Write what you love, the money will follow

I used to hate that New Age expression: Do what you love and the money will follow.

Yeah, right, I’d mutter. At the time I was working as a features writer at the largest newspaper in Alaska, and while I loved many things about my job, I hated sitting in a cubicle for most of the day, hated having to be in the office for the traditional 9-to-5 hours, hated having to wear professional clothes and brush my hair and make small talk with office mates when I wanted to be off in my head daydreaming about poetry or my novel.

Flash forward five years and I’m no longer sitting in a newsroom or stuffed behind a cubicle. I’m not sitting at all, in fact. I’m lounging on the sofa listening to trashy 80s songs, one cat at my feet, the other by my side, my trusty old dog snoring from the floor.

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Do what you love? What I love is running mountains, which I did yesterday during an incredibly sunny and clear Alaska autumn day. I still had to write, of course, but I did that after dark.

Here’s an example of going after what you want: Last month, my partner and I were sitting at sidewalk tables at a Portland Japanese restaurant eating fried burdock root and I couldn’t shut up about how good it was. Fried burdock root! I had never even heard of it before. On the walk back to our hotel (it was a balmy 80 degrees and I was giddy from the heat and the meal), I thought, “I want to write about food.”

As soon as we got back to Anchorage I queried for possible food-related freelance jobs, and I nabbed one too. In fact, my last two writing assignments and my next four all center on the things I love the most: running or food.

How did I manage to grab assignments on topics I love the most?

Hard work. And hours and hours of researching how to write a great pitch or query. And even more hours of building up a reputation as a strong writer with a strong voice who delivers well-written articles with halfway decent photos.

Of course, sooner or later I’ll write about other topics. In fact, I’m presently preparing queries for three stories that have nothing to do with writing, reading or food but they do have to do with subjects I find interesting: Alaska and dog mushing and hiking.

Here’s the thing: You can do what you love and make money, to a degree. Because, face it: If everyone did what they loved there would be no one would be around to do the boring, dirty or ho-hum jobs that make up so much of life. But if you work hard, and then work some much, and if you push your limits, you’ll sometimes be able to write or do what you love for a glorious month or year or, if you’re one of the lucky few, your whole darned life.

What I’m loving right now:

Morgan’s Passing. I can’t seem to get enough of Anne Tyler lately. I love her quirky yet warm-hearted characters, and I especially love her dialogue skill. Does anyone write characters as well? I think not.

This post by Jonathan Gunson, Why Do You Write. Check it out: It’s a refreshing reminder of why so many of us love to write.

And of course, I always, always love this: The Alaska sunset which, as winter nears, arrives about five minutes sooner each day.

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Hope everyone out there is busy doing what they love.

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4 thoughts on “Write what you love, the money will follow

  1. I think what some people genuinely want to do is live in large houses with awesome yards and fancy cooking ranges, cool cars and the luxuries of modern technology, all in a lifetime of financial stability. Those people leave the writing jobs for the rest of us ; )

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  2. Hi, Victoria, I drive a 1997 Ford Escort and I’m happy as can be (when it works, hee, hee). Hope you’re enjoying your new job. Look forward to seeing your byline in the “largest newspaper in Alaska” (hey, you’re following in my footsteps, kind of, except you jumped immediately up to editor while I slogged as writer). Cheers and big hugs.

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  3. Nice post, Cinthia! I think the “Do what you love” stuff tends to be too simplistic, and ignore the hard graft aspect. But you are absolutely right that if you really go for it you can end up doing what you love. I also quit a staff reporter’s job in search of something more… well, something more, anyway. It took years, and I’m still barely making it, but I am living in a beautiful apartment in Crete with a view over the sea, and I am making a living as a writer without ever having to leave home. It’s a struggle sometimes, and it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. Really enjoyed reading your story.

    Oh, and fried burdock root! Who knew?

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    1. Hi, Andrew!
      I’m like you. I’m barely making it but I live in a beautiful place with beautiful views, and for that it’s more than worth it. Sometimes I do miss the urgency and bustle of working at a newspaper and how we all fought together to meet deadline. But I love working in my shabby running tights even more. Hope you are well. Weren’t you going to send me your book for review?
      P.S. Fried burdock root is awesome.

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