Separating Work from Passion

Working through the weekend, crunching through some Flash work for delivery on Monday. I’m sorta enjoying it, but at the same time it just feels like work. I’ve also been thinking a lot about Item #13 from Hugh McLeod’s How To Be Creative list:

13. Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside. The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice versa.

McLeod illustrates this point with a neat story about a guy he met who made a good living selling original chimneypieces (fireplaces) from Georgian and Victorian houses to upscale yuppie types. It was a great job that the fireplace guy had come upon in a former life as an antiques dealer. McLeod, noting that some of these fireplaces were really beautiful, asked if it was tough to part with them. The fireplace guy, surprisingly, answered as follows:

“No it isn’t,” he said (and this is the part I remember most). “I mean, I like them, but because they take up so much room- they’re so big and bulky- I’m relieved to be rid of them once they’re sold. I just want them out of the shop ASAP and the cash in my pocket. Selling them is easy for me. Unlike antiques. I always loved antiques, so I was always falling in love with the inventory, I always wanted to hang on to my best stuff. I’d always subconsciously price them too high in order to keep them from leaving the shop.” Being young and idealistic, I told him I thought that was quite sad. Why choose to sell a “mere product” (i.e. chimneypieces) when instead you could make your living selling something you really care about (i.e. antiques)? Surely the latter would be a preferable way to work? “The first rule of business,” he said, chuckling at my naïveté, “is never sell something you love. Otherwise, you may as well be selling your children.”

Interesting.

For my entire life, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to find a passion that I could turn into a life’s work and make a good living. I’ve found that I enjoy being independent and making my own decisions, representing myself as myself…all positive things that I’m glad I have grown into. But I’ve not yet found the one thing that seems to tie everything together. McLeod’s Item 13 is the first explanation that I’ve heard that, just maybe, it’s OK that what I’m doing to make a living is not the passion in my life. It’s enough to like doing it.

Interactive design and development, because all the time and energy I’ve put into it, seemed to be my passion. However, I knew something was missing. I have never spent hours developing cool new transition effects or writing asynchronous loaders on my own time, though I enjoy looking at them and deconstructing how they work in my head. I’ve thought perhaps that I needed to have more of a kickass peer design/development team as a creative support group, and have been working on that…but you know, interactive feels like something I do just for work. If I’m honest with myself, interactive design is something I merely like.

There’s no shame in admitting that, I now realize. I should be thankful that I like interactive design, and have no problems doing the work at a competitive level. It still bugs me a little that I’m not super passionate about it, because that is a strong indicator that I will never achieve Flash uber-coolness. Oh well…I’ll live. The pursuit of bullet-proof engineering I don’t see quite as passion; it’s a more of a professional standard that I adhere to.

Accepting this reality is surprisingly comforting. That means I can separate my passions (whatever the heck they are) from work-a-day activities like game development and interactive design. It pains me to realize that I’m not passionate about game development, but the reward is a new sense of clarity: I like interactive/game dev, but what I’m truly passionate about must lie somewhere else…

Thanks for the story, Hugh!