Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Writing Lab: The Church of Passion

Prompt: "Do you think passion is enough to reach your goals or can passion only take a person so far?"

Saying that I used to believe passion was "enough" when it comes to meeting one's goals is the understatement of the century. At one point, I firmly believed that passion was quite literally the only thing that matters. I most certainly saw it as what separated the real artists from the people that only wished they were artists. That belief was as deep-seated as a religion and as is typical of me, I would not be told that my thinking was flawed. Even by those that had been there and knew first hand what it actually takes to succeed in any kind of creative art field.

There's a long buried, very idealistic part of me that wishes I could say I still attend the Church of Passion and worship at the altars. However, the passage of time combined with hard experience has taught me to do otherwise. I still believe passion is very important, especially when you're in the arts. But it's not enough by itself if you're serious about meeting your goals. Passion is like gasoline. It might be the fuel that makes it possible for the car to keep moving forward, but you still need the fucking car. You need the wheels, and the seats, and the steering wheel, and the engine just as desperately as you need the gasoline if you actually want to get anywhere.

Like raw talent, passion is a critical resource. Without the practical discipline to harness it and make something out of it though, it's worth absolutely nothing as far as reaching actual goals. When you're young -- like high school aged or college aged -- you're a big fish in a small pond if you're considered talented or gifted. The real world is a different story though. Once you're out there experiencing how big it is firsthand, you eventually realize that the world is full of passionate people with "dreams". A great many of those people are also incredibly talented. And no one gives a fuck.

So what do people give a fuck about? Whether or not you're actually disciplined enough to take your passion and make something of it. Whether or not you're the kind of person that can be counted on to follow through, even when doing so maybe isn't all that fun. Whether or not what you bring to the table even has any social and financial value in the first place. Without those things, you're just one more underachiever working at Wal-Mart, trying desperately to convince the people around you that you're not like them. That you could have been so much more than you are "if only".

Monday, February 22, 2016

Writing Lab: Head Versus Heart

Prompt: "What do you think is more important for getting things done: passion or steadfastness?" 

For me personally, it all depends on what I'm trying to accomplish. I draw upon completely different personal resources when I'm pursuing something practical than I do when I'm expressing myself or working toward a personal goal.

When it comes to the personal stuff, it's all about passion. Passion is the only thing in those cases that really keeps me going. I have to feel excited about what I'm doing in my heart. I have to be so into it that I find it hard to go to sleep at night because my brain can't stop chewing on ideas and looking forward to the next step.

I'm a creative person through and through, so the whole "make yourself work on your art" approach doesn't really do it for me. When I'm not in the zone as far as something creative I'm working on, the quality of the work just isn't there. Literally every single time I've generated something truly artful and inspired, it came from passion and passion alone. I don't care if we're talking about a painting I did, a blog post I wrote, or an especially inspired dinner menu I came up with.

Staying active creatively for me feels a lot like surfing. You can't surf if the waves really aren't there. What you can do is make sure you're at the beach on the days when you know the waves are going to be perfect and promptly seize the opportunity when you see it approaching. Art and creative writing for me are all about waiting for those creative waves to roll in and making sure I have my surfboard handy when they do. I can't wait until later. I need to ride the waves while they're present, because "later", they most likely won't still be there.

In other areas of my life, steadfastness is much more useful. Case in point, my professional copywriting career. I want to be successful at what I do, but I can't honestly say I feel any passion for my job. That's why developing good work habits and making sure I stay the course is so important in those areas. Once something becomes a habit, I can keep rolling with it even if it doesn't really float my boat on a deeper level. That's how I've managed to make my business everything that it is despite the fact that I don't really have that strong a work ethic.

Steadfastness wasn't really something that ever came naturally to me the way passion maybe did. I've had to work hard to cultivate it in myself. and I think I've done a reasonably good job. I'm probably not as successful financially or professionally as I could be if I were actually a more driven person, but I do pretty well for myself regardless -- much better than I ever pictured myself doing, that's for sure. I owe all that to steadfastness and discipline.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Relationships and Reflection

I feel like I've been conversing with a lot of friends about the topic of relationships lately. I've been in my own relationship for nearly 11 years at this point, so I tend to forget how tough things can be when you're still in the process of looking for your person. In particular, I forget how bad a relationship with the wrong person can make you start to feel about yourself.

I have an acquaintance I follow via what's left of my LiveJournal friends list and the situation she's in reminds me so much of how things were with Shawn. Shawn was probably one of the first men I felt really, truly passionately about in my life. He also turned out to be one of the most horrible, abusive human beings I've met to date. When I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that after my relationship with him, I wasn't ever the same open, giving, trusting person I used to be again, even after many years. That's probably for the best considering how many selfish individuals I tend to attract into my life, but still. It's hard not to regret the loss of a part of you that was innocent, and generous, and trusting.

