“Labour of love” is a funny phrase. Here are some definitions:
“Work undertaken for the pleasure of it or for the benefit of a loved one.”
This is what I find peculiar: All work should be undertaken for the pleasure of it. Why should anybody do work that is not pleasurable? That seems insane. Doing work that causes you displeasure seems like a form of involuntary servitude. Yes, you might undertake to do work that is not pleasurable, because it benefits your loved ones, but then why would you do work that is both not pleasurable and not for the benefit of your loved ones (including yourself)? It would seem that most work is assumed to not be a labour of love.
Clearly, the phrase exists because some work is not pleasurable or does not benefit a loved one. Isn’t that a tragic thing? Surely at this stage in the development of human affairs, we can dispense with work that is neither pleasurable, nor beneficial to your loved ones.
“A piece of hard work that you do because you enjoy it” encompasses most artistic projects (or should). Again, doing easy work that you don’t enjoy shouldn’t even be a thing, in the twenty-first century, yet the phrase would not draw a distinction if there was no contrasting work to speak about. It’s obvious that much work, in fact perhaps most work, is deemed to be easy and not enjoyable.
Why should you not receive money or praise for doing something hard, even if it is enjoyable, pleasurable and/or for the benefit of a loved one? Hard work is valuable. It seems perverse that you should only be paid and appreciated for doing easy, non-enjoyable, non-pleasurable work that benefits no loved one of yours. Why do we adhere to that idea?
Once upon a time, a vocation was something that was literally a calling – something you needed to do, irrespective of other concerns. Why should people be engaged in working on something they have no need to do? Surely, the only work that matters and counts is the hard work that you do because you enjoy it, because it gives you pleasure to do it, because it benefits your loved ones and because you feel the need to do it, rather than being forcibly compelled to do it. Why should that not attract pay and praise?
We seem to accept a world in which the only work that you can expect to be paid for doing, or be praised for undertaking, is easy work, that gives no pleasure or enjoyment, which is of no benefit to your loved ones and which you feel no particular intrinsic motivation to do. That excludes most creative work. It feels to me that we have this all wrong.
All work, especially artistic work, should be a labour of love, in that you take it on because you love doing it and you have a need to do, but there is no reason whatsoever that you should not be paid and praised for doing it. A labour of love should be the default occupation and it is a reasonable expectation to be paid for doing it. It’s time to throw out the baggage that associates with the phrase.