I’ve heard it said, that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. In essence this is true; but when it comes to the particulars of doing what you love, people (especially young people) often run into trouble. The reason for this, is that doing what you love and therefore never working implies two things:
- You must, automatically, naturally, inherently, know what you love.
- Work is a bad/unhappy thing.
Let’s deal with the first problem first. Knowing what you love. It’s easy to identify what you love when you’ve lived a bit; when life has involved more than school and an adolescent boyfriend. When you know yourself choosing a love is easier. But what of the young who’ve had their heads filled with the passionate words of tree-changers and change-your-lifers? How are they to know what they love at eighteen years of age? And will it be an eternal love, or just a short-lived passion? At eighteen, life is still the great unknown. Of all that’s out there, how do you choose what you love?
When asked to determine what they love, or when told to only work at what they love, many young adults fall into a state of terminal indecision which, on occasion, leads to terrible feelings of inadequacy and sometimes depression. Why? Because they’ve yet to identify true loves and real passions. How, they wonder, can I not know what I love? The answer is simple; they just don’t. Generally teens and young adults haven’t done or tried enough to know what they love.
Of late, this has been a hot topic of conversation between myself and my young people. Finally, a solution occurred to me. “You just have to try stuff,” I explained. “Jeez, I didn’t know I hated being a secretary until I tried being one. Sometimes you have to get in and mess around a bit. You have to know what you don’t like in order to home in on what you do like.” That’s the thing, sometimes finding what we love doing, is simply a process of elimination.
Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule. I have a very talented artist friend. Her parents (both of them) were artists and her grandparents, if not artists, were artistic. She’s known all of her life, where her talents lay and I am inordinately jealous of the kind of security that must have given her as she grew and explored the world.
For the rest of us, we just have to figure it out.
Now, about work. Work is not an innately bad concept. It’s just something you have to do sometimes. Sometimes, even what you love, can be hard work. Parents know I’m I’m telling the truth. We love our kids with an abiding passion, but there are days when we’d swap them for ten minutes of quiet and an instant coffee.
For me, writing is this way. I love certain stages of the writing process. In fact, I go so far as to compare the early stages of writing with the act of falling in love (you can read that particular rave here). There are other stages though, that I would happily delegate. The query/submission process is one. The editing is another. I realise these are important processes and I know they make the final product so much better and more valuable, but honestly, there’s nothing fun about it. It’s work; straight-out, flat-out, no-doubt-about-it, hard, grinding work. I live through the work so I can get back to the good bits, to the things I love about my job. I do the work necessary to make the final product perfect; to make it something I can love.
So here’s the lowdown on the whole ‘do what you love’ conundrum.
- You must actively seek what you love. This is generally a process of elimination.
- All work requires that you actually work. If it didn’t, it would be called play.
- Parents: STOP telling your kids to do what they love. Encourage them instead to do something. When they hate doing that something, then encourage them to do something else. This is what I like to call ‘failing forward’. Eventually they’ll stumble upon what they do love then…Viola, the cliche becomes a truth!
In short, I think the cliche should say Find what you love and the work will be fulfilling…