Have you given any thought to the possibility of turning your love of writing (or some other creative pursuit) into a source of income? Of course you have. It’s the spirit of the age. The Internet makes it easy (supposedly) to monetize your talents and interests and creative output. But more than that, somehow it has become an expectation that you will turn your avocations into money-making schemes. 

I recently ran across an article by Molly Conway titled “The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies into Hustles.” She tells about a time she discovered that an acquaintance had actually made the beautiful dress she was wearing:

“Wow!” I said. “It’s gorgeous. Do you have an Etsy shop or…?” And suddenly, it was like all the light went out of the room. She looked down despairingly. “No,” she sighed. “Everyone keeps telling me I should, but I just wouldn’t know where to start.” I recognized the look of a woman suddenly overwhelmed by people’s expectations of her.

Isn’t that the way? “I like what you’ve done” becomes “So you should sell it.” “I loved your Christmas letter” becomes “You should write a book.” For that matter, “You’ve had some interesting experiences” becomes “You should write a book.”

If you want to write a book, go ahead on. If you want to open an Etsy shop, good on you. But be free from the idea that you should turn every interest into a side-hustle. Nothing can steal the joy of creating like a failed business endeavor…except possibly a successful business endeavor.

You’ve heard the old adage, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Speaking as a person who has done what I love for a living for most of my adult life, I can tell you that this old adage is kooky talk. I have settled into a healthier rhythm in recent years, but for much of my writing career, my life more closely resembled Adam J. Kutz’s rewrite of the aforementioned adage: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life work super [expletive deleted] hard all the time with no separation or any boundaries and also take everything extremely personally.” (Harrison Scott Key, my guest this week on The Habit Podcast, makes a similar point in this very funny and insightful TED talk.)

I don’t wish to discourage anyone whose calling is to make a living in a creative field. But I do wish to suggest that monetization isn’t necessarily the next logical step just because you’re good at something and you love it. I like the way Molly Conway put it:

It’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetizing a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? 

There are a lot of reasons to write and to do other creative work. Money is one of them, but it’s not even close to the most important one. “You don’t have to monetize your joy,” says Molly Conway. Yes and amen.