My friend Jared’s blog post on running, For the love of it, inspired me to write this post today. I don’t like to run. I don’t understand why so many people do it. But Jared’s blog helped me understand why he does it. He does it because he loves it. That made sense to me.
You see, I’ve read many articles about writing where the author says you must love it in order to keep doing it. They also say that to write mainly because you think it will make you money is foolish and unrealistic. For a long time, I disagreed with these authors. I thought, I’m not just doing this for my health! Of course, I want to make money. But now, after being a full-time writer for almost a year and a half, I have to agree with them. After writing regularly day after day, week after week, I now understand what they mean.
It’s hard to keep doing something that you receive no feedback on, and no income from. To keep doing it, day in and day out, you have to derive some pleasure or joy or satisfaction from it. If you love it, even better.
There are many days when I don’t “love” writing. I dread it. I avoid it. I do anything else except sit down and do it. But I know that all of that comes from fear. It’s not because I don’t love to write. It’s because I so want to communicate my stories well that fear envelops me and makes me worry that I won’t be able to do it. It’s the fear of not being good enough skill-wise that makes me procrastinate. Happens all the time. And from what I read, it happens to all writers.
But love draws me back. And keeps me at it.
It’s the feeling I get when I’m so engrossed with writing that times flies. I don’t drink. I don’t eat. I don’t even get up to use the bathroom. I think that it’s only been an hour, but it’s actually been three. When I come out of that time, I feel good tired. I feel like I gave it my all. There’s nothing like it.
Now, many days, writing is not like that. Most days, it’s just work. Some days, it feels like a slog. But I live for those days when writing is like diving into an ocean of perfectly warm water that wraps around me like a liquid blanket of love.
I’m realizing more and more that love is the key to creating a life and career that’s fulfilling. For example, I’ve put on two writing events this year: a Writers Wellness Retreat (thanks, Jeanie, for your awesome post about the retreat!) and a Poetry Makerspace Workshop, and I LOVED both of them. I loved coming up with the idea, creating the agenda, buying the materials, finding a space for the event, writing notes for my presentation, welcoming the participants, and teaching on the actual day. I loved every step of the process.
This hasn’t been true of events in the past. I’ve realized it’s because 97% of past events were ones that I was instructed to do (like at a job), or ones I felt that I had to do (like for my business). It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy these events or get value from them–I did–but they didn’t fill me with love and joy.
Some of you may be thinking, that’s really woo-woo, Peg. Some of us have no choice but to put on the events that are assigned to us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. Yes, I understand that, and yes, it may be woo-woo, but until you feel it, really feel what it’s like to actually LOVE every step of a process, I don’t know if you can truly understand what I mean. When you feel that love, you will do whatever it takes to keep that feeling going. When you’re in the flow, you know it, and you know that you have to repeat it again. It can lead to negotiating with your boss a way to keep putting on events that really matter to you. It can lead to you finding a different job where you can do more of what you love to do. It can lead to you not getting a new job, but dropping activities on the weekend that don’t matter as much to you so you can do more of the one that does.
Love keeps me going, not the money.
Truth be told, I made some money at my retreat, and none on my poetry workshop. I’m okay with that. Like my writing, I put on these events because I want to, because I love it, and because, yes, someday, I think they will be a decent source of income. But in the meantime, I’m gaining skills, learning my craft, helping people, helping myself, and feeling the love.
So, all those writers that wrote those “you have to love it” articles, that I scoffed at in the past, were right. Like I said earlier, I used to think, “I’m not just writing for my health, I want to make money on this!” But now I know, I am writing for my health. Over the years, I’ve discovered that if you don’t do the things you love, you start to deteriorate on the inside. And invariably, your health starts to suffer. But when you do what you love on a regular basis, your health improves. In fact, everything improves.
I started this blog to share my writing journey and to build my writing career. I try to be as honest as possible.
So, hear me out. Let me be brutally honest right now.
If you’re thinking of going into writing mainly for the money, please don’t. We don’t need any more sad writers who had to “give up their dream” because they didn’t make money on it.
Give yourself a chance to write regularly without money being a factor. Write a blog post a week (go, Edgy!), write the chapters of your memoir on the weekend (go, Karen!), write as many pages as you can during those moments of time snatched from your busy life (go, Jeanie!).
Write regularly. That’s key.
Then, years later, even if you don’t make money on it, or even if you do, you will still have what was most important to begin with: that you wrote for the love of it. You can’t replace that feeling with all the money in the world.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also a writing coach giving help, encouragement, and feedback to writers from all walks of life.
Art by Natsuki Otani.