Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah (acclaimed writer and reigning Supreme of cultural storytelling) stormed through Another Round with a simple quote from Patti Smith, “You don’t need to write about things you don’t love.” (Side note: If you don’t follow this podcast already, take a moment to fix that. Heben and Tracy are doing the Lord’s work, weekly.)
Ghansah speaks truth to power, critiquing an editorial world that rewards writers for spreading well-intentioned falsehoods about artists they don’t love and cultures they haven’t devoted the time to understanding. That’s a whole ‘nother sermon I would love to add an amen to, but let’s marinate on that Patti Smith quote.
We live in an America of “they sleep, we grind.” Where talent not leveraged for profit is wasted and anything other than entrepreneurship is deemed slavery. Many succumb to the pressure to monetize their talent too soon, anxious to show the world they are living their dreams while the rest of us waste away in cubicles. In reality, turning your passion into your livelihood is neither glamorous nor easy.
You know what entrepreneurs conveniently forget to tell you? Professions are never as fun as passions are. When the hustle to survive takes up more time than doing the thing you love, it can feel like your refuge has been stolen. At times it’s hard to remember why you loved the thing to begin with. You will face hard choices: are you turning down that superficial project or are you keeping your lights on?
Some people are fueled by the hustle. And some need the thing they love to be just that. And some aren’t skilled enough in their craft to go pro yet. Know who you are. Be okay with it. There’s nothing inferior about a slow build. In the long run, a love-laden portfolio developed over time will reap more rewards than a profit-pandering body of work made by rapid fire production (most of the time anyway, life never claimed to be fair).
Expert entrepreneur James Altucher offers this law of the universe: “everyone who loves [what they do] will beat everyone who ‘likes’ or ‘hates’ [it].” When you love something, you protect it. Ghansah is my favorite in large part because everything she writes feels like a labor of love. I’ve never read a piece from her that felt like she phoned it in because rent was due. As Ghansah put it:
For me [writing] has nothing to do with me. It’s that we deserve better and we deserve to read pieces where someone has spent five months doing research and fought with an editor and said you’re not going to change this because this is important to my story.
Get money. Please. Push your work to the forefront with the savvy of Shawn Carter. Just make sure it’s work you believe in first and foremost. For the sake of the integrity of your work and the progression of our culture, I beg you, always do it for the love.