Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Oakley
Writers struggle to correspond passion with making a living and sometimes it’s difficult to overcome. There is a conundrum at the heart of every creator’s life, whether they are a writer, artist, musician, painter, or dancer.
I know it, I feel it, and I know many writers who have given up on their dreams simply because they couldn’t afford to write.
How devastating is that? That an author – who might perhaps be the greatest voice of our times – must give up what they love doing to go out and get a ‘real job’.
If you are passionate about your writing, then you should never give up – ever. And here’s why.
I live in Camden and venture out on many occasions to explore the once great city of London. I was meeting a friend of mine from Victoria Station and decided to walk from Camden via Buckingham Palace.
We went for a drink at Sir Simon Milton Square, which is just a block away from Victoria Station itself. In 2017, GQ magazine described the Square as the new place to be in the capital… especially if you are hungry.
What they failed to mention is that you also need to be well-off, suited & booted, and willing to fork out an average of £10 for one drink. Find the right deal online, and you could get a meal and a drink at Pizza Express for the same price – in a quieter environment, because holy shit was the square loud.
As we sat there, me sipping a lemonade, my friend on a mocktail, we noticed conversations around us, like a waterfall of thought and chatter crashing into our heads.
The focus of all the conversations belonged to three categories: money, work, expectation. All three, through my own psychological experiences, can have a negative effect on mental health, mostly through a little something called pressure.
When life revolves around money, work, and expectation, then it’s not really life at all. For too long, we’ve lost sight of what life is meant to be about – living.
Expectation can be a dangerous thing, as dangerous as – and a contributor to – pressure. I’ve seen lives collapse under the pressure to make money, work, and live up to other’s expectations. I know, because in 2018, I was one of them.
It took a breakdown of massive proportions, caused by succumbing to pressure among other factors, to make me realise what needed to be done.
When any writer pens a book, they expect it to do well. A writer would be telling porkies if they told you they didn’t expect to sell one copy. Sure, there might be some that write for family but that’s very different from self-publishing to make a living.
Happiness is paramount
Writers expect their work to be sold, read, spread around, and fed to the masses. We want our voices to be heard, we write because we have something to say, a story to tell, research to be made public, and months of planning to come to fruition.
We don’t want to write a book, sell nothing, and feel disappointed with what we’ve done. Writers with a big enough passion want their passion to become their work – to support their life.
That’s the difference between working to survive in life or living with your passion to support you. And it all comes down to what you want and what makes you happy.
I know many writers who put aside two hours a day for writing, in the evening or morning, and hold down a full-time job – which they enjoy. If someone finds happiness in a hobby and can live a happy life whilst working at the same time, then fair play to them.
But maybe there’s another way to make life and work mutually beneficial to a positive mindset.
From school-age, it’s drummed to us that we MUST go out and find a job, we MUST become part of a work-based society. We MUST spend a decade in higher education if we are to succeed in life. Well, that’s not entirely true.
In 1974, in Dauphin, Manitoba, a ground-breaking social experiment took place in the small rural Canadian community. The experiment was called Mincome, and it was designed by a group of economists who wanted to do something to address rural poverty.
Over the four years the program ended up running in the 1970s, an average family in Dauphin was guaranteed an annual income of $16,000 CAD ($11,700 USD/ £9,400 GBP).
This was regardless of if they worked, what job they currently had, or how much money they had in savings. This was a pre-run test of Universal Basic Income. The aim was to see if a guaranteed income improved the quality of life for an individual or a family in poverty.
Unsurprisingly, the results were overwhelmingly positive. Because residents were guaranteed a minimum yearly financial sum, their wellbeing – and mental health – improved. What Mincome did was to prove that you could bring about positive change by investing in human capital.
The happier the people, the more productive they become.
The experiment led to some residents finally getting to live out their passions. One guy opened a record shop, another stayed at school to study dentistry – and became a dentist. Another decided to open an arts and crafts business.
Work for your passion
The Mincome experiment proved that when people were doing what they enjoyed in terms of their work and lifestyle, the overall impact to their wellbeing and health was positive.
I hear a cacophony of voices shouting at the screen; “I have to work to bring in money, to support my family.” And I hear you, loud and clear.
What I’m saying is, there is another way. That way involves jumping headlong into your passion, taking the risk to put everything into it. It’s a good idea to step out on your own, show the world what you do, and why you’re proud of it.
Writing is a real job – painting, dancing, singing, anything creative – all real jobs, or at least they have the potential to be real jobs.
To live off your passion, you must work hard at it!
Is that contrary to everything above? No, because you’re working hard for you, for something you enjoy. Is it a risk? Certainly, but ask yourself this; would your life be better served living off your passion, or conforming to the societal set of ideals that were drummed into us from school-age?
Patience for passion
It took me 39 years to work out what I wanted to do with my life. Another two to realise that I would never return to that societal set of ideals. Making a living off your passion doesn’t happen overnight and it may take many years to realise that dream.
It’s all too easy to give up creative endeavours because of external factors. I’ve seen writers throw in the towel over low sales, bad reviews, time restraints, or lack of support.
Zero to low sales are to be expected for a first book. But it’s something that can be changed with marketing, work ethic, and a little bit of luck – along with many more books under your name. Never stop at the first book, your passion shouldn’t let you.
If you’re giving up because of a bad review, then remember that your book is a product you have released into the wild. Reviews are not for writers; they are for the reader. With regards to time restraints, you can always find time to write. You just need a solid routine and belief in yourself.
It’s difficult if you are with a partner or in a family that doesn’t support your passion. In that case, find people who will support you. Join groups, online or off, find other writers, go to retreats, get out and talk about what you do.
There will always be support for creative endeavours, sometimes in the place you least expect it.
Getting off the beaten track and taking your writing career by the horns might seem like a risk and a needless adventure at that.
But what would be worse, that you went on an adventure and didn’t quite get what you wanted, or didn’t go on an adventure at all?