I told you last post I wanted to blog about passion, because it’s been on my mind lately, and I do – but I need to use both passion and love to describe different sides of the same issue.
I’ve seen some people talking lately about writing only being worth it if you really love it and if you’re passionate about it. And I want to agree, because it sounds so bold and pretty and brave. I also want to agree because I feel like there’s a culture around the pursuit of the arts – music, visual arts, acting, writing – that if you’re not a whole-hearted, one hundred percent in pursuer of that passion, you don’t really care about it.
I beg to differ on all these points though.
First – I’m a big believer in practicality. I can’t help it, my parents, though lovingly tolerant of their strange and hyper-imaginative daughter, have drilled it into my my entire life. I believe you need to pay your bills. I believe you choose the things you want, and if you truly only in the whole wide world want your art, or your writing or your music, and your positive that’s all you ever want, then that’s great and you should totally do that. But I believe if you think you may want something more than that – if you may want to put a roof over your head, or you may want to be able to get married and have kids, or go on vacation, or whatever, you might also want to consider finances and ask yourself if it’s possible you could do something to pay those bills and fund those vacations, while doing your art on the side. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. If anything, and I’m biased because I do work a full time day job and always have, I really believe that having to share your life between your dream and another thing makes the art that much more precious. When your time is limited and your resources scarce, you find very swiftly that only the things you love most make it into your life.No art benefits from being stifled or starved, but I do believe it benefits from the myriad kinds of discipline, focus, and patience it takes to do something that isn’t your very first choice in the world. I also believe you can have complimentary interests in multiple things, and if one pays the bills, I don’t think it somehow lessens the value you give to the world through that work.
*digression – maybe your work is caring for your babies, or nursing a frail parent, or doing a less creative variant of your work, or maybe you’re one of those rare people who through talent or luck or whatever is able early on to survive off your art. Heck, maybe you LIKE living off your art even when it doesn’t pay anything, and dealing with that financial struggle. That’s just fine, everyone should do what works for them. I’m just saying, if you’re worried that you’re not a real writer because you major in something else, work in something else – in my opinion, you don’t have anything to worry about. Only worry if you’re not writing at all, and not even thinking about it or missing it.
So that’s the passion. But the piece I titled this with (I always get around to my point, even six hundred words later) is love. It’s not about the passion, because passions come and go and grow and fade and have to be shared. But it’s also not about the love.
At least, not the way I suspect people speak about love.
Love meaning that fluttery feeling where the world is the color of roses and you’re awash in delight is a great thing. We live for that kind of love, in our relationships with people and in our work. But my friends, to think that you are not a writer, or should shelve a project, or should give up when you don’t love the work is a grave mistake.
I’m not married, but my mother informs me one does not LOVE one’s spouse every moment of every day. We aren’t even capable of love the fluttery feeling at all times, and people – and projects – will fail us. They will have twisty bits, refuse to cooperate, hurt you, make you question lots of things about yourself. And it’s not a reason to toss people – or projects – aside.
See, love can also be a verb. Love, meaning to give things up for, to tolerate when you don’t want to, to want to make better, love meaning constancy and commitment, love meaning there’s some tiny part of you that would miss even the struggle if it were absent. And if you’re missing that kind of love for writing, then yes – maybe it’s time to consider if this is really what you want.
Because it’s not going to be pretty all the time. The words will build you up but they’ll also destroy you. The words will make you feel like a courageous genius and give you the kind of joy that comes rarely into life, but there will also be nights – even weeks, maybe a month or two – where none of it makes sense and the flood of doubts washing over you is almost stronger than you are and you can’t even imagine why on earth you’re putting yourself through this kind of stress when no one in the entire world would care if you stopped.
That’s not to say there aren’t times and places for starting and stopping, shelving and trunking, and all of those things. But ultimately every project and every career is going to have some pretty dark and miserable passages.
If you keep going – if there’s a part of you that misses that angst, that struggle, and that incredible high when you finally, finally sort of all out and find your way again – you’re a writer. It’s not about loving it, with roses and joy and uninterrupted streams of words. It’s about loving it, giving up other things and wanting the very best. If you say someone who does not love, with roses, their project should shelve it or someone who doesn’t love, with roses, writing, should stop, I have to disagree. Roses or no, only give up if you can no longer, with any part of you, love writing as a verb.