How Passionate are you About Your Passion, Exactly?
If doing what you love is becoming a drag, maybe it’s not love
Where there’s a buzzword, there’s an economy and the passion industrial complex is growing. While many of us look to passion as a panacea that has the power to dispel all matters of professional and personal ills, we frequently conflate it with guaranteed success.
But when doing what we love fails to conjure it up despite our best efforts, we may come to question if love has anything to do with it.
Passion is an investment but when it’s wearing you out and sucking up all your time and energy instead of bringing you returns, it can sound like a bad one. So if you’re struggling to keep building on the work you’ve done to date, this is a sign you need to urgently rethink what you do, how you do it, and most importantly why.
Before you lose your spark altogether.
When the one reliable source of joy, fulfillment, and motivation that has always carried you through thick and thin seemingly runs dry, you may feel bereft of purpose so you don’t want to get to that point. This is especially important if you’ve been relying on passion to keep you moving forward and manage your mental health.
To me, writing is profession, urge, essence, and refuge: Take it away and I disappear, which is what happened when chronic depression incapacitated me for five years.
And yet, writing is also how I’ve been pulling myself out of illness and hardship for the last 18 months. Despite years of journalism experience, progress is both tentative and slow, something I’m not ashamed to admit or discuss. There are far too many people who’ve made it their business to sell hopefuls mirages, a self-serving practice as predatory and dangerous as they profit from human disempowerment. Unethical though it may be, it’s an editorial line and the internet is the Wild West.
Is love the great differentiator then, or rather, how many of those who claim writing as a passion are prepared to live it? How many willingly put themselves through a sometimes harrowing learning process that lasts a lifetime, innumerable rejections, and the searing humiliation of working so much for so little it may not even buy you a daily cup of coffee. No matter how motivated you are, writing may not be the best use of your time, especially if you need the money.
But passionate folks write on regardless, tacitly accepting paycheck roulette as part of the deal because now we’re getting paid for something we were already doing.
Praise be to the internet.
Being able to think out loud in print may be a universal right in the West but it remains a privilege only accessible to some of us, those have access to tech and needn’t fear ridicule, retribution, or worse. Words are powerful connectors and writing is how we reflect about society together, out loud and in public and figure out how to build a more equitable one.
So if you’re sharing your work online but can’t summon much pride in what you’ve achieved so far, at least be proud of that. And remember you’re doing something not everyone has the luxury of being able to do.
If you’ve been working without rest, relief, or respite for a long time and your reality now looks like a burnout in slow motion, pride probably isn’t on your mind. Instead, you may be wondering how much longer you can keep going before passion consumes your life, leaving only the ashes of love behind.
There’s no passion without creativity; if creativity flatlines, passion dies.
And folks genuinely doing what they love is a rare enough occurrence to justify keeping the passion alive by any means necessary, especially if you’ve made it (part of) your livelihood.
More than likely, it took courage, many sacrifices, much patience, and a giant leap of faith to do that. And if it’s a recent move, you’re probably still finding your feet and adapting to a new reality. When it comes to change, humans are like cats: We don’t embrace it unless some external force makes us.
Love is the most powerful of all but if what made your heart beast faster yesterday no longer does today then you need to find out how committed you are to your passion before it depletes you of energy. If you can stand and afford to be away from it for a while until you’ve figured this out then take the time and make the most of it.
If you can’t then you’ll have to rethink on the fly, it’ll get messy, and you might screw up anyway. But at least your passion will go down in a blaze of glory having afforded you as much fun as possible in the process.
Curiosity drives passion so if you feel stuck, look around.
Experiment, diversify, dare try formats you had never thought of or previously dismissed and go create proofs of concept just to show yourself you can. And when you find something new you enjoy, do more of that until doing what you love becomes fun again.
The more things you try, the more you get used to trying; the bumptious, the bizarre, and the bold won’t seem as daunting after a while. Combine two things you enjoy into one new thing: Think like a cat dumping its crinkle toy in the kibble dish and creating a new entertainment experience.
Make time to play with your work, shake it up, and see where new incarnations of your passion might take you. Knowledge and practice add up to expertise and mastery but they don’t happen overnight.
What if taking some time out to rest and experiment was what you need to fall back in love with your passion and level up?
Why not go do something even you don’t expect of you?
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.