Don’t do what you love. The work worth doing is painful

You may find it inconceivable that you would see real success ‘doing what you love.’

You may even find it difficult to stay with any one thing long enough to make something of it.

There are many cool things out there after all, and it is difficult to make a decision.

But you might not be making as much ground by now as you’d hoped for in any of it.

It could be something to do with all that jumping around. Never devoting enough attention to any one thing in particular because nothing has kept you ‘in love’ for long enough.

And that’s ok if you’re a hobbyist or a dabbler or you’re in ‘research mode.’ But it’s not ideal if you are looking for traction, an electrical, emotional connection in your audience, money and the trappings of a successful creative career.

By seeing fewer wins, you might have been inclined to stop, or to try something new, again.

But you’re considering quitting once more because you weren’t expecting that doing what you loved would be so damn frustrating at times. So infuriating. So full of monotony, and moments of despair.

Wasn’t this supposed to be about love? About passion?

And then it dawns on you that you might be thinking about it in a way that is not helpful.

Maybe your understanding of what it takes to succeed as an artist needs a hard (command+shift+R) refresh.

Your work — if it is to bring a tear to someone’s eye — if it is to be talked about for a long time — was never supposed to have been easy.

With over a decade producing art and words, it’s clear to me now that the work, as well as the admin and marketing and business-stuff surrounding it — it all has to be challenging.

Art must grow with the artist, and for the artist to improve he needs to be continually challenged.

For it to involve some pain is inevitable.

I can see that it is not about only doing what I love, because half the time if I’m honest, I do not love it.

Writing as a career can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be tough (and ‘impractical’) to the point that I want to cry.

But I do know that it is work that brings me to life and keeps me alive psychologically. It is work that keeps my heart pumping and stokes my willingness to get better.

To become the best.

By staying with my craft, my own humanity reveals itself. Not because it’s easy. But because it hurts.

This makes it worth it.

Frustration always felt to me like a sign I was on the wrong path. Now it is an indication of growth — of new mental pathways being formed. When I wake up tomorrow, I’m a little better at handling the things that I would have struggled with yesterday.

Years ago, I would have told you to follow your passion; to do what you loved. Now I’m telling you to do what makes you come alive, because in life and living there is pain.

There is no greatness to be had in a world without struggle.

“Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.” ~Ram Dass

Follow the work that is interesting to you, but do not expect it to inspire passion in you all the time.

Aim to create one incredible thing after the other and expect a LOT of it to be either dull or very hard.

I don’t know if those of us who stay with our crafts are a little sadistic.

I think we might have to be.

You have to love the pain to an extent and bite the tongue that longs to complain.

Only in this sense are we doing what we truly love.

You need to savour the ache in your shoulders and the sting of skin coming off your hands as you pull the sword from the stone.

You must use the boredom, and the frustration and the fear.

They are your greatest allies.

The work worth doing is found where pain and passion meet.

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