Shop Talk

Open Discussion: Is ‘Do What You Love’ Bad Advice?

Whether you’re kicking off a creative career or starting a new project, you might’ve been told — by others or by yourself — that you should simply “do what you love” and the rest will come. This advice is generally a positive, optimistic statement, but does it actually do any good? I love coffee, but I don’t drink 12 cups a day for fear that my heart will explode. So sometimes doing what you love — in my case, guzzling gallons of java — wouldn’t help me do what’s right for me at the time.

You should absolutely love creating art. But is that the end of it? Does starting with the idea of doing what you love create a cycle of thinking that doesn’t account for all the hard, unlovable work that goes along with building a creative life like self-promotion, improving your workspace, or tagging your artwork?

As creative people, we’re often told that getting the opportunity to do what you love is the ultimate career goal. But should it be?

"Low Poly Polar Bear" by scarriebarrie

I think that blindly doing what you love can potentially feed into the overtired artistic genius myth — that sheer passion for making artwork and exuberance will suddenly generate a dynamic artistic practice. As we’ve discussed here, making art something more than a hobby is hard work that involves more than just drawing, photographing, and designing, and it needs to be treated like that. You can’t (and shouldn’t) always love it.

Has just doing what you love worked for you? Have you found a happy middle ground between doing what you love and doing what you need? Is “do what you love” just an innocuous statement that generates a dose of the warm fuzzy feelings in a world in which warm fuzzy feelings are always needed? Do you “do what you love”?

Share your advice, thoughts, and ideas in the comments.