The wisdom of the zeitgeist says, “Follow your dreams. Don’t settle for a job you don’t love. You have to be passionate about what you do.”
And so many writing blogs say, “If you want to be a writer, go for it! Follow your passion!”
However, the truth is that if you look at the people who really love what they do, you find that most of them didn’t follow this rule. In fact, they often stumbled into their career.
Maybe the truism, “Follow your dream, pursue your passion,” is bad advice. Maybe becoming a writer just because you love to write isn’t a good enough reason.
Don’t Follow Your Passion
In his 2005 commencement to Stanford, Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to find what you love… the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle.” He received a standing ovation, and the youtube video went viral.
But Steve Jobs never followed his own advice. He stumbled upon the founding of start Apple because he wanted to make a little quick cash while he was working at a commune and studying Zen. He wasn’t passionate about computers. He was passionate about Eastern mysticism and had recently returned from a pilgrimage to India. As Cal Newport says in his new book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, “If a young Steve Jobs had taken his own advice and decided to only pursue work he loved, we would probably find him today as one of the Los Altos Zen Center’s most popular teachers.”
If you want to make a living as a writer because you’re passionate about it, or because you dreamed about becoming a writer when you were a kid, you don’t have a good enough reason.
It’s not about you. It’s about whether your readers want to read what you have to write.
That being said, I’ll never discourage you from writing. Writing is fun! It’s cathartic. It’s cheaper than a therapist. Writing can bring wholeness and meaning to your life. If you want to write, do it!
Just don’t expect to be able to make a career out of it just because you enjoy it.
The Best Way to Become a Writer
If I haven’t scared you off and you still want to become a writer, Cal Newport would tell you to follow Steve Martin’s advice. In 2007, Martin was interviewed by Charlie Rose, who asked him what he tells young people who want to be just like him.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you,” says Martin.”If somebody’s thinking, ‘How can I be really good?’ people are going to come to you.”
It took Martin ten years to become good enough they couldn’t ignore him, and now he’s a legend.
If you want to be a writer, you need to write. You need to practice. You need to ask yourself constantly, “How can I be really good?” You need to do this for about ten years. Then, you might have a shot.
And if that’s what you want, you know we’ll be here to practice with you.
What do you think about the advice, follow your passion?
If you want to be a writer, you have to practice. Today, write about a struggling writer, trying to get good enough to write for a living.
Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to help a few other writers by giving them feedback on their work.