work. It is hard, gruelling, tedious, demanding work.
There are nights when the only sound I hear is the hum of my refrigerator as I struggle to find the perfect words. I have sat with my head in my hands when I can’t get the sentences right. I have dug to the bottom of my soul for inspiration. Tears have spilled over my keyboard. I have pulled more all-nighters in the past year than I did during my undergrad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent all day writing, only to get up to find my stomach grumbling, my eyes burning and my bladder screaming for relief. I forget about myself and my needs and become a devout parishioner of the page.
I love what I do but it feels like work because that’s what it is.
If you have a passion you’re pursuing, you know this is true. You know that you work every day of your life chasing the thing you love. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or working in corporate, it takes your blood, sweat and tears to succeed. There are days you want to quit because you’re more tired than you’ve ever been. You’ll encounter horrible people—from clients to bosses to colleagues—that will make your heaven feel like hell. Sometimes, on particularly bad days, you’ll love it a little less.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned this the hard way. I went into the year with my spirits all high and super excited to be writing and editing regularly. Today, my default mood is tired. When it’s you alone, there’s no one to pass the buck to. No employees to blame when the check comes up short, the project ends up unfinished or the clients aren’t coming. If you do what you love, and you’re determined to do it well, it will push you to your limits, test your resolve, and force you to prove you really want it. All the time.
Ok, so what now? What do we do when we’re on the brink of despair and feeling like we’ve failed someone how because our passions feel like work? We remember a few key things.
- It’s supposed to feel like work.
Doing what you love is hard work because you won’t half-ass it. If you’re not working hard at it, I’m questioning whether it’s your passion. No shade, but when you really love something, failing at it doesn’t even cross your mind as an option. So don’t feel bad because you feel like your passion is hard work. It should be. In the words of my girl Toni, “If you do what you love, you’ll work harder than anyone else.”
- Don’t confuse fulfillment with ease.
Shoutout to A.J. Estridge for this insight: people get fulfillment mixed up with doing nothing. They are not the same thing. What you get out of doing what you love is a sense of irreplaceable fulfillment, the feeling that you’re living your purpose. In what universe do you think that would be easy? If that’s a delusion you need help untangling, please read The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo.
- Working hard at something you love is better than working hard at something you hate.
If you’ve ever had a job you hated, you know it’s the most soul-sapping experience in your life. Having to dedicate 40 hours every week to something that leaves you unhappy is awful. Keep this in mind when you’re pulling your next all-nighter, wrangling with a difficult client, or just plain exhausted.
- Press pause when you need to.
You have to keep the love for your passion alive because the challenges that come with it are what makes it feel like work. Because you love it, you’ll want to push constantly. But just like you need time away from your lover, you need time away from your craft too. Hit pause every now and then. Step back and look at what you’ve accomplished. Remember the moments your work made you feel the most fulfilled. Give your heart a chance to get back in it.
If I could amend that quote, I would say instead:
Because you won’t. Despite how it demands everything you have, you’ll give your all willingly because doing what you love is the most fulfilling thing you can do, no matter how hard it is. So do it. Pour your soul into your passions. Suffer the burning eyes, the long nights, the stress and the exhaustion. Do it because you love it. But don’t ever let anyone tell you doing what you love isn’t work.