“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Have you ever talked to an artist who seemed so passionate you couldn’t help feeling they had better chances than you of “making it”?
During my second creative writing course, one of my classmates said he had an online writing friend who affirmed that she “couldn’t not write, that she needed to say things, to avoid complicity with injustice and fight for what she believed in, no matter the personal cost”. Intense, uh? In a market filled with that kind of writers, how can someone who only writes for the fun of it find their place?
I’ve known a lot of artists who feel like they’re not “real” artists because it seems to them like their passion doesn’t equate that of others—and they’re not any less talented or successful. That being said, most of the time, I don’t share that feeling. Of course, when anxiety kicks in, I might have an inch of doubt about my level of passion, but otherwise, I’m too busy trying to control my passion so it won’t burn me to ashes.
Passion is overrated.
Unlike my classmate’s friend, I wouldn’t say that I’m “fighting” for anything, as in: I don’t have a grand political agenda. I need to write to make sense of the world, to understand how other people think and feel, and to express all those emotions that, despite my knack for words, I am unable to express in any “direct” way. I can only express those subconsciously, with metaphors and symbols, much like in a dream…
I haven’t always felt that way. I’ve had to go through a lot to realize how strong my own passion was. I used to think that I could just give up writing, like I gave up drawing or swimming… but when it repeatedly resulted in my losing a sense of purpose in life, I finally got the point. And that was two years after my depression, during which I became suicidal and the only regret I had contemplating my own death was that I’d never finished a novel. Yeah, I have the emotional quotient of a robot.
Unrestrained passion can be destructive.
Through my own experience and that of all the passionate people I’ve met, I know that too much passion looks very much like an addiction… an obsession. It can get in the way of your personal life until your passion is all that’s left. But you can’t live on passion alone; you need to take care of your body, to have people around you for moral support, etc. Having a job is already not so fun, but it’s a nightmare when every single one of your brain cells screams that it’s a waste of time. Not to mention that you don’t feel too good about yourself when you finally manage to make time to be with your loved ones, yet you feel like you’d rather be writing.
Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood describes very well how some artists sacrifice themselves on the altar of their craft, and how it sometimes end up in a suicide.
Passion is fuel.
Use it well, and it will be a valuable tool; misuse it and it’ll explode in your face. Use your passion to fuel your work, but don’t let it consume you. When it comes down to it, what really matters is putting in the work. Mozart might be considered a genius, but he still worked a lot. Bach wasn’t a genius… he worked even harder. In the end, the non-genius achieved a comparable level of greatness as the genius. Isn’t that inspiring?
Go write now, you hard-working bundle of passion and creativity.
“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach