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Thoughts on “Putting Work in Its Place”



I follow Austin Kleon‘s email newsletter, through which he shares various internet pieces related to creativity.

In the latest edition of the newsletter, there was a link to an article I found to be especially thoughtful. It contains excellent advice I wish I’d had when I was in high school or college.

The article is called “Putting Work in Its Place” by Kate Kiefer Lee. In it she discusses how we don’t necessarily have to do what we love to make a living. While the entire article is worth reading (please, do go read it!), here is the paragraph that struck a nerve with me:

“Even if you are blessed with a singular passion, it doesn’t have to be your full-time job. Some people aren’t comfortable turning their passions into a career. Maybe they want to keep their passions for themselves. A writer or artist who does intensely personal work may choose not to turn it into a business. Maybe they practice their passion as a way to relieve stress, and the experience would change if they made it their job. Maybe their full-time job funds their dreams, and they want to pursue their passion while relying on a steady paycheck. Or maybe they love their job very much, even though they have deep interests outside of work.”

I love making art, particularly fiber art, but I don’t want to do it for a living. The pressure to produce for money would take the joy out of it. Besides, I’m not that fast at creating pieces, so I probably couldn’t produce enough to make the money I would need as an income. Instead, I use my artistic skills in other ways at my museum job … exhibit design, publication design, photography, web design. That works for me.

Writing, on the other hand, is something I can do all the time and in service to making a living. I adore research, which is a good thing for a museum job. Turning that research into a newsletter article or monograph that I design and layout brings me endless pleasure. Plus, I get to help people by answering their research questions. Of course, doing research actually means reading, reading, reading … one of my early and ongoing passions.

I don’t have a singular passion and that’s a good thing. I enjoy the variety. Hopefully, you have a variety of passions that bring you joy as well. This article points out that it’s okay if you don’t make a singular passion the front-and-center of your working life. Create the balance that works for you.

I’ll end this post with a Facebook photo of a quote by Jaime Casap that directly speaks to the article. Serendipitously, I ran across both today. (Forgive the lack of a photo credit. It was sourced from the WeAreTeachers Facebook page. Not sure if that’s where it originated.)

What do I need to learn quote by Jaime Casap.
What do I need to learn quote by Jaime Casap.

This is a good response to those who insist that we go out there and “do what we love” to the detriment of every other part of our lives and personalities.