Posts Tagged: passion

Artistic Advice, Toxic Advice

I ran across this article the other day:

21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors

My first thought was, “Great! Advice from ‘real’ authors.” Then I showed it to my friend and social media queen Michelle. Her first reaction to the opening paragraph derailed my train of thought and knocked some sense into me. After a bit of reflection, I can really see her point.

…having an artistic temperament doth not make one an artist.

What is an artist? It’s someone who writes, paints, draws, sings, or any other form of self-expression. True, not everyone can/will make a living with their art, but does that make them less worthy of the title of Artist? No. However, society has instilled in us an idea that in order to be successful, we must achieve a certain status, usually financially defined.

Well, I am here to say I AM AN ARTIST. I AM AN AUTHOR. I write because I love to do it. I love the entire process. Stressing over plot points. Arguing with characters when they don’t want to behave. Deadlines sneaking up on you. Formatting. Editing. Cover design. And the list goes on… I AM a REAL author.

So much of the various art forms are subjective. When you look at paintings, do you prefer realism, cubism, or abstract? I am sure several of you answered that differently than I did. There are a ton of famous artists whose work I wouldn’t want hanging in my house. I can appreciate them for their appeal – to someone else. The same can be said for different forms of writing. I detest horror and gore, but I love mysteries. I don’t enjoy historical romance, but love paranormal romance. And just as before, I am sure some of you disagree.

All of that being said, the advice in the post does give me food for thought. Here is my favorite of the list:

  1. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

When I finished reading this, I reflected back on my post from a few weeks ago: Passion…or Happiness? Since I wrote that, I have been following Mark Manson’s blog and ran across a few more that have inspired me or made me think. The first was on life purpose (http://markmanson.net/life-purpose) and the second was on dreams (http://markmanson.net/dreams).

What is life purpose? That is an interesting question and one I think has a different meaning to different generations. One of the things that I have noticed over the past few years while working in higher education is that the newer generation doesn’t go into a career thinking in terms of forever. Stop and think about that for a second. Your grandparents and parents went to college or trained for a specific job with the full expectation that they would be doing that until they retired. Plumber, electrician, attorney, teacher, on and on and on. They wanted the security that came along with longevity. College students today have multiple ideas of what they want to do. And they aren’t afraid of thinking that ten years down the road they will be changing professions.

Our parents and the generations before had mid-life crises when they reached the point of burnout. But even then it wasn’t their job that they considered changing. Think about all the clichés you hear: affairs, divorce, sports cars, etc. The newer generations don’t put pressure on themselves to make life-long decisions at the age of 18. That can be scary, or it can be incredibly freeing.

I have seen a larger number of non-traditional students coming back for different degrees. These people are of my generation. Those of us that were raised with the idea that we needed to find a career and stick to it. But we have also grown up with technology and a world that has, and is, changing more than it ever has before. We are now reaching our mid-30s and 40s and realizing we are no longer happy doing what we chose to do at 18. But unlike our parents, we take inspiration from our children. We fall back on the idea that education can take you far and we use that to move forward. We take action to change what no longer makes us happy.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is
the result of action, not the cause of it. 

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life
and what matters to you is a full-contact sport,
a trial-and-error process.
None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity
until we actually do the activity.

Do you see how passion and life-purpose go hand-in-hand? It’s impossible to reconceptualize (yes, David Ogilvy, I used the word you said not to use…) your purpose in life without knowing what you are passionate about.

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are. And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

I have been dealing with this over the past several months as I reevaluate my career. I took a huge leap back in June and completely changed career paths. Last year, I also started publishing what I write. Whew! Do you know how nerve wracking that was? When I first started thinking of publishing, I thought I would use a pseudonym – something so no one would know I was the author. I don’t write erotica. I write mysteries and romantic suspense (and surprisingly paranormal romance). I don’t write anything that I would be embarrassed for my mother to read…though the first Tip of the Spear book did make me blush when she read it.

What I discovered was that I was embarrassed about what people would think – of me, of my books, of my beliefs and values, of everything. How would people I have known for years react to my books? Ultimately, having a built in network to start promoting my books is what swayed me to use my own name. Imagine what I felt when I read this:

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

And every word of that is true. I am passionate about what I write. I still care what others think, but not enough to stop me from pursuing what I enjoy. I am doing what I love. This is my passion. This is my dream.

So when should you pursue your dreams? Again, I refer to Mark Manson:

  • Fall in love with the process, not the result – If your job is drudgery now, then there’s no reason to suspect it won’t still be drudgery when you make partner or when you’re managing your own division. We live in a results-based society, and unfortunately this gets most of us (70% by some surveys) into the wrong pursuits and career paths.
  • What’s motivating you? – Take a long, hard look at what’s really driving you. Is it some compensation for an unmet need? Or is it a genuine expression of enthusiasm and joy? The fact that I fantasized about being on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans and didn’t fantasize about writing or playing new songs is telling.

Working in finance, I always jokingly tell people, “If your idea of saving for retirement is secretly hoping to win the lottery before you hit 65, there is a problem.” The same can be said for whatever dream you want to pursue. Writers always talk about the massive pile of rejection letters they received before ‘hitting it big’. And all of them will follow that by saying how it inspired them to push even harder. When you face obstacles, it is human nature to try harder – if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. It makes us appreciate what we have more than if it was just handed to us.

“When all of your wishes are granted,
many of your dreams will be destroyed.”

