I guess this is THE philosophy behind an artist and artisan lifestyle. Writers write because they can’t help themselves, whether they are recognised or not, in any case it drives their lives and they love words, scribbling them, reading them, making them sing… It is a dream for aspiring writers that one day they will call this activity their work. By doing so they will attain this “Do what you love, love what you do” doctrine we have been sang so many times from the time we were children.
So when I read an article by Miya Tokumitsu about how Elites embrace the “do what you love” mantra. But that it devalues work and hurts workers. It gave me pause. As I read further I got some real food for thoughts.
The article is here:
And basically this is what the article says:
“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class. (…) If we believe that working as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or a museum publicist or a think-tank acolyte is essential to being true to ourselves, what do we believe about the inner lives and hopes of those who clean hotel rooms and stock shelves at big-box stores? (…) Yet arduous, low-wage work is what ever more Americans do and will be doing. (…) Elevating certain types of professions to something worthy of love necessarily denigrates the labor of those who do unglamorous work that keeps society functioning, especially the crucial work of caregivers.
I felt kind of sad reading this.
I understand the first idea. If we all dream of one of those “likeable” jobs, who will be there to make society turn? I had never thought it could be selfish to write and want to do only that. In my mind there is 5 essential jobs, the ones that provide nourishment, the ones that provide shelter, the ones that provide nurturing (healthcare and teaching) the ones that provide entertainment and the ones that make humanity as a whole grow and evolve (all the sciences). I believe that all of them answer fundamental human needs and if you do any of those jobs they will give meaning to your life. Meaning and being useful are the key to happiness, I believe.
I do not think I denigrate any kind of profession by wanting to write for a living. I appreciate everyone’s work. And perhaps writing offers a particular gift, what we do can actually change people’s perception on things. Fiction can teach anything from empathy to complicated socio-economical concepts. Smart novels are carefully constructed to have messages, and some of them are all about valuing the simple things in life, the hard work and changing mentalities.
Of course I am going on a tangent here. I guess the article was more openly criticising the narcissism of people screaming for everyone to love what they do to attain their best selves. And reminding us it is a very privileged position that usually reflects class. And that saddens me a lot, I which it was a question of talent, not privilege.
And the second point it makes is this:
Ironically, DWYL reinforces exploitation even within the so-called lovable professions, where off-the-clock, underpaid, or unpaid labor is the new norm: reporters required to do the work of their laid-off photographers, publicists expected to pin and tweet on weekends, the 46 percent of the workforce expected to check their work email on sick days. Nothing makes exploitation go down easier than convincing workers that they are doing what they love. our DWYL era has seen the rise of the adjunct professor and the unpaid intern: people persuaded to work for cheap or free, or even for a net loss of wealth.
I think every writer would agree, we have no free time if we are serious. The guilt we feel when not writing is excruciating. Isn’t it ironic to be torn between love of an activity and the impossibility to part from it even when we DO want a break, we DO want to spend time with the people we love.
The choice is rotten: do what you love or spend time with people you love.
Even in those forced holidays away from our PCs, our mind is always on alert mode, most of the time spinning new tales and we jump on our pens and keyboards as soon as we can, any time of day or night or in the middle of a celebration… but maybe that’s just my ADHD talking.
I feel like the difference between passion and obsession is just the connotation attached to the word. All I know is that living in a world where we are pressured by the DWYL philosophy hijacked by corporations is terrifying.
Do you sometimes feel like the dystopian world is here and now? It’s just our eyes that are not open enough to realise it yet?