Should you turn your PLAY into your WORK?
Mark Twain said, “Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
An awful lot of people dream about turning their passion (fast cars, surfing, art, writing) into a career. Seems like a great idea right? But what happens when something you’ve always done for love becomes something that you do for money?
Is this a good idea? A major disaster? The path to an amazing and fulfilling existence?
There is no right or wrong answer here. But as someone who has successfully turned a passion into a career (and is surrounded by people doing the same!) I’ll weigh in here on a few of the common situations I’ve seen and encountered in my own adventures.
Are you the kind of person who needs a deadline or external motivator?
Often, (okay most of the time) I’m one of those. If I make a commitment to do something, it gets done. As long as that commitment is made to someone OTHER than myself. Sound familiar?
People who know me personally are likely familiar with my inability to have general conversations that don’t end with something going into a calendar or onto an asana checklist. If it’s worth talking about, and it’s something you want to do – then action is required. And I know first hand, talking about something if there isn’t a time/date on the calendar and a specific “next steps action” to take means that you’ll probably be circling back around to this same conversation again in a few days/weeks/months/years…
When it comes to writing a book, if I’m contracted with a publisher to have that next book written, it gets written. If it’s a project I’m collaborating on and we’ve agreed on a deadline for the next section, then that next section gets written. If it’s something I’m working on for fun with no accountability or specific due date – well – it’s likely still half completed.
If you like a good challenge, having deadlines (especially really tight deadlines) can be really motivating to actually move a project forward and just get’er’done. At least in the first draft stage, that can be useful.
But what if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t thrive under pressure?
Some people really don’t do well with deadlines. They freeze up under pressure, and the fun instantly goes out of the activity. And seriously, the last thing you want is to suck all the fun out of the thing you were so passionate that you wanted to do it ALL. THE. TIME.
If this describes you, then be smart and careful about what kinds of contracts you take on (maybe don’t try to sell the book or the painting until it’s actually complete) and if you do take on a deadline, then be smart about maximizing the time you’re given. Note, if you are equal parts procrastinator AND you don’t thrive on deadlines, maybe don’t quit your day job until you see how things pan out.
What if you’re just a bad ass rebel who doesn’t like doing what they “have” to do?
I don’t know anyone like this. (Ahem.) Well okay, sometimes that might describe me. I’m an unpredictable mixture of this, and the first one. I thrive on deadlines, commitments get me to finish things, and I hate doing what I’m “supposed” to be doing, even if it’s me who made the to do list in the first place and it’s filled with cool things I have to do. My only advice here would be to get really good at tricking yourself and playing those two parts of your personality off against the other. You may have to get creative, but I bet you’re good at that or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
What if you don’t have any idea what kind of person you would be in this situation?
Mom’s wisdom comes to play here. I can’t begin to tell you how many times in my formative years I heard the words, “You’ll never know unless you try.” And it’s true, for pretty much everything. But I do know some people who have tried this, and discovered that what they always wanted to do turned out to be what they never wanted to do once they got successful enough at it to actually do it full time. This is an occupational hazard for creatives.
Sometimes, you can see this happening and opt out of the next project, the one that might push you over the edge. Or maybe you can make some adjustments once you see what’s happening. Other times, people burn themselves out, the fun goes out of it, and they have to take a sabbattical from their passion to regroup while they do something else for a living. Then they go back to doing their writing or art or whatever just for fun again.
The good news?
The good news is, even if you don’t love doing what you love full time, you’re not spending all your time dreaming about how great life would be “if only…”. You will know for sure if it works for you or not. If it does, AWESOME. If not, well then you’re one step closer to finding that perfect balance between work and play in YOUR life. Whatever that looks like to you.