The Payoff for Doing What You Love

The Payoff for Doing What You Love

My friend Weldon recently got his perfect job: cataloging and grading comic books and comic art for a large auction house. In recent weeks, he’s held the original artwork for the first appearance of Wolverine and the original art from a page of The Killing Joke (the page where Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara Gordon…yes, he got to hold an original Brian Bolland page). He also held the first Batman comic book and Action Comics #1.

Millions of dollars worth of art and comic books have passed through his hands in recent weeks. Some say he’s lucky; others have asked how they can get a job like that.

The answer is simple: by doing what you love, without expectation of anything more than the love of the thing — and creating opportunities for yourself that might one day pay off.

That’s how Weldon got his recent job.

“Lucky” Friends

I’m fortunate to be friends with a lot of “lucky” people. By lucky, I mean the perception that some people have regarding how friends came to illustrate comic books and book covers; how they came to write novels and record the voices for well-known cartoons; how they became people who spend their days doing exactly what they love.

I’ve heard people say those who do what they want for a living are lucky. While luck (or some kind of break) often factors in after years of hard work, if it’s luck — it’s luck they made for themselves.

What many people never saw in these friends are the years of hard work behind the scenes. People staying home on Friday nights in their 20s because they were at an art desk. Using vacation time to work on their thing, instead of going to a beach and relaxing. Taking the lowest job in a creative company and working their way up. The effort of it all can be exhausting. Years of working alongside “nobodies” while others clamored for the attention of those who could help — the hope of a shortcut to fame. Eventually, those “nobodies” bubbled up and connections were made…and a hand of help was extended.

Hey, I’ve been doing art for this publisher — let me put you in touch with them…

Luck has little to do with it.

How Do You Get to Do What You Love All the Time?

I still have a day job, so take this next bit for what it’s worth. It is, however, based on what I’ve seen happen in the lives of more than a few people I know.

How do you get that dream job? By doing what you love with no expectation other than doing the thing you enjoy doing. Do it first and foremost because you love it — not because you want a huge following.

Mel Brooks once said:

I don’t really do anything for the audience ever. I do it for me, and most of the time the audience joins me.

Live by that. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want to be a brand. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want a big audience. Do what you love because you love it — not because you want fame.

If you do what you love because you love doing it, maybe one day what you love will become the bulk of what you do.

But if it doesn’t, you’ve still won.

Back to Weldon

Weldon once made six figures selling software, but Weldon has always been happiest when he’s worked around comic books. From his early days of working in comic books stores to eventually editing and marketing comic books, it’s a field that often didn’t bring in tons of money for him, but it’s always made him happier than selling something solely for a paycheck.

There are decades of struggling for what Weldon loves, in much the same way artists struggle until their love pays off.

So the answer to “How do I get that cool job?” is to do what you love.

Independent travel writers aren’t born overnight. People making a living with their YouTube channels didn’t just build it and watch the audience roll in like the tide. Most successful novelists wrote 1-5 books before ever being published (and then wrote another 1-5 novels before they saw decent money (and even more never even see that)).

What looks like an overnight success rarely is.

There Are No Shortcuts to Great Work

One doesn’t sit down to write fiction for the first time and create a masterpiece. No one has sat with a cello and done something like this from the start. Canvases and brushes don’t guide an artist’s hand; decades of hard work do.

The friends I have who make a living doing what they love didn’t go all in and hope for the best — it was never a gamble because they just did what they loved for no other reason than they loved it and always pushed themselves to get better. There have been times in Weldon’s life that it might have seemed to those who look only at numbers that he was painting himself into a corner.

Clearly, he wasn’t:

Original Alex Ross and Steve Rude art.

Oh, just some original Alex Ross and Steve Rude art on Weldon’s desk…

Original art for the first appearance of Wolverine. (And the first Frank Miller Wolverine sketch.)

Holding the original art for the first appearance of Wolverine. And to make the image cooler? Why not bring in the first Frank Miller Wolvie sketch…from Weldon’s personal collection.

Batman: Killing Joke. Original page - the shooting of Barbara Gordon.

I think it was Weldon who introduced me to Camelot 3000 back in the 80s. So I’m not TOO jealous that he got to hold an original Brian Bolland page…from a great one-shot comic book. (Batman: Killing Joke.)

 

Weldon Adams holding Batman #1 and Action Comics #1.

Just another day at the office: Weldon holding Batman #1 and Action Comics #1.

 

You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion (About Everything)

You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion (About Everything)

I once worked with someone who was asked what they thought about a particular news story at the time. Their answer was simple and direct:

“I don’t care about that.”

