The Job Slut: Living To Work Versus Working To Live

Writing has always been the activity that’s defined me. When I was growing up, I never dreamed that I could get paid for doing it. Well, not outside of writing bestselling novels. Even then, I knew how difficult that was.

The Internet age changed writing as we know it, for better and for worse. But that’s another (type of) story. Here’s what happens when you start doing what you love to make money: It’s not as fun anymore. You’re not driven to work on something just for pleasure. Not for free.

Here’s what happens when you’re a job slut: You’re always working. You have to be. There’s no half-hustle. Some friend emails you a link to a website, and the first thing you say is, “I saw some typos on the homepage. I’m going to pitch them some copyediting.”

For awhile, I thought it was just me. It isn’t. A number of writerly friends have confirmed that following someone else’s style guidelines, word counts, synopses, and voice has eroded their own expression. Not to mention the fact that you need money. Oh, and you’re tired! People who write all day don’t want to go home and write at night.

Or maybe they do? Maybe I’m not a real writer, because it’s hard for me to do that? The thought has occurred to me.

I recently went on a date with a retiree — a 36-year-old retiree. Can you imagine having reached the end of your career before middle age? He wakes up each day and does whatever he wants to do. At whenever-the-hell-he-wants-to o’clock.

I can’t fathom that kind of freedom. It’s like socialized medicine, government-subsidized childcare, and unicorns. Of course I’d love all three. But do I expect to experience them? Would I really take advantage of them, if I did? I’m not sure.

After thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do like my work. I’d miss it if I had any other job…or didn’t need to have a job at all. It reminds me of this sage advice from Paul Graham, the venture capitalist who co-founded Y Combinator.

“The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn’t mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month. Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After a while you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something. As a lower bound, you have to like your work more than any unproductive pleasure. You have to like what you do enough that the concept of ‘spare time’ seems mistaken. Which is not to say you have to spend all your time working. You can only work so much before you get tired and start to screw up. Then you want to do something else—even something mindless. But you don’t regard this time as the prize and the time you spend working as the pain you endure to earn it.”

I think Paul Graham is right on, and I encourage you to read his entire essay “How to Do What You Love.

So this is why I find myself hoarding words and phrases, like a squirrel preparing for winter, and starting new projects in my head all the time. I intend to use them someday…when I’m not writing about marketing or correlations or sex advice from strange groups of people.

And I hope to finish them somehow and sell them, because there’s no way I can retire anytime soon. Or, I guess, ever.

“You don’t miss working at all?” I asked my date, the retiree. “Not even a little bit?”

“I worked in finance,” he said.

It was all he needed to say.

What would you do if you could retire early? Would you miss your work? Would you pursue something else you could potentially do right now?

 

 

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    • Mike

      I would learn how to build pretty, usable things. Speaking of, want to take a furniture building workshop? There has to be one somewhere.