A lot of times you’ll hear someone say that you have to love what you do to be a writer. Or that if you can imagine doing anything else you should.
And I get where that advice is coming from. Because this is not an easy path to walk. It’s not straight uphill to fame and fortune. (Maybe it is for some, but not for most.)
So you need something that drives you to carry on when things aren’t going well. You need something internal that puts your butt in that chair and your hands on those keys. Something that keeps you writing after that first rejection and that first bad review. Something that pushes you through that moment when you think it’s all going to start working now and then it doesn’t.
But it doesn’t have to be love.
For me it’s sheer pig-headed stubborness because I don’t like to fail. I’m sitting here brooding instead of writing and casually thinking I could always go find some consulting work. And that maybe I should. (Even though I’ve been seeing steady signs of improvement and have already doubled last year’s income.)
That funk won’t last though.
Because in about five minutes my “you only fail if you quit” side will kick in. And it’ll force me to keep going, because I’m going to master this thing, damn it even if I end up living in my car to do it. (Okay, maybe I wouldn’t take it that far. Pretty sure pup would not appreciate the lack of six different beds to choose from.)
So I don’t do it out of love. I do it because it’s a challenge that I think I can master.
I’d even go so far as to say that if you love it, if this really is the only thing you can ever imagine yourself doing or the only thing you’ve ever wanted to be, that that’s the hardest path to take.
Because every setback will hurt that much more. And every critique and every delay won’t just feel like a challenge to be overcome but something personal. Something that strikes at the very core of who you are. It’s easy to become bitter if you love something and can’t have it. Especially if someone else doesn’t love it and does get it.
So you don’t have to love it. And maybe you’re even better off if you don’t.
But if you’re going to commit yourself to the writing path, you have to have something internal that keeps you moving forward. No one else is going to drive you through the years it takes to get there.
It has to be you.
2 thoughts on “You Don’t Have to Love It”
Strange how that advice only seems to apply to the creative arts.
As someone who has pursued three -ostensibly – different careers, I can’t recall ever having someone suggest one should only be a lawyer or a business analyst if one couldn’t imagine doing something else.
In fact, authors (fiction authors especially) are potentially the people least suitable for a test of whether one could imagine a different life; most great authors are great because of their ability to imagine being someone different than their current self in a place different to their current place. So, perhaps a better test is that one should only be an author if one can imagine doing something else ; )
It’s also rather reductionist: love what? Imagining characters? Writing description? Editing? Marketing? Sales? Even the most blessed of traditionally published authors (so someone for whom a test of whether or not they should continue is the least meaningful) performs a vast quantity of tasks; so which, and how many, of those should one love to “count” as a “suitable” author?
For me, I think the opposite test is more useful: do you not hate it. Writing isn’t – edge cases aside – a job where the pay compensates for other imperfections, so I feel the better measure is whether the worst parts are bearable.
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“So, perhaps a better test is that one should only be an author if one can imagine doing something else ; )”
I like that! And I think the idea of “do you not hate it” is a good one, too.