This past week, while cleaning out this blog’s e-mail, I found a provocative article by Hope Clark in her Funds for Writers newsletter dated 11/28/14. She asks, “What does writing with passion really mean?” She had received a note the previous week in which a writer talked about being passionate about what you do vs. doing what you are especially skilled at, and the necessity for having these two be one and the same. I would add one more element to the mix: drive.
There is no guarantee that passion about something will include skill at doing it and the drive to do it. I’m passionate about food but have neither the skill nor the drive to become a chef or even to cook. What other “passions” do I have? Movies and theater and acting (I took an acting class and discovered I possess absolutely no skill or talent for acting). Languages (I do have a facility for foreign languages and I love them). And especially classical music.
In high school, I convinced myself that music was my life. I loved classical music (still do), loved the piano, and I wanted to do something in music. Through my college years, I had opportunities to compose music, perform both solo and with ensembles, and teach piano. While I had some skill playing the piano and zounds of musical imagination to fuel it, I learned quickly that performance was not for me. Such was the case with composition, although with far less skill. And while I enjoyed teaching and my students, I did not want to teach. I flirted with the possibility of fusing my interests in psychology and music together to become a music therapist. In the end, I didn’t have the drive to carry it through.
I am still passionate about classical music, and having studied music and performed, I know and understand just what a tough life it can be for a professional musician. Being a professional writer, both of nonfiction and fiction, is no walk in the park either. What keeps me going? My passion is less about working with language than it is telling a good story and telling it well. I also want to educate and provoke while I entertain. I can write, and I’ll continue to hone my skills for the rest of my life. But most of all, my passion for writing comes with the drive to write, to tell stories, especially the stories that I want to read.
That sounds rather selfish and egotistical, but it’s acknowledging a reality about writing. A writer’s first and most important reader is herself. If I’m not entertained, if my interest flags while I’m writing, then I can be certain that no one else will be entertained or interested either. So my drive to tell stories is a defense against boredom as well as a driving need to understand why people do the things they do. This is as true now as it was when I was in elementary school and writing my first stories.
Passion divides the pros from the hobbyists when it comes to writing. I must write — every day — and if life gets in the way, I become frustrated and terribly unhappy. Years ago, I tried to quit writing and it turned me into a cranky, negative, unattractive individual. When I quit music, however, it was a relief. That’s a huge difference.
Have you thought about your motivations to write? Are you driven to write? I want to tell the best stories I can, write them the best I can, entertain myself and others the best I can….