Just read an article titled “The Right Way to Follow Your Passion” on the New York Times web site. The part that made the most sense to me is this:
When you sit down to write, sit down to write, not to sell books. … your passion should not come from the outside. It should come from within.
The reason why this advice makes sense is that the success or failure of the creative or passionate pursuit is not entirely in the hands of the creator. A writer may write something that resonates with only a few readers, and it is hard to find exactly those readers. There might be a mismatch between the zeitgeist and the passion project, or even between the person’s skill/talent and her love of the form. The passionate creator almost certainly has bills to pay, which precludes their ability to spend as much time/energy on their project as they would like.
But, in the meantime, there is the urge to pursue the passion. Do it because it brings joy in the moment. Do it because it helps to develop mastery. Do it because it is the one pursuit that makes more sense than any other.
Several years ago, I chatted with a repairman as he worked on fixing my garage door. In keeping with his line of work, he drove a humble truck and looked slightly unkempt. What could a middle-aged Indian professional woman and an American blue-collar guy have talked about? He asked me about Indian tigers about which I know nothing. So, I asked him why he asked about that. “Because I make small wooden figures of birds and wild animals,” he said. I make them in my spare time and sell them at arts and artisans’ fairs.
Since one such fair was coming up in our town soon, I made it a point to visit his booth. My breath was taken away by the number and variety of his creations. Although I had not started thinking of my own creative interests at the time, Joe the Repairman’s art and his passion, especially when seen on the background of his simple life, made a huge impression on me. To this day, I think of him whenever I feel the need for encouragement to continue my pursuits.
And, the lesson I have learnt is that the passion, especially when practiced despite only moderate external success, succeeds when it touches even a single person.