I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t write. It’s something I’ve always done, something I’ve always been passionate about. From the time I was old enough to hold a pencil, I was writing.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the old sayings,”pursue your passion” or “follow your dreams.” Both of these statements are true, to a point. It’s great if we can pursue our passions and follow our dreams, but we have to be careful with how we interpret these phrases.
Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to find what you love…the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” The key here is work. Just because someone loves to write doesn’t mean they should quit their day job and pursue a fulltime writing career. Pursuing your passion requires work. No matter how passionate you are about something, no one is going to care about it simply because you do. In fact, most people won’t care at all. You have to make them care, which means you must work hard and cultivate your skills to show them you are passionate about it.
To follow your passion implies you’ve discovered it. To cultivate your passion means you work toward building it. I love to write, and those of you who are writers, I’m sure, are right there with me. But the only way I can follow this dream is to work hard and strive for improvement. No one is a bestselling author overnight, and few writers are successful the first time they write something. Most writer’s first attempts are full of rejection letters, negative feedback, and constant self-doubt. I’m not any different. Now I could give up my dream of being a writer at this point, or I could work hard to improve my skills. My passion for writing drives me to succeed, therefore I’ll push myself to improve. I’ll cultivate my passion.
I can’t just expect people to love my work and praise what I do simply because it’s my passion. If I want to be successful, I need to work hard to make it happen. Too many people go through life thinking they will instantly be successful at something simply because it’s what they love to do. I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but this is not the case. A young woman may want to be a doctor and may be passionate about the medical field, but if she’s not willing to learn necessary skills and work hard to improve them, the concept of “following her dream” and “pursuing her passion” will never happen. Dreams don’t just come true. You have to make them come true.
Let’s go back to the Steve Jobs’ quote for a moment. Yes, you do have to like what you do to do great work. Obviously if you don’t like what you’re doing, you’re not going to work as hard to do well. But if you’re passionate about it, you’ll work your tail off to make sure you’re doing a good job. I’ll use my day job of teaching as an example. You can tell the minute you walk into a teacher’s classroom whether or not they love teaching and are dedicated to making a career out of it or are only there until another opportunity presents itself. Teachers who are passionate about teaching put in extra hours, spend weekends writing lesson plans and grading papers, are involved in after school activities and committees to better not only themselves, but the entire school. They go the extra mile. They are energetic and work hard to help students meet their goals. But they are working, that’s the key. They attend conferences and meetings and training session to improve their skills as teachers so they can do an even better job. They cultivate their passion.
As writers, we must do the same.
“Real writers don’t write for recognition. They don’t do it for fame, accolades, or notoriety. They do it because they cannot not write.” -Jeff Goins, The Writer’s Manifesto
Jeff Goins also said, “Real writers do not need inspiration or an audience to begin…They write for the love of writing.”
And for me, this is true. I write simply because I love to write. But if I want to gain an audience, sell books, and receive accolades, I must earn them by cultivating my passion for writing. This means I put forth the effort and develop the necessary skills to make that dream come true. By all means, do what you love. Follow your dream. But you must work hard to improve your skills and cultivate your passion to make it happen.