It was a topic deemed important by most of the people in the room — myself included. It would be fair to say we were taken aback by the reply. Some of us commented on how clueless the person was, and others said it was sad that the person had nothing to say about the topic. Yes, we judged this person for not having an opinion about this news story — and some others. Sure, make the argument that an adult should know certain things…make whatever argument you want, but the fact still stands: we were assholes.

As adults, like it or not, we get to call our own shots. Want to play video games all day? Your call. Want to juggle, take photos, watch movies, whatever — instead of tracking what’s happening in Syria…who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t?

I can now see that there’s something to be said for the honesty in saying, “I don’t care about that…”

A Matter of Priority

That moment at work was the first time I remember thinking, “What if this news story the rest of us deem important — maybe even vital — really means nothing?”

When I really think about it, I can think of only a handful of things deemed “important” that actually affected my life. Not to sound like it’s all about me…I believe it’s important to be informed of what’s going on in the world, if for no other reason than to keep a sense of compassion for others. So even though I make a conscious effort to not watch the news, I’m  informed.

Still…

Why I Refuse to Let You Steal My Time!

I don’t post anything political on my social media sites. Not because I’m not interested, but because it’s such a time suck. (That, and I respect friends with other viewpoints and don’t want to upset them, even though it’s “my right!” It’s also their right to drop me from their feed if I’m an asshole.) For me, it’s really a matter of priority: hours spent “debating” online becomes hours I could have spent writing. Hours spent watching 24-hour “news” stations is time I could have spent with my wife. Hours spent arguing in person is time I could have spent in the company of someone I really like, talking about the things that matter most to us.

When I look at it that way, I have an odd respect for the person who proclaimed, “I don’t care about that…”

This Weekend

It’s almost the weekend, and I have some ideas for things I plan to do. I will enjoy my time — even any time spent online because these days, I don’t feel the need to chime in with my opinion on things (or even drop a carpet bombing of facts when necessary to show how I came to my conclusion). I’m so much happier not feeling the need to be able to talk about everything just because it’s expected of us. Why be a jack of all chats and talk about everything when you can talk about the things that really matter to you and those around you?

I look at it like this: Sunday night, how do I want to remember my weekend…going out and doing things I enjoyed and relaxing, or spending time online arguing? Unless I truly loved throwing my opinion online for hours, choosing the latter option is a waste of time.

At the end of my weekend…at the end of my life…I want to remember the productive and happy moments — not the moments arguing with someone I respect, someone I once respected, or even worse: some asshole for whom I have no respect at all…

I don’t care about that!

Podcast

I’ve wanted to podcast my first novel for a couple years. I’ve wanted to do a bi-weekly podcast for The Juggling Writer since I started the blog almost a year ago.

My first novel, called Hell Comes with Wood Paneled Doors, is a humorous coming-of-age story about a family traveling cross country in a possessed station wagon. Check out the podcast here.

I’m still knocking around ideas for the The Juggling Writer podcast, but it’s something I’d really like to do.

I just found myself unemployed [again] after working for a month following a 7-month bout with unemployment.

Hopefully this time around with no job won’t last more than a week or two, but while I’m looking for work, I may as well put the time to good use and start figuring out how to get the best sound for podcasts.

A New Year

Chatting with friends and watching the news, it seems many people are glad to see 2009 go.

I spent the first half of the year dealing with a health issue that’s bothered me since 2004. I watched the calendar approach May 26 (when I turned 40) and spent too much time  thinking about the writing I hadn’t done. I was laid off the week before Christmas.

I could say I’m glad to see 2009 go…but I’d be lying.

I made a lot of progress with the health issue in 2009. In looking back at the writing I hadn’t done, I realized how much I have done in the 20 years I’ve been writing seriously. I turned 40 on the top of Enchanted Rock with my wife at my side on a perfect morning. While I was laid off from a job I liked, I see the opportunity before me. I spent hours and hours over miles and miles of walks and runs chatting with my wife about our dreams. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years, and got iced in at my mom’s apartment on Christmas Eve. I made great progress of my third novel — enough progress that I’ll have it done in a couple months.

2009 was definitely not without its rough spots, but it would be a shame to not look at the good things that happened, too.

As I look back on the good and bad of the past year, I look forward to 2010 even more than I usually look forward to a new year.

I can see why many people didn’t like 2009, but I’m betting if they really looked at it, they’d see a lot of good things that prepared them for the year of possibilities ahead!