On Having a Passion

An exchange I had this morning got me to thinking about “being a writer.” I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who is actually a writer. As in, I don’t know anybody who makes their living off writing alone.

My family has the perfect combination of high intellect and low self esteem that makes writers seem to be another species of human. They’re just so much better than us regular old readers. The idea that I might want to be a writer was almost embarrassing in my house. But I am the black sheep, after all.

So when I was 13, I tried to publish a book of poetry and short stories. That was the last piece if fiction I showed anybody until I started this blog. I got it back covered in red marks and I threw it straight in the trash. At the time I was so high-strung that the idea of being bad at something terrified me to the point of paralysis. The end result was that if I didn’t think I couldn’t succeed, I wouldn’t even try.

But when you love something like I loved writing, you can’t just turn your back on it. I wrote poetry and story concepts in secret for years, terrified that if anybody found it and read it, they’d realize how ridiculous I was. Here I pretended to be this practical, hard-working girl but at the end of the day all I wanted to do was be a fairy queen. Because being a writer seemed so fantastical that I might as well have wanted to be fictional.

I became a great essay writer, and a great biographer of myself. Non-fiction was easy to cop to. So I’ve always been writing, in one way or another pretty much constantly. Writing or thinking up stories I never tell anyone about.

Because that’s what passion is. It’s other things too, but it’s also the thing you would do if you had no obligations, if you had no expectations or insecurities. It’s the thing you’d do alone in a basement, or for a million dollars a day.

It’s one-o-clock in the morning, my sweet boyfriend is asleep beside me, and I’m writing this on my phone after I just spent the last 4 hours sitting in my living room writing something else.

I’m not special. People with passion do these things. It’s basically a compulsion. And I know there’s a lot of “follow your dreams” shit out there on the Internet, usually delivered by people who are already famous for following their dreams. So of course they’re going to talk it up; it worked out fine for them.

But I’m actually not going to suggest that you follow your dreams. If you have any kind of true calling, it will follow you. Here I am, unemployed, writing for this blog that has never, and probably will never earn anything more than it’s cost me. But I can’t stop. Not that I’d want to, but I already know that I couldn’t if I tried.

If something has you by the guts like that, you have to honor it. And I don’t mean that you have an obligation to honor it. I mean you have to in the way that you can’t not.