Why Doing What You Love Is Way Harder Than Doing What You’re Okay With

dreamI found this NYT item about how hard it is to live your hobby dream with an Etsy store interesting, in that the whole article had a tone of being stunned that making a living from crafting was hard. Why, one artist and her husband worked 14 hour days to get all of her orders out. Another knitted liked a mofo from dawn to evening with no relief except to answer customer emails and drop off her Etsy orders. And another woman only makes Wisconsin minimum wage when you do an hours-put-in-to-money-being-made ratio. I was amused by the tone of voice, because it assumed that doing what you love for a living wasn’t almost always super-hard.

I’ve had friends and family alike insinuate that since 2006 my jobs have been easy, b/c I get to do what I love (write) for a living. And while it’s true that doing what you love doesn’t feel as much like work as say, digging trenches, let’s not get it twisted. Pursuing your dream is always going to be way harder than a 9 to 5. The main problem is that almost every kind of regular paid writing gig requires more than 40 hours a week from you. For example, television writers don’t get to go home at 5pm everyday no matter what. They get to go home when the script is done, which is why I barely see a few of my friends now that they’re staffed on shows.

When I was writing for radio, I found it hard to keep doctor’s appointments or schedule lunches, b/c not only was I working an ever-changing 50-to-60-hour week, but anything could come up at any time that would require more writing from me. I remember being stunned about how much harder my dream job was than any 9 to 5 I had ever had — even the ones I hated.

And even now that I’m a Write-at-Home mom, I find myself having to work harder at my writing practice than I did when I had a full-time and a husband with crazy hours of his own. I only write for three hours a day, but really that’s way more time than I ever put into my own practice when I had my radio job and was just cobbling together novel writing time whenever I could find it. Also, it’s hard to commit to writing 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, when “your boss” is constantly reminding you to clean out your inbox and to call back your sister and that you have just got to go to Target again, b/c Betty needs more baby wash and your MIL needs cookie baskets and you still need to figure out stocking stuffers for the entire family.

To a certain extent, I do realize that much like having children, people have to believe that their dream jobs will be easier than the ones they currently hold, otherwise they wouldn’t pursue great things. I always use the example of Martin Luther King going into the civil rights battle, thinking that it would take maybe 7 years to reverse the trends of racism in the South. By the time he figured out it would be way harder than that, he was already in it up to his neck, so he did the much-harder-than-originally-thought work.

But to people on the cusp of losing or quitting their day job who are thinking about finally writing that novel or opening up an Etsy store or [insert dream job here], just know it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard on you. It’s going to be hard on your relationships. And it’s going to be especially hard on your emotions. Seriously, if you can do any sort of other job without throwing yourself out a window, go ahead and do that, especially if you’re not prepared to put in at least 10 years of hard, thankless work before meeting your goal. And yes, I do mean at least.

You know that work-life-balance everyone’s so keen on these days? No such thing when you’re pursuing your dream. Your dream job is 24/7 and will nag at you even when you’re on the toilet. It’s really obnoxious that way.

As I watch my daughter Betty chew on the super-awesome bib that Missy Kulik from “Dork Lifestyle” made for her while I tiredly type in this article way later-than-intended because she woke up at 6am with a nose so stuffed up that we had to drain it w/ saline solution and an aspirator and then wait for her to calm down from her treatment before she could get back to sleep, I definitely wonder (as I often do) if all this hard work is worth it.

And somehow the universe in my heart answers with a resounding, “Yes!”


Ernessa T. Carter is the author of the novel, 32 CANDLES, which will be released on June 22, 2010. Pre-order your copy on Amazon here.


Photo Credit: Alexis Lê-Quôc