Monday, August 18, 2014

The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment (#4: Work vs. Play)

by Pam Victor

[The "Can I Make a Living Doing What I Love?" Experiment is my one-year challenge to make a living through creative pursuits. Read all the updates here.]

My dear friend Andrea tenderly posted this response to my last installment on my Facebook wall: "I don't really believe that crap about making a living doing what you love. Maybe in your idealistic 20s when you're sleeping on a futon in your van, but here's the reality: work is work, and fun is fun, and work is occasionally fun, and fun is occasionally work and setting any other expectations has led to a generation of workers who feel entitled to an endless supply of free Cheetos at work
These are Cheetos.
For the record, I never eat them because I'm lactose
intolerant and I don't like junk food.
and pool tables in the middle of the office." And then, after professing her love and support for me - which I return in kind by the buttload! - she said
 she didn't at all intend to criticize my intention, merely the concept that we should be able to make a living doing what we love. Andrea then talked about how she always was drawn to those behavioral studies where psychologists would pay kids to play ... until eventually those kids only played if they were paid. 

Andrea and I were psychology majors together at Smith College, and if weren't for her I wouldn't have survived Statistics, so I'm forever indebted to my friend. (Plus, I like her.) Cheetos aside, I'm curious to see if she's correct. The handful of people I know who work for a living in the comedy industry seem to still have mad hot horny love for improvisation. But maybe they're the outliers in bell curve? (Bell curve! See? I still remember something from Stats! Andrea, remember when we trained the rats in the Skinner Box? Those little, naked rat tails and their constant quest for hitting three cherries on the slot machines in their tanks until we let their pellet prizes fall. So much fun for us AND for the rats! Could I be the rat and money is my pellet??? Dance, monkey! Dance!)

As for the "work is work and fun is fun" hypothesis I can say that I've been working pretty hard and steadily (mostly unpaid and mostly unfun) during the past week in order to make a living at doing what I love. Here is a rundown of some of my tasks:

  • Interviewed a couple improv goddesses and wrote a short "Geeking Out with..." piece about their new web series.
  • Put together a new improv troupe and booked two paid shows a local theater that has never put up improv comedy before.
  • Taught an improv workshop. (And got paid.)
  • Performed in two paid improv gigs.
  • Worked on logistics and opened registration for a six-week improv class. As of today, it's full.
  • Worked on logistics for two workshops that I'm getting paid to facilitate (not teaching) next month.
  • Did a lot of publicity work for various shows.
  • Scheduled an audition to do voice-over work.
(Sorry. The phone just rang. That was someone wanting to book The Ha-Ha's for a gig. Weird. I haven't gotten one of those calls in a while. So add another paid gig to the line up for November.)
  • Worked on an upcoming "Geeking Out with..." interview with yet another improv goddess.
  • Argued with the Town Clerk about whether I paid my dog license fee back in February. (I did!) (Oops. My bad. Turns out I didn't. That boo-boo cost me $50 in late fees.)
And a lot of less interesting mom stuff around the house. Every night at dinner, I sit there quite exhausted and somewhat frustrated that I worked so hard at tasks that didn't yet earn anything substantial. My husband, an entrepreneur, reminded me that laying the groundwork is part of the process. My personal time investment.

So what do you think? Is there a necessary work/fun separation? Is it even possible to make a living doing what you love? Will this experiment yield a bitter, haggard woman who used to be a comedian?
* * *

Pam Victor is the founding member of The Ha-Ha’s, and she produces The Happier Valley Comedy Show in western Massachusetts. Pam performs a "Geeking Out with: The TALK SHOW," a live version of the written Geeking Out with... interview series, at comedy festivals throughout the land. Pam writes mostly humorous, mostly true essays and reviews of books, movies, and tea on her blog, "My Nephew is a Poodle." Currently, Pam is co-writing "Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book" with TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi. If you want to stay abreast of all the geek out action, like the “Geeking Out with…” Facebook page!  (Yes, I said "breast.") And get all her nonsense at 

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