“What kills the writer, in the end, is the absence of a direct causal relationship between effort and reward. Thus it is rarely true *work*, in any way our bodies can understand. A free day, all the kids off to their grandmother’s, the house deathly quiet; half an hour’s meditation; a cafetière of Costa Rica in the study; no sound but the rain dripping from the trees in the back garden through the open window….And I cannot introduce two words to one another without them falling out immediately. Today, feeling exhausted, ill, overweight, the house full of yelling, my mind a roiling broth of fear and resentment and professional jealousy — a dozen problems I have pored over for weeks have been solved in twenty minutes flat. I end the day feeling worse than ever, as if I had accomplished nothing at all.”
From the Songs for Drella collaboration between John Cale and Lou Reed, which reflected on their time with Andy Warhol:
“No matter what I did, it never seemed enough,
He said I was lazy, I said I was young.
He said “How many songs did you write?”
I’d written zero, I lied, and said “Ten.”
“You won’t be young forever –
You should have written fifteen!
Andy said a lot of things,
I stored ‘em all away in my head.
Sometimes, when I can’t decide what I should do
I think: “What would Andy have said?”
He’d probably say: “You think too much!
That’s cause there’s work — that you don’t want to do!
It’s work. The most important thing is work.
It’s work. The most important thing is work.”
I believe that the question of whether or not to combine one’s passion with one’s income is truly personal. Though it often seems like it would be insane to turn down the chance to turn your passion into a successful career, I’ve spoken to a number of people who’ve been there and been disillusioned.
It can be liberating and glorious to find a way to make money doing what you love, but it also brings in a lot of baggage. Baggage like obligations and ROI and finances. It can also mean compromising your pure passion to make it more marketable. In reality, many people who try to combine passion and career end up shooting too broadly — the freelance writer who loves writing, but then realizes it’s actually just writing poetry that he loves. Not writing ad copy, or white papers. But he’s making a living writing, so isn’t he doing what he loves?
I have some quibbles with some of his conclusions, but there are a few points worth culling from Merlin Mann’s speech at MacWorld this past January:
“Creativity is a way of seeing the world, it is a way of behaving, it is a way of understanding how things that may seem unrelated could actually be related.”
“When you become a professional creative person, having ideas is the least of your problems.”
“Ideas are cheap, making them into something awesome is super-hard.”
“Even if it’s just something you do as an avocation — for fun — it’s a job. It’s work.”
“There’s stuff you want to do that you may not even realize you want to do.”
His general themes — that creative endeavours require work, sacrifice and blocks of uninterrupted time, and that there may be archetypal patterns to making ideas into something we can share and interact with — are spot on.
There’s also a video on YouTube but it’s 27 minutes, with technical difficulties and a fair bit of wandering jocularity, which is why I’m presenting a condensed version here.