The Queen of Wands is passionate and determined.
It used to be that I’d wake up on Saturday mornings, well on my way to a finished blog post. In fact, it used to be that on a given Saturday morning I was already a week or two ahead. It used to be that writing this blog was really never something I had to fit in. There was always time.
That is no longer the case. Rather than finish a blog post during my Saturday morning writing session, I’m usually just getting started. That’s primarily a function of my new academic schedule—which, as I was warned, is no joke.
And so now, there comes a point on Friday night—normally when my wife and I are in the car driving to dinner or wherever—when I start thinking about Saturday morning, and I inevitably say, “what will I write about tomorrow?”
“Oh, you’re still doing all that?”
That’s what she said the other night. It was just a joke, but like all good jokes, it made me think.
Why am I still doing this? Why blog at all? Especially when it’s getting harder and harder to make time for.
As I thought about it, I realized that this shouldn’t have been the first time I asked myself that question. Knowing why you’re doing something is often a potent form of motivation. Or a sign that you should stop.
When I started this blog, it was just a hobby. Something to do during downtime at work. Certainly some of the utility came from “proving myself” to a few folks in the improv community, but it was an experiment and a way to look busy if someone walked by my desk. I never really considered that it’d live on after I left that company.
Then, people started telling me how much they liked the blog. How it was helping them get better at improv. And that’s when I realized that maybe it could be more than a hobby. Maybe it could be a side hustle. And, just maybe, I could leverage it to leave my crappy job.
I’ve written before about trying to sell out, which is miserable and very hard. I would not recommend it. In fact, my most popular posts from that era were the ones in which I pulled back the curtain to tell people that selling out wasn’t working. Had I stopped then to ask myself “why,” I would not be writing this blog today. Because when you’re doing things simply for the approval of others, it’s easy to stop doing those things when you get busy.
In a talk he gave earlier this year, Austin Kleon tells the story of a friend who makes amazing deviled eggs. She brings them to parties. When people try them, their first reaction is, “oh you should start a food truck.” Compliments, he says, now come in the form of marketing advice. He concludes:
“We used to have hobbies. Now we have side hustles.”
But side hustles (and note, I do have a few) are subtractive. Hobbies are additive.
Side hustles are work. Yes, they can sometimes lead to money, connections, and experience, but they require hustle. To get the payoff, you have to invest time and energy. They’re work. Self-imposed work, but work nonetheless.
Hobbies, on the other hand, give energy. They don’t leave you feeling drained. And sometimes, they also lead to money, connections, and experience, at half the cost! But that’s never the point.
So why do I keep doing this?
It’s not to write what I think you’ll like or what I think will make me popular—at least not anymore.
Austin Kleon again:
“Every week, I get emails that start, “I think your newsletter readers would be interested in…”
Let me stop you right there. That’s not how this works.
I don’t send out a list of 10 things I think my readers would find interesting. I send out a list of 10 things I find interesting that I think my readers would find interesting, too.
It might not sound like a big difference, but it is.”
I don’t do it to make money, or get likes, or even grow my audience. It is not a side hustle. It’s a hobby. I do it to restore my energy. I do it for the reasons Seth Godin spells out in his blog post, “Profitable, Difficult, or Important:”
“…but Wall Street might not be the point of your work. It might simply be to do work you’re proud of, to contribute, and to leave things a little better than you found them.”
It’s a form of self-care. It’s for my own health. And just like I’d make time for exercise or sleep, I make time for blogging too.
The fact that you follow me on this journey, that you occasionally take something away, that you share your challenges with me and that I can help in some small way, that we have become friends in the process—these are not things that I expect. They are not things I ask as tribute. They are never things I feel entitled to.
They are gifts.
The greatest gifts anyone could ask for in return for something so selfish as sitting down each week and writing the work I most need to read.
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