By Ruth Barringham
Recently I started reading Cal Newport’s book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love.”
So far I’m finding it absolutely fascinating to read.
And I find it particularly relevant when I equate it to being a writer because so many people I meet try and write for a living and fail, or say they love writing but never do it, and now I’m finding out why
Most writers and gurus always say that you should find what you’re passionate about and do it for a living.
But Cal Newport disagrees.
In his book he says that passion has absolutely nothing to do with enjoying your job.
Instead he says that you will love what you do once you get good at doing it and the only way to do that is to do it a lot.
This is also similar to the advice that I’ve heard so many times before, that to get good at something you need to do it for 10,000 hours.
And if you don’t get good at what you do, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it because you can only get good at what you enjoy doing, and after 10,000 hours you’ll definitely know whether you enjoy it or not.
In the book, the author interviewed many people to find out what it is that makes them love what they do and the results were surprising.
For instance, he interviewed a large group of college admin staff and asked them if they considered their work to be their job, their career or their calling.
Surprisingly, a few of them said they considered it their calling, and what he found that they all had in common was that they had worked at their job for many years.
This is in line with what Cal believed was one of the 3 things needed for work to be your calling rather than just the job you do:
Liking those you work with
Being a writer, I don’t have to work with anyone so the last in the list doesn’t really apply to what I do.
But I do like the fact that being a writer puts me completely in control of what I do and how I do it.
Sadly for me, I’m also usually too controlling and find it hard to hand over tasks for others to do. Sometimes I employ freelancers to do things I can’t do or find too hard or boring to do, but I usually try to do it all myself first before I hand it over. But I think that’s just my own stubbornness.
And competence came with practice. I do believe that the more I write, the easier it gets.
Plus along the way I’ve had to learn a lot of other things like book cover creating, self publishing, marketing, accounting(ish) and website creation.
It’s been a long road to get where I am, and I’ve had to do a lot of tasks that I didn’t like, but ultimately I love being a writer.
So not only would I recommend this book to you, but I’d also say that the more you write, the easier it will become and so you’ll enjoy it more.
One thing I’ve also noticed along the way is that without even realising it, I’ve devised systems for how I do things and how I file things. So the more I do something the simpler it is because I know what to do without even thinking about it.
For instance, email used to overwhelm me. I was never sure how soon I should respond, or even if I needed to. And I was completely bamboozled with Spam and what to do with it. I didn’t even have an email filing system. But over the years I’ve got my own unwritten email system so I know exactly what to do with each email, whether to delete it, respond to it, file it, or send it on to my book keeper. I also respond to emails a lot more briefly than I used to. I also found a way to block spam automatically before it even reaches my inbox so now I hardly ever get a spam email.
I also have my own system for writing books and articles and emails.
Whatever it is, I seem to have a certain way that I do things which is good because it means less time thinking and more time writing.
So if you want to earn a living as a writer, write more.
Write for 10,000 hours.
And also read Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.