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Truths About Doing What You Love

Over the weekend, I tweeted a couple thoughts about doing what you love:

Anyone telling you that doing what you love won’t feel like work is selling you a bunch of bullshit. But it *will* feel damned rewarding.

Also, what you love will change over time, as you grow exposed to new facets of what you’re doing and to totally different things.

Today, I’m doing what I love. I work on making games and making games better — at Paizo, for various other companies as a freelancer, and for myself. But here’s the thing: I know I won’t be doing this forever.

I know I won’t want to do this forever.

When I was in my early 20s, I got a job as a software developer. I was making web applications, and really happy that my life involved fucking around with the Internet as a living. As time went on, I loved that less — my interests changed, I stopped enjoying programming for its own sake, and I started getting my writing published.

To say I’m “lucky” enough to have done what I love twice in my life, however, misses the point. This is all still work:

  • Yesterday, I came into the Paizo office for eight hours, then went home and did another couple hours or so on the Technocracy.
  • On Saturday, I spent the day, from noon until around 10pm, working on one of the Technocracy books.
  • Friday, worked several hours at the day job trying to push a document out to the next editing pass, and then going home to work on the Technocracy.
  • Thursday, see Friday
  • Wednesday, see Thursday
  • and so on

The last time I worked less than eight hours in a day was maybe around four weeks ago (every day, not just weekdays). Yes, it’s doing what I love, but it still feels like work. I still feel my brain being toasted after a ten-hour day. I still want to curl up with some Mass Effect 3 DLC I haven’t gotten to play yet. So anyone telling you “it won’t feel like work” is a lying fuck who is just trying to sell you something. Or trying to convince themselves that that’s true.

And as time goes on, as you gain experiences in life, what you love will change. That’s cool! That’s a natural part of the process. Plus, your further experiences with doing what you love will show you parts of the business you hate, and depending on your personality type and what you’re dealing with, that might overwhelm your love in the first place.

So here’s the deal: things will still be work because it takes effort to achieve something awesome, and people will always have different ideas of what’s awesome than you. (Spoiler alert: you’re going to have to deal with people while doing what you love.) And you’ll grow and change as a person.

Embrace all that. It’s part of doing what you love.

– Ryan

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4 Responses to Truths About Doing What You Love

  1. blackcoat says:

    I think this is a HUGE part of the reason that video game QA has so much churn. People get the idea “I can play video games for a living! It’ll be great!” not “this is a soul sucking job full of boredom and anguish.” It doesn’t help that, because of the churn (and some apparently industry wide prejudices) everyone else on the team looks at them as a renewable resource of idiots not to take seriously.

    It’s also the reason I make sure to have at least one hobby that I don’t even try to work in.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Heh, I always “make the mistake” of working in my hobbies. But in some ways, that’s because “business” is also a hobby of mine, so I keep engaging on that level.

      – Ryan

  2. Nancy says:

    For me, doing what you love means not wanting to completely give up even when you’re working 80+ hour weeks. It means that when things are hard or go belly-up that you just gather up the pieces and keep going. Yes, it will still be hard and still be work, but it will be work that is rewarding (at least most of the time — there are always parts you won’t like) and so you will want to keep doing it.

    –Nancy

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Exactly!

      I am working 70 hours this week, and while I’m really fucking tired, I’m satisfied with what I’m doing. It doesn’t sustain my mental energy like some sort of spiritual manna, but I don’t feel like I’m giving myself for something that’s ultimately disconnected from me or otherwise unworthwhile.

      I have a motto: “Easy. Worthwhile. Pick one.” (Well, pick at most one. Some people pick zero.)

      – Ryan