Do What You Love. Then Stop.

In the mid 2000’s I had the great honor to spend three years studying in the Kennedy Center’s playwright training program. One of the instructors, a Pulitzer winner, dropped a great factoid: in the United States there are zero playwrights who make their full-time living as playwrights. This includes the a fore mentioned Pulitzer winner and the Tony winners that came in to run workshops.

Well wait, you say. What about David Mamet?  Tony Kushner? Neil Simon?

In order, movies/TV, movies/TV, and movies/TV.

In the world of theatre, once you build a resume and gain some notoriety, you jump ship. You go to Hollywood and make some money. Or, if you are the ain’t-gonna-sell-out type, you can also act, direct, build sets, or work the box office. If you can do that, you are living the dream.

Here’s my point: what ever you love doing- writing, singing, painting, programming- is not the end goal. The end goal is not to die in a Baltimore gutter with ravens pecking on your ear. The goal is to get amazingly good at your art, your passion, your craft. And then someone else will pay you to do something for them. That probably means either a full on career change or creating a diverse portfolio.

This is awesome news! This means, if you are a creative type, things won’t be boring. You will get unpredictable opportunities. You will live a life your children will be proud of. Chances are, you’ll even make a little money.

But first, you have to get amazingly good.


About jonahknight

Jonah writes, records, and performs songs about ghosts, monsters, steampunk, and creepy Christmas tunes. Is that geek music? Nerd music? Filk? Who knows. Find more at He also co-hosts (with Mikey Mason) the Pros and Cons podcast. A Parsec Finalist, the show is about geek music and convention culture.

2 thoughts on “Do What You Love. Then Stop.

  1. YAH! *\o/*
    Barbara: this post is exactly what you and I were talking about today.

    I’ve been asked many times to consider selling quilts or selling my embroidery, etc. I can’t do that though, because then it stops being what I love to do. The quilts become a chore, the fabric an enemy.

    I’ve reached this point with the ebook work. I’m very reluctant to take on any new clients. The clients I have now bring me joy and appreciate the beautiful thing I make. I’m not really interested in taking on work that, even if it does pay more, doesn’t pay my soul.

    • Synchronicity at work–as usual! You know what an utter fool I am in this regard. Base an entire publishing house on principles of art? Crazy talk!

      I am grateful each day for the freedom to do this work full time. But I’m with you: I’ve made, and keep reminding myself of the necessity of, a commitment to continually reinventing what I do.

      That’s art, if you think about it. The minute it becomes predictable, it’s dead.

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