The Problem With Passion

Passion only gets you so far.

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We say it over and over again — to ourselves; to people we know; to strangers desperate for any string of inspiration to hold onto when creating gets hard.

Do what you’re passionate about.

In my opinion, it’s not terrible advice. Depending on how you interpret it, of course.

I’ve always told my audience that you should let passion be the thing that drives you forward when it seems like nothing else can. But again I’ll remind you that it’s not the only thing you need to be successful. You can be extremely passionate about something and still not put in any effort to making it count.

If, of course, your goal is to turn your passion into a career. If you love something and don’t need it to be your day job, then go on loving it. Nothing wrong with that.

There are a few big problems with the “passion matters” philosophy, even though its deeper meeting holds a lot of strength if you get down far enough into it.

For one thing, it tends to imply that anyone who is passionate about something can turn it into a career. I’M NOT TRYING TO CRUSH YOUR DREAMS! You can, and should, go after any dream you have. But passion does not guarantee success. Some people don’t end up where they hope to be. That’s just how the world works.

It’s also difficult for a lot of people to get from “I love this thing” to “I love this thing enough to put in the work to make it a viable career option.”

Especially when your day job is not your passion, and you have to somehow figure out how to fit this “extra” work into your early mornings, evenings, and weekends.

Passion does not do the work for you. (If only.) It does not save you time, it does not make you more money automatically, it doesn’t necessarily give you an advantage over anyone else pursuing the same path you are.

To me, it’s reserve fuel. When I’m having a bad day and don’t feel like writing anymore and I need to keep going, my passion for health and all things Star Wars keeps my hands on the keyboard.

Plus, doing what you’re passionate about keeps your love for what you do alive. It doesn’t make the work easier. But when the work’s done, it does make you feel better. More confident. Happier.

Use your passion wisely. It can benefit you greatly, but if you lean on your passion without anything to back you up, you’re only going to get so far. Rejections hurt. Waiting sucks. But passion can get you through it. Even when writing is work, it doesn’t ALWAYS have to feel like it.

More on passion and the writing process:

When Your Passion Is Enough

Always Look For an Excuse to Keep Writing

Never Write to Make Other People Happy

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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10 thoughts on “The Problem With Passion

  1. Yes! I definitely feel that last paragraph; it’s good advice, especially for writers who are working other jobs and wondering if they should take the leap into writing as a career.

  2. Solid points. Another thing I feel is that passion sometimes gets presented in a quite stylised, romantic way that makes you pointlessly doubt whether your interest in writing (or whatever else) is REAL passion. Like, if it’s your real passion you’ll be up at 4am with an irrepressible need to write, have a constant burning in the depths of your soul like an exploding sun, blah blah blah. And if you’re not like that, obviously it’s not truly your passion.

    Um, no. Nobody feels like that about anything all the time. You’d explode. It’s enough to simply deeply enjoy something, find it fulfilling, and find time and energy to keep it in your life. You don’t have to be full-on Gatsby-watching-green-light constantly to count as passionate about something.

    1. Exactly! And your comment brings up another point — that yeah, sometimes we might be so excited about something that we feel like we could work on it for 14 hours a day 7 days a week. But that won’t last. Passion comes and goes in waves just like anything else.

  3. Definitely agree with all the above points! And definitely a good read for me whilst I’m getting back into writing. When I believed that passion and success meant one and the same, I often overlooked other flaws in my work because I could solely blame the ‘failure’ of a project on the fact I wasn’t passionate enough about it.

    This really was a necessary read, thank you!

  4. Meg, you always give the absolute best advice and I always appreciate you! This entire post was speaking nothing but the truth. People say that the truth hurt sometimes, but your truths are encouraging and incredibly inspiring. Thank you for once again sharing great and solid advice!

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