What You Do

True story: A few years back, I was talking with an aspiring writer who did the usual and ubiquitous Something With Computers for a living, and who was also a jazz drummer by avocation. He had, he said, been a professional drummer for a while, and had earned decent money playing the drums for groups who did the local bar and lounge circuit in his somewhat tourist-infested area.

“But I had to give it up,” he said. “I realized that if I had to do one more request for ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon,’ I was going to lose the joy of playing music altogether.”

Then he went on to ask me — because we were mostly talking about writing at the time, and people will ask writers questions like this — if I thought that he should quit his current day job and try to make it as a freelance writer.

“No,” I said. “Because if playing one too many requests for ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’ nearly drove you away from jazz, the same thing would happen with fiction — because the sorry truth is that if you want to write fiction for a living, then one way or another you’re going to wind up playing ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon’ a hell of a lot of the time.”

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