Why you shouldn’t monetize your blog (or other passion projects)

yell at your creativityI had a fabulous sense of relief wash over me while reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic last week.

Remember how I’ve often pontificated about how us overachieving millennials (or any generation of the population who wants to do it all, for that matter) can balance work, life, health and our passions? Back in 2014, I wrote:

“Even though you have a secure, well-paying 9-to-5, you decided at some point that you wanted to own your own business — something more in line with your true passion, whatever that may be. So you start one in amongst all the social media-ing and blogging you’re already doing, because hey, you’re a millennial — you do it all. Who wants to work for “the man”, anyway? You’ve delayed getting married and having kids thus far, so you clearly have all the time in the world — might as well do it now!

There’s just one problem.

That $30,000 student loan isn’t going to pay itself off, and you need some cash upfront to get your new business up and running. Times are already pretty tight, and you’re only making the equivalent of the price of a pumpkin spiced latte per month from the Google Ads you put on your blog, so you decide to take on a second job to help pay for your new business expenses.

And here’s when you find yourself at a crossroads — getting up at 3:30 a.m. to somehow write an acceptable blog post most days of the week (because you need to be consistent, they say), post to all your social media channels, read other blogs and write thoughtful comments, get your workout in (don’t forget to post a #workoutselfie!), make your healthy lunch and Instagram it (#vegan #paleo #gmofree #glutenfree #sugarfree #whybother), get ready for your day job, work, get home, make a healthy dinner (don’t forget to pin it on you Healthy Recipe board on Pinterest!), catch up on all the emails and social media posts you missed during the day, work at your second job for a few hours because you have a deadline, spend some time promoting/working on the new business you’re trying to get off the ground, and go to bed at 9:30 p.m. because you’ve been up since 3:30 a.m. and you’re exhausted.”

Well, it turns out I don’t need to do all of that. In fact, I shouldn’t be, for the sake of my passion projects.

In Big Magic, Gilbert has a chapter (page 152) on why you shouldn’t quit your day job or force your creativity to earn money for you. She writes, “I’ve seen artist’s drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity… I’ve always felt this is so cruel to your work—to demand a regular paycheck from it, as if creativity were a government job, or a trust fund. Look, if you can manage to live comfortably off your inspiration forever, that’s fantastic. That’s everyone’s dream, right? But don’t let that dream turn into a nightmare. Financial demands can put so much pressure on the delicacies and vagaries of inspiration.”

It’s so true. The message we often hear — be it from self-help books or scrawled across a pinnable graphic in fancy font — is that we should live in our truth and follow our dreams, not make someone else’s dreams come true. This message has tormented me as I’ve been reluctant to let go of my day job (and have, in fact, advanced in my position instead) and pursue my passion of fitness writing and coaching.

But as Gilbert says, “This is a world, not a womb. You can look after yourself in this world while looking after your creativity at the same time—just as people have done for ages. What’s more, there is a profound sense of honor to be found in looking after yourself, and that honor will resonate powerfully in your work; it will make you work stronger.” Gilbert then goes on to explain she held on to her day jobs because she wanted her creativity to feel free and safe. “I was willing to work hard so that my creativity could play lightly.”

When I read that, it felt like I had permission to continue to work hard, continue to pay down debt and make the life I live a comfortable one, where I don’t have to stress about paying bills and can go on vacation once and awhile. I also felt like I could stop trying so hard to monetize the things I love doing, like discovering how to help others live a healthier, happier life; writing books and articles for print; and blogging. As Gilbert explains, yelling at your creativity to earn money for you “is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”

This is why I think you shouldn’t monetize your blog, if writing and blogging is a passion project for you. And this is why I will be removing Google ads from my site (once I reach the $100 payout threshold so I can at least get what I’ve earned), eventually removing myself from other ad networks, not going after blog campaigns and only promoting the products I actually use daily and love (like Vega, Nuun and Oiselle), only reading, commenting and pinning things on the blogs I enjoy and set aside time to read (because I LOVE the blogging fitness community and continuing to grow relationships with like-minded bloggers is very important to me), writing on my blog only when I feel like it and why I’ve decided to stop actively promoting Koru Personal Training and have shut down the in-person training side of that business. I will continue to do some online coaching and training plans (because I enjoy doing it), but I’m not going to yell at it anymore to make money for me. It was worth it to try as a business model, but at the end of the day, personal training was more like the field research part of a bigger (and more creative) project I’m working on. Plus, I also only have so much time in a day to spend on things I enjoy doing, and writing, reading and research are higher up on the list.

Will I still be getting up early to work on my blog or fitness articles? Totally. According to Gilbert, plenty of famous writers, including J. K. Rowling, used to get up at 5 a.m. to work on their art before going off to their real jobs.

“People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it,” she writes.

If by some miracle I write a New York Times best-selling book like Gilbert, then sure, I’ll quit my day job. But as she explains, she wrote five books before Eay, Pray, Love, and would have kept her day job if it that book wasn’t so wildly successful.

So you may be seeing fewer (but more thoughtful) posts from me on this blog, less about Koru Personal Training (though I’ll still be creating plans from time to time to post), and eventually no more annoying ads. Everything I do going forward will be me letting my creativity play lightly instead of forcing it to work for me.

Is your blog your passion project? Do you monetize your blog? Why or why not? Do you hope to make blogging, personal training or writing your day job one day?