When In Doubt, Try Quitting

Guest post by Matt...

by Rasmus Rasmussen on August 26, 2010

This is a guest post by Matt Hammond from Seattle Geekly. He was first featured here with his better half Shannon in an interview about their passion for producing their weekly podcast. Matt’s post is an excellent follow-up to that interview, and something to think about for anyone who has ever doubted their own dedication. Not sure you’ve really found your passion? Try quitting! A big thank you to Matt for this first ever guest post on Another Passion.

Pursuing your passion is a lot of work. On top of that, unless you are one of the very lucky few, chances are good that when you are starting out and struggling to build your audience or your business that you will be doing that hard work for very little in the way of tangible rewards. Almost inevitably there will be times when you are absolutely drowning in work, with more to do than there are hours in the day. During those times it is only natural to wonder if it is all worth it and to entertain thoughts of just giving it all up.

I went through a period like this myself recently and I was surprised to find that taking inventory of all the things I would no longer need to do if I gave up on the projects I am working on was finally what motivated me to keep going.

I co-host and help produce a weekly podcast and maintain the associated website and thinking about giving that project up made me stop and think about all the intangible benefits that come from doing it. Generating content and getting a show out every week is close to a full time job and at this point it isn’t coming close to covering expenses, much less turning a profit. What it does do, though, is give me an excuse to talk to interesting people, research topics I like and, in some small way, contribute to a community that I enjoy being a part of.

The specifics of what you get out of whatever work you do are as varied and individual as the nature of the work itself but there is always something. Madeleine L’Engle said “if something deep within even the most tentative and minor of artists didn’t think his work was good he would stop forever”. There is a satisfaction that comes from doing work you believe in even if the impact of the work isn’t quite to the level you might hope for yet. Giving up on a project may give you a lot more rest and free time but it also means you are denying yourself the opportunity to create something that is better than anything you have done before.

But even beyond that is one more reason to keep working at your passion. Thinking of this was, ultimately, what persuaded me that I couldn’t just quit. Being a podcaster and part of the “new media” has become a big part of my identity and if I gave up doing it I would lose that part of myself. I see this as being the positive side to the cliché of the waiter who insists that they are really an actor or the office worker with the pile of unpublished manuscripts that tells everyone they are a writer. They may not be on the path to fame and fortune through their acting and writing but the one certain and undeniable reward of doing creative work is that as long as you are working you can claim that identity, even in the absence of any other compensation or recognition.

All that being said, sometimes you have no choice but to make some compromises. We live in the real world and the necessities of life need to be provided for but Time-lines can be adjusted and big, ambitious projects can be scaled back somewhat. Ray Bradbury said of writing that “you only fail if you stop” and I think that can be generalized to any work people do that they are passionate about.

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