Follow your, exactly?

A couple of interesting articles in the Wall Street Journal today about choosing to start a small business. Both are focused on the question, Should you follow your passion? And both note that there's not a simple yes/no answer.

The first article was written by a reporter who decided to start teaching tennis, a sport he loves. Unfortunately, it turns out that a lot of the people you teach tennis to don't actually love it--especially kids who are being forced to take the lessons. So....

When I was offered another newspaper job, I took it. I now understand that for me a dream job must feature creative tension and commitment. I'd rather be yelled at by an editor who cares about the quality of a story than ignored by a student who doesn't care about tennis.

The second article is more analytical (emphasis added):

People thrive when they find the work challenging, feel recognized for their abilities and have control over how they fill their time, [Professor Cal Newport] says. Adjusting the work to maximize those factors will rekindle passion better than matching your job to a pre-existing inclination.

Sometimes you can also discover new aspects of the job that you're passionate about. Mr. [Josh] Frey[, who started a baking business and was unhappy,] realized a lot of what he had enjoyed about working in a bakery had nothing to do with baking, such as connecting with people. So he saw that he could refocus the business and still be passionate about it.

He moved into an area that promised better and more reliable profits: promotional items and corporate gifts. He also began cherry-picking the parts of the job he liked and discarding the ones he didn't.What's more, he tapped into his love of mentoring with a side business that teaches entrepreneurs how to launch a career in the promotional-products industry. "I've never felt so aligned with what I'm doing," Mr. Frey says.

Of course he still bakes, and the author of the first story still plays tennis. And a career coach in the second story suggests people try "pursuing their passion part-time.... That way, they don't have to depend on it to pay the bills and don't risk losing their love to the daily grind."

I think this is all good advice, and it's important to remember that there is no one right way to go about being a writer.

I DIY with self-publishing. But I DIY with all sorts of things. I replace my own toilets. I do my own landscaping. I make my own lotion.

Why? Because I love it. My sister and I joke about it: If you're a little bit of a control freak and a little bit cheap, you will DIY everything you possibly can.

But I know other self-published writers who hire everything out. They're not stupid about it--they don't throw great gobs of money at the nearest flim-flam artist or anything. But they'd rather pay to have someone format their e-books than do it themselves. And that's totally fine. In both cases, we're cherry-picking the parts of the job we like, just like that former baker up there.

There are people like me who are going to be writing books from here on out. But there are people who like their day jobs very much, thank you, and also enjoy writing, so they'll crank out fewer books or write short stories or whatever. Once upon a time that was kind of a problem--publishers didn't want someone who just had one book in them. Now, who cares? Write what you like, switch genres, do fiction and nonfiction--it's all good. The work may be more difficult to market, but it's not like you get blackballed and your writing never sees the light of day, which was how things worked before.

It's so much more flexible nowadays. And I think in some ways that's disconcerting--after all, when that one fellow figured out that he didn't want to be a baker, that was probably pretty upsetting. It also means that there's no blueprint--you don't lock-step your way through steps 1-6 and voila! You are happy! But life doesn't work that way in the first place.