‘Do what you love/ Love what you do’, sometimes affectionately abbreviated to ‘DWYL’, has become a bit of a new-age aspirational mantra – a call to live a more fulfilling life that inspired many art enthusiasts to try and turn their passion into a career.
At first, it seems brilliant in its simplicity – why fritter your life away at a dreary desk job when you can make a living from whatever excites you – be it extreme snowboarding, spiritual life coaching or ice sculpture carving. Tear down those walls between work and play and turn your life into a non-stop fun fest! You owe it to yourself to settle for nothing less.
Then we slowly started to realize that DWYL carries subtle undertones of smug privilege. Making money is hard, and earning a sustainable income from any job creative and interesting enough to qualify for the DWYL Pantheon is harder still. Building up an artistic career takes years – usually, moneyless years. Competition in any creative field is fierce, and the work is often undervalued by clients. Finally, most of the jobs we objectively need done are hardly anyone’s passion. If we all agreed tomorrow to just hand in our resignations and switch to our dream careers, we’d suddenly have a lot more rock stars and a lot fewer cashiers. And just remember how incensed you were last time you were stuck in a busy supermarket and they only had two tills working.
Even for those of us already working in a creative field, like artists, DWYL frowns in quiet judgment over every career choice. Artists are pelted with public criticism when they sign deals with large companies, because we all know that’s ‘selling out’. We get criticized for taking on commercial jobs outside of our distinctive style because we’re ‘not staying true to our vision’. Those who sell rights to their designs are criticized by those who only license, for ‘not respecting their work’ – although there are large separate markets that only buy or only license designs. Even though we’re doing a job we love, we’re not DWYL-ing right.
So I think it’s time we took DWYL back.
Do What You Love doesn’t mean everyone else gets to tell you you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t mean you have to support yourself and your family only through the purest form of your art. It doesn’t mean you must make art only for the glory of it and subsist on air and photosynthesis. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure as an artist if you still need your day job, and you paint, like Batman, under the veil of the night.
Do What You Love means that you have found something that excites you, and that you are growing it, nourishing it, and letting it bloom despite all adverse circumstances. It means you do whatever it takes to provide for yourself and those you love, you take every opportunity that helps you grow, and you consistently find time – even if it is just between the cracks of your long, tough days – to fan that little flame that drives you to make beautiful things once in a while.
DWYL shouldn’t be haughty criticism made by the privileged few and used to make the rest of us feel inadequate. It shouldn’t be used to sell you your dreams. It should be a gentle reminder that, even in the worst conditions, you can still strive to do those things that make your heart sing.
And everyone else can just shut up.
How do you feel about ‘Do What You Love’? Do you find it inspirational or unrealistic? Want to claim a piece of it back? Let me know in the comments!
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