Do What You Love

Andy J Miller for Advice to Sink in Slowly

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend of mine who was lamenting that passion doesn’t put food on the table and that doing what you love for a living might merely be a myth. I of course, disagreed, but nonetheless, it did made me think for a bit about my own situation.

I love what I’m doing – writing this blog, organizing fun projects and thinking of new ways to push the envelope for artists out there – but the truth is that it isn’t easy – and I won’t sugarcoat it. I say this because there are so many nitty gritty details that will drown out whatever it is that you love, if you let it. And doing this for four years has not exactly put a lot of food on my table, which is why I have other jobs to tide me over. I’m grateful for any sponsorships that I get, and I am ever so thrilled to get an email from a reader who breathlessly tell me about how they are so happy after they visit the blog.

There’s a bit of disconnect there – wouldn’t it be great if happiness is a tradable currency? What if I gave you 5 smiles in exchange for that muffin? If only it were that easy! I’ve racked up lots of smiles from running Pikaland, and if it happiness was a standard currency, then I’d be rich! But alas, the world doesn’t work that way.

But here’s the thing – I’ve had jobs that sapped the energy out of me, but my pockets were full. And right now, though I love my job(s), my pockets aren’t quite as full as they were before. I thought it would be a difficult adjustment, but it turns out it’s not that hard. I traded things that I thought made me happy, for things and experiences that did, and my sanity thanks me for it.

So while I’m treading that fine line between making my passion work for me and pushing through the hard bits, I know that I’m doing what I love. Because let’s face it – if I don’t love what I do, I would have given up on this mad path a long time ago. And to me that is passion – the drive that pushes you to go forward as you reach for the (seemingly) never-ending finish line, or that oft-promised pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And while my passion doesn’t quite put food on my table for now, there’s a churning in my belly that tells me that the day will come when my table will be full – and it will be surrounded by people whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with. It will filled with the fruits of our labor, and most importantly, we will be joyful in the knowledge that we have made a difference in our community.

What about you? Are you doing what you love?

Screenprint Do What You Love by Andy J Miller.
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19 thoughts on “Do What You Love

  1. I love this post! But for me, it’s not wheter or not doing what your love, that’s too black-and-white. I like what I do, but it’s not really a passion. I would prefer doing something that I love even more, although I wouldn’t mind doing this for the coming years too. One of the reasons for not doing what I love most, is that I’m not sure what that would be. I’m trying to figure that out since forever. And it seems like I’m getting closer, so I have a feeling that someday I will be doing what I really love. And than there are other choices I made, that slow down the journey a bit, like having babies and stuff like that. And I don’t mind, this were choices I’m still so glad I made and I’t also a part of doing what I love, spending time with my kids.

  2. yes yes yes! love this piece, because it hits so close to home. what you are saying here is exactly what i have been preaching since i have gotten this crazy idea in my head to make a career switch. and it turns out to be o so true. i do feel richer from doing what i love, even though my pockets are emptier! and doing what i love even brings more projects to me that i love even more. it’s like a good stuff magnet.
    (truth be told, i have enough money to live by. i am at a point where i don’t have the big money-worries. around me i see people that are doing what they love but really have to struggle to even have a minimal income and then doing what you love can be a heartbreaker in the end. (and if i read your articles correctly, that is exactly why you advise people to provide a basic income for themselves))

    marije, could it be that making choices that feel good, make you happy, is most important? doing what you love most wouldn’t have to be one thing, would it? it could also be a path with a diversity of feel-good-choices (incl babies)?

  3. This has been a pretty constant struggle for me. I NEED to be able to use my skills and knowledge in something I love but I’m rarely paid for it. I feel guilty for wanting more than working just to pay the bills. What’s more important? Pay for the kid’s dental work or my need to create? I have hope that eventually my desire to create will actually pay for those dentist bills and I can feel more pride than guilt.

  4. I certainly understand from experience… that although passion doesn’t always put food on the table, money doesn’t buy happiness either. So I think it’s important to note that it’s not about one or the other. It’s probably balance that we are all searching for.

    Love how you wrote – “5 smiles in exchange for that muffin” – would LOVE that! 🙂

    I’m still searching for the balance myself, but at least I have energy to think about these things… instead of the past, when everything would just fly by and I didn’t even know what I was living for… you know?

  5. I love this post, it’s so true. We feel guilty for pursuing what we love if it doesn’t pay the bills. But i think if you live in a positive manner and enjoy what you do, then life will come back and reward you. But yes, i wish happiness could be a currency!

  6. aw, totally agree with you. If you love what you’re doing, nothing can stop you I think! Money isn’t all that important. I’ve had a side job last year, and it’s hard to be honest, to not have that much time for illustration…but on the other hand, I can live with my love now and I can buy things I wouldn’t have bought that easily earlier. I am however of the kind that rather spends less than work more. My boyfriend doesn’t agree, he rather works more so he is financially stable. We’re doing it ‘his’ way at the moment, but yesterday he told me that at this moment he wouldn’t really mind if, in the future, we would have less to spend. I think it’s a bliss if you can be happy with the little things (though I still hope you can buy your food and pay the monthly rents…).