–Marilyn Manson

What does all of this mean to me? I love writing. I love being an author. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it draining? Yes. Is it rewarding? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I’m proud of what I have accomplished so far and I plan to continue to do it as long as I’m able. I am not defining my success by how much money I am making. My success depends on how I feel about the finished product, the reaction of my readers, and the satisfaction I feel if even one person says they loved what I wrote. That makes me happy. That drives me to continue.

So here is my advice to you: If you want to be a writer, write – even if it’s just in your journal. If you want to be a painter, paint – even if it’s just a piece you hang on your wall. If you want to be a singer, sing – even if it’s just in the shower. And, if you are willing to put in the hard work and follow the process, give it a shot.

Passion…or Happiness?

inspirationI ran across this post today: http://markmanson.net/passion and it made me stop and reflect a little on the journey I have taken to become a published author.

As my bio points out, I have spent 20+ years in the world of higher education administration and finance. Two years ago I had an “ah hah” moment and realized I wasn’t happy. I WASN’T HAPPY! Who just decides they aren’t happy with something they have thought they enjoyed for 20 years? It happens more often than you think.

I decided to do something about it. My first thought was, “What am I passionate about?” Exactly like Mark Manson pointed out, I started thinking really hard about what made me “happy.” All the while, I was drowning myself in books so I could escape how much I hated my job. I spent hours dreaming up stories about people I would encounter, or articles I would read that inspired a new daydream for me.

My only saving grace at work was the people I interacted with every day. They encouraged me, made me laugh, and listened when I needed to blow off steam. They were my lifesavers. And they were truly the only reason I made it two more years in that job.

One of the people I interacted with daily was Michelle Bukowski. She has become my inspiration and my sanity on this new journey to figure out where I’m going. As a talented artist, she pursues her passion because she loves it. Does she hope to make a living from it someday? Sure. But for now, she works a job and then goes home to do what she loves. She puts the effort into gallery showings and delving into the art community in Middle Tennessee. I remember the day I first thought, “Wow, I wish I had a marketable skill like she does.”

Then I slapped myself on the back of the head and told myself to get back to work. Six months later and I was still dredging through every day, being sucked deeper and deeper into the mire that my life had become.

Then one day, I was going through this seminar on some kind of self-help/financial success program. I listened to a lot of them due to my job and the relevance of student indebtedness. One of the points was “Make your money work for you.” And to sum it up, it talked about doing something that paid you back. The example – probably because we were in Music City – was to record an album and sell it. “It will pay you royalties,” the guy said. I could only think that any demo I recorded would be burned or used as a method of torture for prisoners of war. But the idea stuck.

Several weeks later, I read a series of popular Young Adult fiction. I was so angry at the end of it that I wanted to go back and erase it from my mind, but you can’t unread something. It was such a strong reaction that I rewrote the ending in my mind just to appease myself, to assuage my pain – kind of like I did when Fred Weasley was killed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows…to this day I insist that it was Percy who died. I mean, he had his moment of redemption, so he could die without too much heartache for those around, right?

I digress…

After I rewrote the ending in my head, a friend mentioned that there were several fan fiction rewrites online. So I googled them. Some were good. Some were okay. Some were downright horrible. But you know what? There were people out there who were passionate enough to attempt to right a terrible wrong.

The fan fiction sight took me to a page about self-publishing. I read an article about a woman who had launched an extremely successful career this way. She has become my idol… ☺ I thought, why not write these stories that are in my head?

The problem is not a lack of passion for something.
The problem is productivity.
The problem is perception.
The problem is acceptance.

I started by making a three-year goal. In year one, I wanted to write one book and publish it. I never imagined how much of a process this could be. Writing was just the tip of the iceberg. I had to find an editor, a cover artist, and figure out how to get it online to name a few. It was time consuming work! But I did it! I not only wrote one book that first year, I wrote FOUR! And I published my first book one month shy of the end of the first year. Whew! I could taste success.

Then I sold 45 copies in the first three months…not exactly enough to pay the bills, right?

The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.
It’s priorities.

I started to wonder, is this really what I’m passionate about? My fictional characters screamed, “YES!” Now that I had given them a voice, they weren’t going to be silenced again. I stopped to reevaluate. And you know what? They were right. I love writing. I love coming home and relaxing by cuddling with my dogs and talking to my imaginary friends. They sometimes do terrible things (like murder people) and sometimes they do incredible things (like turn into bears). But I love every minute I get to spend with them. Sure the other stuff is a drag, having to format and upload and listen to harsh criticism from beta readers. But in the end, I have a book that makes me proud.

I meet so many people like him.
He doesn’t need to find his passion.
His passion already found him.
He’s just ignoring it.
He just refuses to believe it’s viable.
He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.

This may not pay my bills. I still have to get up and go to work, granted it is now at a different place than where I was. I still have responsibilities that require working a full-time job. But I have realized that what I was passionate about, what made me happy, was always a part of me. It just got buried under the pressure and expectations put upon me by myself and others. I let the “You can’t buy a BMW” mentality dictate my priorities. I was afraid to step out there. I was afraid of failure, or being laughed at.

What have I learned as I am nearing the end of my 3 year goal? Stop listening to the negative. If you love something, DO IT! I have found an amazing amount of support from places I least expected it. There are people out there who will enjoy my stories – just as there are those who won’t. I just have to be proud of the product I put out there.

So, you can expect to continue seeing my books appear. In December, I will have published 7 books this year! That is amazing to me. Have I loved every minute of it? No. But as Mark Manson said, that is unrealistic. You will never love 100% of what you do 100% of the time. But I love it enough to continue!