Hi. Today is my birthday and I’m spending it working (mostly) and picking up an ice cream giveaway gift card for a charity event I’m organizing this Saturday, so that’s pretty interesting. Anyway, in re-reading some older posts on writing last night, one stuck out in my mind. As I depart for the dreary sameness of the mall (and its ice cream vendors), I’ll just leave this here, written by me about a year ago, to make of it what you will.
I apologize in advance for what I write here today. You should know this final installment in the “On Writing, On Wednesday” series is the result of my meandering mind, which woke me at 4:34 a.m. with words I needed to jot down in the notes app of my iPhone lest I fall back asleep, get up in the (more respectable) morning and remember nothing.
So … passion. That’s the theme for today’s post and fair warning, what I say might sound a bit harsh. Ready? Here’s the truth: Without passion, you’ll stagnate in the mire of predictability and, wading in this thin, muddled pond with your boring yellow raincoat and boring rubber boots, will produce nothing too extraordinary beyond a few splashes easily wiped away and even more easily forgotten.
Writing—substitute here any creative endeavor—has to be not a shallow pond to ramble through but a tidal wave, a tsunami, an idea to ride as if your very life depended on it. If writing really is your passion, then it’s something that keeps you up until 2 a.m., stresses you out to the complete, wakes you in the half-light of dawn, frantically typing a note into your cell phone before you even realize your fingers are moving. It’s at once unsettling, exhausting and debilitating; and it’s not a want but a need … a need to keep your pen squiggling OR ELSE and that feeling of a darkly looming “or else” never goes away.
Passion is also the cure for the failures and setbacks you’ll face in your artistic adventure. To my limited knowledge, history has not yet shown a human who was miraculously declared a creative genius upon birth, a crown of ever-lasting greatness thrust upon his/her gentle head. No, there’s a lot of grueling, un-pretty work involved and the progress you make won’t be linear; it’ll most likely shift in directions unimaginable, which can be oh-so-frustrating for the passionless but a mere fact of life for those with passion who believe in the inevitability of their success.
And what is success? Don’t ask me, how should I know? It’s the most personal thing you can define and carries with it shades of color that differ wildly for every person on Earth (… and probably for those beings on other faraway planets, too). But hey, let’s forget success (who needs it?) and get back to the business of words before we officially turn on the lights and call closing time for this post.
I’ll finish the whole deal with a final thought: Goodness, unlike passion, is not an absolute. You either have passion or you don’t but what’s considered good writing to me might not be good to you or to the grocer down the street or to your mailman or … you get it.
And there’s a freedom in knowing that even if someone doesn’t like what you’ve written down, the world is a big, bad, awesome place and there’s always going to be someone else inside of it who most definitely will.
(Also, if you happen to get around to asking every single person alive if they like your writing and still come to find nobody thinks it’s worth a semi-colon drawn in the sand, then keep doin’ your thing anyway because spoiler alert: In the end, you’re the only one who knows just how good you can be.)