Lessons From an Accounting Major

My first college roommate used to complain to me about his accounting homework. “Oh, there’s so much of it.” “Oh, it’s so boring.” I could sympathize. As a died-in-the-wool liberal artser, I wouldn’t have touched an accounting class with my roommate’s pen. But he did complain a lot about it.  So finally I asked, “What’s your major?” “Accounting,” he replied.

Now here is a problem. I understood why he thought accountant would make a good profession. The world always seems to need another accountant, the pay is good, and the skill is portable. It’s a very sensible career choice. But there is the accounting part. That is, you actually have to be an accountant. All the money and stability and portability and employability are wonderful, but the overwhelming and undeniable fact remains that to be an accountant you also must practice accounting on a daily basis.

The same holds true for writers. Every writer I have interviewed agrees: being published is nice; setting your schedule is nice; getting big advances (if you get them) is nice. But the biggest reward for a writer remains writing, the very thing all writers, published or unpublished, do every day. In fact, all the external pleasures of being a professional writer stem from that first pleasure, the love of writing.

No matter what you do, whether writing or accounting, you must enjoy, preferably love, the process, the actual act of doing what you do, for that will be a sizable chunk of your life. The love will lead eventually to some sort of success, but you must start with love.  A good way to answer this question, “Do I love what I’m doing?” is to ask yourself, “Would I do it for free?” If the answer is, “Yes!” you’ve probably got yourself a winner.  But if the answer is “ . . . No,” perhaps you should look elsewhere.  Everyone could have some work they love to do, just as everyone could find someone to love.

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