Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Practicality of Passion

This past weekend I attended the national conference of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). All weekend I was greatly inspired, but also a little frustrated and confused. People kept saying that I needed to work on what I had passion for -- to follow my dreams. And I kept thinking, I’m not passionate about SOMETHING, and I don’t know what my ultimate dream is. I started thinking I was going to be a failure if I couldn’t identify the one thing that I was passionate enough about to devote all my energy to it and therefore make it successful.

As I was sitting in the airport, on my way home from listening to a weekend chock full of passion, I came across a blog post by a Alyson Stanfield who consults with artists on the business of being an artist. She says she never tells artists to just “follow your passion.” You can read her entire post at the link below. It rang SO true for me that I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t broken and passionless after all!

I am a passionate person. I’m just not passionate about any ONE thing. I am passionate about whatever I am doing at the moment, no matter what it is. I could be taking apart the vacuum cleaner in an attempt to make it work again, and I would be passionate about doing it at that moment.

A Passion for Books

I am passionate about books. I love books. Even if I don’t like the story, I am passionate about the presence of books in a library or book store. When I read a book, I am passionate about it. I care about the characters and their fate. Sometimes I can’t put it down to do more practical things.

I intend to keep working on children's books. Whichever subject that inspires my attention is the one that I will be working on. I came home from the conference with several ideas that are going to be igniting my passions for a while.

A Passion for Art

When I left full-time employment, I started working more with my own art. I had always played at it. But I had never really taken it seriously. I’d say I’m passionate about art. Even so, I can’t say I am passionate about painting this or that subject. I bounce around between subjects, because I enjoy painting whatever makes me passionate at that moment. It could be an insect. Or a flower. Or a landscape. Or a child. At the moment when I look carefully, and notice every detail about the THING, I become excited to put it down on paper. Then I am done, and I look around to see if there is another thing that will make me as excited. Sometimes, there is something. Sometimes not.

A Passion for Teaching

I worked full time as a teacher for 5 years. Every day I was passionate about going to work and teaching and making it meaningful for whatever students I encountered. At home, I planned, graded, organized... I thought about my next day, my next week, at almost every moment. I am still passionate about teaching, even if it is only part time.

I have always been in awe (and admittedly a little envious) of people who devote their entire lives to a particular “cause”. I know that I am unable to do it. I don't think I could sustain an interest in ONE particular thing for a lifetime. But I just realized, and I think I’m OK with the fact that, I am interested in whatever it is that I choose to work on. And I can be passionate about that one thing while I’m working on it. And then I can go on to the next thing.

The difficulty I sometimes have is when one of these things must be put aside to accomplish the other. I feel guilty if I let one thing slide. I worry that I've LOST my passion for it. But, I think now I feel confident that I must stay tuned to the moment I'm in, have passion for my work, whatever it is, and be happy that I have the opportunity to work on so much that is beautiful and worthwhile.

  1. Something changes deep inside many people when they start asking for money for what they’re passionate about.
  2. Most of us have multiple passions.
  3. You can’t make a living from passion alone.

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