Keep Free Time Free
My friend makes amazing costumes for a small theater troupe in Chicago. It's a non-profit, church-based group, and she donates her time and skills. She's incredibly talented, and finds the most exquisite fabrics and trims at clearance prices. I've seen photos of the finished creations, and having worn many costumes for plays and operas, I can see that the ones she makes are of better-than-average quality.
I once suggested that she should have an Etsy shop geared toward cosplayers. My son and daughter both enjoy cosplay, and usually make their own costumes, which are good but not as detailed and professional as what my friend produces. My friend could definitely make some money with her work.
She's justifiably proud of her creations, and loves doing the work, but when I suggested an Etsy shop, all the light went out of her expression. She apologized and said, "Yeah, everyone keeps telling me I should do that, but it would mean a lot more time, and I don't think I could make it work." I recognized the look of a woman burdened by people's expectations of her.
"You don't have to," I assured her. "It's wonderful to do something you love, just because you love it."
You don't have to monetize your joy.
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." I remember encouraging my kids to view any of their interests or talents as a possible career. That's not bad advice, but now I wonder if I inadvertently sent the message that we should evaluate everything in terms of its money-making possibilities.
We live in an era where everyone's encouraged to have a side hustle. I've even told my son-in-law that he could make good money with his increasing skills as a baker (even though his profession as a clinical laboratory scientist engrosses him, is valuable work, and pays extremely well).
But I've had to reconsider my comments, because I realized that every time we feel required to capitalize on something we love, we validate the idea that financial gain is the ultimate pursuit. If we're good at it, we should sell it. If we're good at it and we love it, we should definitely sell it.
The reality is that for most people who turn their hobbies into a hustle and manage to live on the proceeds, several things happen:
1. They become their own boss and may even create jobs for other people (pretty cool).
2. They work constantly at their craft because now their livelihood (and perhaps the livelihood of others) depends on it (might still be a good thing).
3. They rarely if ever have true leisure time any more (not so great).
4. They have no boundaries between work life and private time, because that's what it takes to create and run a business (uh oh).
5. The joy of creation is eclipsed by the need to meet the demands of their customers and to tailor their creations to the tastes and requirements of others (so maybe the joy dies).
6. They ultimately spend more time managing and expanding the business than crafting their product (so now it's just another job).
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