Lots of people can make you feel self-conscious about your hobbies, your goals, or your personal habits. Shawn somehow made me feel self-conscious about who I was on a core level. He hated that I was introverted and thought quality was more important than quantity when it came to friends. He hated that I read and liked to learn. He hated that I wasn't more driven and success-oriented. He hated that I was still trying to figure out what I believed spiritually and socially even though I was only 21 or 22 at the time. He really hated that I was a sensitive person that felt things deeply. Being steeped in that environment for even one of my most impressionable years of my life changed me forever.

This girl reminds me so much of that younger version of me and her boyfriend reminds me so much of Shawn. He's completely succeeded in making her feel like the person she is on a core level is so unlikable that she needs to obliterate every last trace of her natural personality. He has convinced her that she's hard to love and that he deserves some kind of medal for putting up with her. He cheats on her, emotionally abuses her, and mistreats her in a million different ways, but has completely convinced her it's her fault. I've tried to say a few things to her because her situation makes me so sad. She hasn't really taken it much to heart, just like I'm sure I wouldn't have back at the peak of the Shawn era, but hopefully some of the things I've said will plant some seeds and benefit her in the future, if not now. I've been talking with other women I know about their relationships as well and at their request because they trust me and are interested in whatever insight I might have to offer.

Interactions like these make me realize how far I've actually come as a person, especially when it comes to relationships. I never did that thing you hear about. You know... choose to love someone and stick it out no matter what. It just kind of happened by accident and I learned a lot along the way. No, my relationship hasn't always been easy or free of drama, but it came easily regardless, if that makes any sense at all. I'm convinced that's how it should be and I tell people as much. I'm often one of the first people most of my friends think of when they want relationship advice or insight on something to do with dating. I'm proud of that. It feels like a real success when I think of how many people told me that I was hard to love and that I'd never have what it takes to make it in a long-term relationship.

I've known since I was a little girl that I was relationship oriented, so I guess it makes sense that some of the most profound learning experiences I've ever had came about because of relationships. Even that awful, heartbreaking relationship with Shawn taught me a lot about myself and what I can't put up with in a partner. My current relationship has shown me how important and healing self-acceptance really is. It's certainly helped me learn to relate to myself and to others in completely new ways. To date, this is the only area of my life where I feel truly successful, but it's a big and very important area for sure.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Writing Lab: Do What You Love and Love What You Do

Prompt: "Is your career your passion? Are you in love with your job or your field of work?"

I think that I'm somewhere in between on this one, as I have mixed feelings about working as a freelance copywriter and ghostwriter. On the one hand, I would definitely say that writing, information, and language are things that I'm absolutely in love with and have been since I was a little girl. I also feel comfortable saying that if God really did have something specific in mind as far as what he wanted me to do with my life when he made me, it probably has a lot to do with being a writer. I have always been a writer in one capacity or another and I know that I will continue to be a writer until the day I die. It's too big a part of who I am for me to do anything else.

On the other hand though, I'm not a very service-oriented person. I have some great clients and I'm incredibly grateful to be able to earn my entire living working for myself out of my home, but I can't honestly say that I'm passionate about the type of writing people are actually willing to pay me to do. A good 90% of it is incredibly dry and boring -- mostly informative content meant for company blogs, brochures, and so forth. I'm very good at what I do, so I make decent money and have no problem finding steady work, but I don't really take a lot of personal joy in the actual work itself. 

I'm still in the process of figuring out where I should attempt to take my writing next, because copywriting isn't really something I can see myself sticking with for the long haul given the choice. I do know that I'd like to make a living writing more of the things I really enjoy writing. Pieces based on my own ideas and insights. Pieces that I would write whether or not I were being paid to do so. I could see myself becoming at least borderline passionate about that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Writing Lab: On Passion, Motivation, and Purpose

Prompt: "How do you find a new passion?"

Finding activities, pastimes, and even people that I'm actually what I'd call passionate about has never really been something that's come easily to me. This has especially been the case when it comes to anything long-term or potentially permanent. I was the type of kid that never really had a real answer for the adults in my life when they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always had a hard time connecting with other people as well.

That said, I'm not so sure that I actively find passions so much as they find me. Most of the things I'm voraciously interested in I embraced in the first place because they made me feel calm and at peace, as opposed to because they lit some sort of fire inside of me. They were ways for me to form a buffer between myself and the rest of this world that made me feel so rejected early on in my life. The feelings of passion toward those beliefs and pursuits came later on after I'd developed the associated skills almost by accident thanks to repetition over the years.

These days, I typically stumble across new things to be passionate about through reading. I love to read about anything and everything -- news, religion, food, culture, history, travel. I'll read about something in a magazine or in a novel, become intellectually curious about whatever it is, and seek out more information about it. After a while, it starts to get into my head and before I know it, I've found a new passion that I fervently believe in. That's how a lot of my most recent passions began -- like Catholicism and buying/eating local produce.

It's honestly very rare for another person to turn me onto something new -- especially anything that's about a lifestyle change. I'm sure that's why things like career suggestions from my parents and teachers were never really taken to heart. It has to be something I choose to get into on my own or it just won't stick.