It is all too easy to get caught up in the over-hyped discussion of FINDING YOUR PASSION, the intent being to find that ONE THING that will make you happy for all time, allow you to earn a living wage, and so forth. The search all-consuming, the goal absolute, and if ever you feel you’ve lost your way, there are a bazillion (that’s bigger than a google, I’m sure of it) articles telling us how to get back on the proper path to FINDING YOUR PASSION.
We all have things we’re passionate about, and some people are even lucky enough to earn a living doing something about which we feel passion. But, I argue that’s unusual. People aren’t passionate about one thing, we’re passionate about many, and the items on that list change. That’s okay. In fact, I think that’s a really, really good thing. How boring would it be if we decided as children to be passionate about one thing and never changed? I’m pretty sure I’d be passionate about jumping rope, or Marvin the Martian, or cream cheese and olive sandwiches. I still enjoy all of those things, but I can’t say I’m passionate about them.
I stumbled over this article (profanity warning; the author is quite direct), and it really spoke to me. The title is “Screw Finding Your Passion.” The author begins by reminding us of childhood. Early on he states: “You never thought to yourself, “What are the relative merits of learning baseball versus football?” You just ran around the playground and played baseball and football. You built sand castles and played tag and asked silly questions and looked for bugs and dug up grass and pretended you were a sewer monster.”
Yes. That. Exactly! As a writer, I don’t make a living writing. I’m a program manager at an educational assessment company (think standardized testing). I don’t love it, I don’t hate it; I have incredibly rewarding days and incredibly frustrating days. But, twice a month my writers’ group meets, and we share our works in progress, we offer critique, we brainstorm, and it’s amazing, crazy, fun, hard, and wonderful. I love to write. If I never sell a single story, I’m still going to love to write, and read, and write about reading. Sure, there are some folks who do make a living writing, and that’s wonderful, too. But, the fact that I don’t doesn’t mean I’m less passionate or less serious or even–dare I say–not as good. It just means I have a different path. Isn’t that lovely? That there are so many paths to choose? Those paths fork and wind and twist; and each day I get to choose whether I stay on the same path, take a fork in the road, or carve out my own, completely new and uncharted path. Whee!
I tend to get overwhelmed at the goal of writing a novel. The book I’m working on needs to be 85,000 words or so, and it just feels big; I’m aiming for a Catherine Coulter/Hank Phillipi Ryan/J.D. Robb-level story. So, periodically I write short stories. They’re fun to write, and sometimes really cool things happen. The one I’m working on now is just flowing like crazy–after my most recent writers’ group meeting, a friend and I stayed for some writing time. We meet at a bookstore, so that means my writing time isn’t high-jacked by chores or my daughter’s homework or anything else. This story is just working for me, and I wrote 3,000 words in an hour. Good words, words I like and plan to keep. That was a stellar day, and I’m still carrying that glow, two weeks later.
The author of “Screw Finding Your Passion” goes on to say, “The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.” Well, darn. That seems pretty accurate. He wraps up the piece with this thought, “And the real truth is that you already enjoy something. You already enjoy many things. You’re just choosing to ignore them.” This is where I think creatives have an edge; writers write because we can’t not write, and we don’t tend to ignore this thing we’re passionate about. This seems to be true of the artists I know, as well. Creatives fit passions into the nooks and crannies of everyday lives because we simply can’t help it. We take breaks and recharge our creative energy banks, we create alone and with others, we share and we don’t. There’s a fantastic variety to love, too. Passion comes in too many forms to name, and all of them are equally valid as pursuits. We just have to give ourselves permission to love what we love. Easy peasy, right?