The secret is out. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working on a novel.

I’ve been writing fiction for over a decade and have published a few short stories but have never before finished a novel. This year, that changes. I am well on my way to finishing the first draft and you can even follow along as I write it at the novel’s website:

Every two weeks I publish a chapter to that site, so you can actually read the novel as it’s being written. If you want the chapters emailed directly to you then you can sign up to receive them that way as well.

I’ve gone over my reasons for writing the novel this way elsewhere, so I’m not going to focus now on why I chose to publish serially for free. Instead, I want to talk about the importance of doing what you love, even if it’s for free. Maybe especially if it’s for free.

Like I said, I’ve been writing forever. Fiction, nonfiction. Short, long. Everything in between.

I started writing because it was fun. I enjoyed coming up with stories. I liked the feeling of the clicking of keys under my fingers. I appreciated the escape and the solitude. It was fun and it made me happy. There was no real purpose to it other than to have fun.

Somewhere along the line though my writing started having other goals. My first paid writing gig was a fashion column for an online men’s magazine. I knew nothing about fashion (still don’t), but I was excited to get paid.

Then I did some freelance writing. I wrote forgettable marketing copy for a few businesses. I wrote a few articles that were equally forgettable, but again, I felt like I was building a career.

Then, later on, I started a blog about marketing as a way to connect with others in my industry and to raise my profile. That blog led to an ebook. It worked. I didn’t make money off it, but it did indirectly help me advance my career. It led to speaking gigs and good connections.

Somewhere throughout all of that though I forgot why I had started writing in the first place: because it was fun. I won’t say writing became a chore. It was often the most enjoyable part of my job, but it had indeed become a job, and not the passion it had once been.

I’ve seen this happen with others who have turned their passions into careers. Hobbyists who become professionals. They seem to lose something.

The home chef who opens a restaurant. The wood worker who launches a cabinet business. The playground baller who becomes a pro athlete. The car enthusiast who opens a garage. It is all too easy to forget why they did these things in the first place. Unless they keep making time to do it for themselves.

We all need to make a living and that means that we all have to be of service to someone at some point. But by keeping a small part of what we do for us, I believe it’s possible to maintain that passion.

No, I don’t write for a living, but writing has been a big part of my career. I would never give that up, but I do need to remind myself of that odd kid, who while everyone else was playing video games, was writing stories about those video games.

That’s why I’m writing a novel and I think you should to. No, you may not love writing but your “novel” could be anything. It could be cooking for friends and family once a month. Or building yourself a new workbench. Or playing in a Sunday pickup league. Or restoring a classic car. Or whatever you’re passionate about.

In a world hell bent on productivity and efficiency do something for yourself because you love it and for no other reason. And sure you can share it with your friends and family. That’s part of the fun.

You can find my hobby at its website: First World Problems. Where can I find yours?