    Funny that I also blogged about the ‘do what you like’ part, I think it’s really important!

  7. I had the same conversation with friends recently. But I was thinking that the world is so crappy that you are morally obligated to make things better by doing more, speaking your mind in a productive way (not being a pointless/non-productive complainer) and not only doing things for money….sure we all need to eat ect…but we should have more agency in the world, we do have the internet after all……Othewise personally…I am a complete freelancer and I manage to put my living together from multiple small jobs…Teaching at a University, Curating for a Gallery, Selling work, Organizing Craftfairs, paid workshops and a few paid art shows…and it isn’t easy to do with the fluctuating money and wacky schedule, but I have managed to do this for a few years.

  8. My ten-year-old daughter has been asking “What’s the point in life?” lately. This bothers me because I have been going through similar struggles and don’t know quite how to answer her. She came up with her own answer in a painting: a crying rose with the words “Fun”, “Problems”, “Solutions” painted around. She calls it FPS. I am reminded that we need to find our own way, incorporating or rejecting the help we recieve from others, yet realizing that we are not, in fact, alone.

  9. I love Pikaland, specially cause I can read about things like this. I´ve decided to become a full time illustrator this year but it´s getting hard. Some days i think that i won´t make it but some others i just think i need to work harder. Sometimes i get really depressed but then i realize at least i´m trying to do what i love.

  10. You’re awesome Pikaland. These things need to be talked about! I just graduated uni and it’s very easy to get depressed about choosing a creative way of life. I find the best way to pick yourself up is to surround yourself in others creatives and draw strength in numbers. It takes a lot of love and strength to pursue what you love, but if you think about it, those are two of the best qualities to have around all the time and to raise a family among 🙂

  11. Fabulous post. And I loved reading everyone’s comments, all so true. Phoebe’s daughter sounds like a born philosopher! It can be really hard when you have that ache to create and to not waste life and spend every moment by squeezing as much out of it as possible. I find myself with 1001 things on the boil at once and I can’t live any other way. Life spins by faster and faster though and I do sometimes wonder if that’s an echo of the fact that all my plates are spinning and multiplying so fast in my struggle to find purpose and fulfillment. The key for me will be to focus on the plates with roses on and let the grey plates drop. I was forced to sit with no sketchpad, no book, no nothing except some food(phew!) on the green near where I work my day job for an hour over lunch the other day. I freaked out that I wouldn’t be productive with my time (I’d forgotten my bulging satchel of books and pencils etc) but in fact there was nothing I needed more than to just take the world in for a while, breathe some fresh air and even look at the food I was eating rather than just stuffing it in my mouth like a steam train being refuelled. Life feels a lot longer and more cherished when you take time out to take a look around and put things in perspective. And then we can focus one what really is important.

  12. Phoebe: Your daughter sounds like a true philosopher! So young and yet so very sensitive about the world!

    Ella: I totally freak out when my hands are completely empty. Whenever I go out and I know that there’s a pocket of time where I’ll have nothing to do, I’d bring along an activity kit that has all my essentials: a notebook, a pen or a book (if it stretches far too long).

    But I love your analogy about the spinning plates – and it’s something that I’m learning to do everyday.

  13. I loved this post! After years and years working as a corporate designer – I stepped out to have my two children, and mourned my much-loved creative career that I thought was dead. After three years of not doing any creative work at all, I started drawing at night when the kids were asleep – and rediscovered a passion that I had not had since I was a uni student – illustration. Three years later and I have reinvented my career into a new shape that suits me and my family. It has been hard work and long hours but I have loved every minute of it. I always thought that the people who got to ‘do what they loved’ were a very special few, and I was not one of them. Now I find myself making a living from drawing and I love it like I never loved any of my previous jobs. Having my children changed my career path for the better, I am very lucky that I get to do what I love!

  14. What a beautiful… so inspiring post. There is No such a coincidence. This exactly I was thinking over the other day.
    Oh dear Amy… You are a very special human being, with a unique soul. Thank you very much for doing this. You bring me smiles. Doing illustrations has not been easy either. And I am glad I am back with my “old school” technique in my paintings. I will certainly share them with you.
    Have a “majeakal” evening.
    With ♥
    -Marjorie Ann

  15. Oh my god – I really needed to read this right now. Thank you so much for writing this.
    I had just come from an informative and fun yet slightly depressing meeting with a fellow writer and poet who puts out a really cool journal. He said that artists need day jobs. I, of course, no longer have day jobs. I quit all of my day jobs a couple years ago to focus on my art (books/movies/poetry/painting/performance art).
    I was trying to explain to this other writer who is much more well-known and respected and much older than I am that I am in the process of developing various online interactive games to help more art reach the masses. He said that it will compromise the art to sell out – and to try to put any corporate structure on it – that it will ruin it and kill creative freedom and the purity of it – that art and money cannot be linked. But I don’t agree with him. I can’t agree with him. Accepting that version of the world would mean giving up on so much after I fought so hard to be able to follow my passion. And then I stumbled on this blog and I am so happy I did.

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