Can you make a living as an inconsistent creator?

Jul 20, 2021 | Newsletter, Writing

I’ve never known what I wanted to do for a career. After about eleven years of unsuccessfully trying to narrow things down, I realized that my list of interests would likely continue to compound over time along with my compulsion to constantly rotate through said interests, so I would probably never find anything that I would enjoy doing forty hours per week.

The best solution I’ve come up with for this problem would be to make little bits of money here and there from multiple different income streams until one day it adds up to enough money to pay the bills. For the last little while, that’s been the dream. Not necessarily because it’s what I think would work best for me or what I’d enjoy most, but because I don’t know what other option there is. This past year has given me time to have a trial run of sorts and it’s been hard to stay focused and motivated. Making enough passive income to support myself is such an ambiguous objective which makes it difficult to know what to work on or prioritize, and difficult to decide whether to work on things that I enjoy or to sell out and make things that I think will make money.

Making passive income is very doable in today’s day and age, but to actually make a living that way is a lot more complicated when I don’t have just one thing I’m working on, one business I’m running, one niche that I’m an expert in, or one main focus in general. Furthermore, to be successful in most endeavors you need to be consistent, but with how I’m wired and the ongoing post-concussion issues that I still face, it is extremely hard for me to be consistent.

I’ve made a lot of progress since the beginning of the year in learning how to be more focused and to finish certain things that I start before moving on to the next, but it will take a long time to build up that muscle and I still want to have the freedom to jump around between projects.

With the setbacks that I’ve experienced recently it has me wondering even more, can you make a living as an inconsistent content creator, especially if you don’t have one central focus?

I think you can after the fact. Once you’ve found success or established an audience, then even if your output decreases or your content pivots, there will likely be enough of a foundation to sustain you. But if you haven’t gained any traction yet, it’s unlikely that you will if you’re only publishing sporadically. There’s just so much out there to consume that even if you produce high-quality work, if it’s too infrequent it will easily be forgotten, especially if you’re relying on ever-changing third-party algorithms to get your work seen. I do think that if you stick at things long enough you’ll have a good enough body of work that will trump your inconsistency, but it’s not going to work for me if it takes 25 years of dabbling on the side while constantly questioning myself.

I wonder all the time whether it would be easier on me and improve my happiness and well-being if I stopped creating content and stopped trying to earn money with creative things. There’s always been a nagging thought in the back of my mind that I should just find a day job that I can tolerate so that my hobbies can just be my hobbies without any pressure to make money with them. I would much prefer it that way, but again, I’m not sure a day job exists that I would be content to do full-time. The best option would seem to be a part-time job coupled with some part-time income of my own, but even then the pressure to make money with my passions would probably still get to me. Over the years it’s been a tormenting battle going back and forth with how I feel because it doesn’t seem like there’s a winning option. The older I get, the more I feel like I should give up altogether and relegate myself to working for the sole purpose of paying the bills, even if it takes the enjoyment out of the other areas of my life.

Is it possible to make a living online creatively without being consistent? I don’t know. And I have no idea how long I’ll keep trying anyway. But despite wrestling with all of this for so many years, the more I create and try to figure things out, the more I understand myself and why I do things, which does help to steer me in roughly the right direction even if it’s at a much slower pace than my impatient self would like.

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