Below is an oldie but a goodie on following your passion. You see, the world will tell you that following your dreams is silly or irresponsible or naive, but "they" don't know everything. While the old blog may have been mercilessness killed, I still manage to find these old posts every once in awhile. Enjoy! And remember for Nanowrimo or whatever passion you are pursuing this month, it is possible!
My mother didn't want me to be a writer. I think she cried as much about my being a writer as she did when I told her I'd joined the Air Force. We had just left the movie Full Metal Jacket when I told her I'd signed the contract and would be leaving for basic training in less than thirty days. She bawled like she was going to my funeral. I just watched the first five minutes of the movie, and I can see why she cried. Hell, the only reason I didn't cry was because I thought the movie was a Hollywood exaggeration. For my part, it was.
I had more of a Biloxi Blues kind of basic training experience. It wasn't a comedy, because they really do get in your face and scream a lot. They deprive you of sleep and basic human courtesy, but in the end, it's the Texas heat that gets to you. As the Mathew Broderick character says, "It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't stand this kind of hot."
I had a very long conversation with my daughter yesterday about following your passion. We went to dinner together while my son had a sleepover and we had the kind of heart-to-heart that a parent prays for and fears at the same time. She knows what she wants in life and she sees obstacles rather than opportunities. She's afraid that at the ripe age of 15, life is passing her by. And I get it (I was 15 once and remember it absolutely). When we know what we want, when it's a visceral thing, we want to get to it, and life--even a good life--can get in the way. But passion is not diminished with time. Passion grows stronger and our mission more absolute with time. Sadly, delay and grief and struggle amplify our passion.
The reason my mother didn't want me to be a writer is, "writers live a hard life." I wanted to laugh at her. As a teenager, I probably did. Because I didn't see the pain, I saw the glory. Because as much as writers are an introverted lot, we do it to have our work read in a very public way, and if we're lucky (and we all hope we are) our words are read by the multitudes. But my mother was right. Writers live a hard life. Guess what? So does everyone else.
The difference for people of a creative bent--writers and artists and actors, etc--is that we take the hard life and make it look good.We take the garbage the universe heaps upon us and use it in our art. My early writing was naive. And if I had lived to my current age in an insulated and perfect existence, it would still be naive. It might be decent writing, good grammar and a steady plot, but it wouldn't be real. Few of us live a perfect life and we're not all that interested in reading about it. Even Disney gives their Princesses a sad backstory with loss and grief. How humans deal with the grief and loss and imperfection is what makes the story interesting.
What I told my daughter is this: If you take a dozen people who have made it to the edge of success in your chosen field and you compare life stories, those with perfect lives don't stack up. If the full dozen people are all technically proficient in their craft, but one has overcome loss and has an emotional trigger that pulled them from the past to where they are now, that's the person who gets the job. Why? It's not because the interviewers know the story. No one ever knows your story, but the determination and heart and emotional energy that brought you out of the depths of your story and into success, that draws people like a freaking magnet.
For artists, it's that element where we overcome the obstacles that gives our writing depth.
If I were to go back to that moment when my mother looked at me, eyes watering, and she said, "writers live a hard life," I wouldn't have laughed at her, because it's true. We're more introspective and more hurt by the vagaries of the world. but the world needs us. When I combine my technical skills (God-willing, I have them) with my life experiences, and I'm open with the world and share my imperfection and my fear and my insecurity, I can turn a piece of writing into art. And if an editor looks at my story and the story of a dozen other technically proficient writers, but my story--imperfect but emotionally true--has that something that can't be faked, that is the ultimate truth, that's the story that matters. Whether it sells now or never, whether it's read by one or a million, it's the story that tells the truth and effects the most change that matters the most.
Passion can't be faked. Experience can't be faked. Neither can struggle.
I never ever ever EVER think that we endure hardship for the benefit of the world. In fact, that kind of attitude pissed me the heck off, BUT.... The role of the artist is to convert those negative experiences into a universal message that has the potential to change the world. Some writers change the whole world. Others change a segment of the world. Others change the world of one person, just one person, and that's the one that mattered most.
My mother didn't want me to live a life with a universal message. She didn't want me to know hardship and grief and pain and all the thousands of things that I must KNOW on an intimate level to be a good writer, but I wouldn't exchange that knowledge for a safe existence.
My daughter isn't looking at becoming an accountant. She's not seeking a safe existence. And like my mother before me, I'd like to shelter my daughter from pain. I don't want her to have to life a hard life. But... I want her to live a real life.
The thing I want most for my children is that they pursue their passion. I cannot say that I want them to face it without fear. War is a fearful thing, and pursuing our biggest desire is a kind of war. Most of us don't have the courage for it. We get washed out in basic training, but if we have a passion, those obstacles and fears and events that get in the way, they are what make our passion important.
I could have given up on writing a hundred times. I'll be tempted a hundred more. But I'm not giving up. That's the difference between passion and plan. A life plan has a timetable and a series of steps to success. A passion is messy and imperfect and covered in land mines. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Whatever you do, accountant or nurse or librarian or artist, I hope you pursue it with passion. It's not instant success, but it is personally fulfilling, and if you're lucky, after twenty years, they'll give you a gold watch and "good job." The gold watch and the "good job" don't matter. It's the personal fulfillment that makes a hard life worth living.
Follow your passion. Your age doesn't matter. Your life experience doesn't matter. Your socio-economic strata doesn't matter. You were given a passion for a reason. Live it.
Funny story. During the Mercury Retrograde Incident in September 2016, Cindy's original blog disappeared. Five years, gone in a random act of chaos. Now she gets to repopulate her blog world one post at a time. Join her if you dare. :)
© Cindy Skaggs 2017