What are your passions, the things that you feel you could never live without?
Whether it’s physical attraction between two people, or an exciting new project or vocation, the first flush of passion is almost always the strongest. We feel carried away, ready to throw everything over for it–forget to walk the dog, or feed the fish, or get our work done on time. Nothing else seems to matter. We want immersion, continual contact. We want to be our Very Best Selves All the Time so that the passion, the immersion will continue. It feels good (or exciting, or dangerous, or fulfilling, or all those things). We don’t want it to end.
All that passion takes stamina and huge amounts of energy. It can’t continue in that red-hot state forever, or it will burn out. After a while, the passion might not exactly end, but it will change. Reality intrudes. Other things demand their rightful attention. The object of our passion comes a bit more in focus, and we sometimes are a little puzzled about how we got where we are. I knew a married couple once–she was a visual artist and he was a musician, and for two years they couldn’t bear to be away from each other for more than a few hours. The were adorable and constantly loved up as they say. My friends and I marveled at them, and were even a little jealous. How did they do it? The answer is that whatever they were doing, they couldn’t do it forever. Their marriage ended over the course of a month. They were completely spent. Used up. They never–to my knowledge–spoke to each other again.
My decision to become a writer wasn’t a rational one. The idea shimmered before me like some magical thing and I reached for it, and caught it. I had had an intense love for the written word all my life–not just books, but cereal boxes and letters and film posters and magazines. But this newfound attraction to the creation of stories was something new. I revered it, stood in awe of it, and knew it was something special. Of course, the words weren’t in awe of me, but that doesn’t matter. (That the words themselves don’t care is important for the writer’s ego to remember. We’re on our own in this affair.) This romantic stage, this passionate stage in which I read and wrote and dreamed, read and wrote and dreamed even more, lasted for three or four years, until I began to actually publish. Suddenly my passion was looking more and more like a vocation.
The reality of writing looks like a lot of late nights wrestling with words, a file folder full of rejections, a few tears, and fewer triumphs. It looks a lot like work. But, like an old-fashioned, virginal bride, I had bonded with the idea of telling stories, and my passion mellowed into something sweeter. Acknowledgment that I was in it for the long haul, that the words and I weren’t always going to be good to each other, but that it was still worth it. This is what I hope to do forever. The passion is there, but it is a slow-burning flame. One that can last longer.
How can we keep a passion from burning out so we can keep it around for the long haul?
–Understand that the romantic images we had at first were never 100% real. By pinning our dreams on them, we made them more desirable, more vibrant. We were trying harder, too.
–Be forgiving of yourself when you feel let down or frustrated. Have patience. And recognize the small joys it still brings you. When I’m writing and a project isn’t necessarily coming together the way I want, I feel better when I craft and appreciate a really good sentence.
–Give it a rest, if you need to. Build up your energy by stepping back. A little absence really does make the heart reflect and grow fonder.
–Celebrate it. A real love for someone or something is a gift. Proclaim it. Share it.
There are times when a passion is simply spent. And that’s okay, too. It’s a good thing to let go. Say a fond goodbye, and free your heart for the next one.
Writing is just one of the passions I can’t live without. I could make a list, but I’d rather hear about yours…
February 19th Words
Journal: 0 words
Long fiction: 2400 words
Short fiction: 0
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blogging: 737 words
Exercise: Hot tub maintenance, plus a family jaunt for groceries. Far more exciting than it sounds.