Making passion a chore


We all need a friend who spurs us on, who isn’t afraid to try something new and expects the same of us. That’s Ann. She’s out West, I’m in the East, so we talk on the phone when we need encouragement. During our last conversation she brought up our mutually agreed-upon decision to apply to a certain writing conference and asked, “How’s that going?”

I’d forgotten. And once she reminded me, I thought about the writing I’d done, the writing I wanted to do, and whether or not–if I was fortunate enough to be accepted–I’d be happy sharing work I felt lukewarm about.

That lukewarm work pays the bills and gives me some measure of success, but it’s nothing compared to my passion project.

For 20 years I’ve been picking away at a complex storyline that has grown and branched out and is practically overgrown–it’s that massive. It started with a tale I told my kids, then kept spinning itself into a bigger and bigger yarnball of crazy. It’s a monster, a mess, impossible to control, probably never going anywhere. But it’s the one thing I want to see my name on. It’s a fiction nightmare, a young adult book (well, okay, series) I have wrestled with, so far unsuccessfully. I’ve written pages and pages of snippets, notes, details, scenes, but I make excuses and find reasons to avoid the actual writing of the story start to finish.

I told Ann, “I can’t. I know we discussed it, but if I try for it, I have to try for it with this story. I can’t do anything else. I have to go in with my passion project.”

You should know that I hate the concept of the passion project. It’s a stupid name, really. As if loving something enough and losing your head over it is going to help you get through the rough patches any easier. If it doesn’t work in relationships, how’s it going to work in writing?

Here’s how. I can think of it with passion, but I have to approach it like a chore.

Laundry, dishes, grocery shopping. Not a passion project among them, but they get done on a regular basis. I resist the “follow your passion” mantra because that’s so la-la–you’re doomed to fail once you lose impetus, steam, forward momentum.

But chores are baked into daily living. You do ’em because you have to. If they don’t get done, the dishes sit, the clothes smell, the power gets turned off and the car gets repossessed. Some days you just get out of bed and go to work.

No…most days you just get out of bed and go to work. But work gets done.

You know where this is going. Stop dreaming. Get to work. It’s laundry. Don’t fret over or analyze each load. Just. Shove. It. In. With. Soap.

Though there’s nothing revolutionary in Amina Islam’s essay about starting a passion project, I learned that’s how Humans of New York began. She says, “It just feels good to get immersed in a creative project of some sort.”

So… what’s your choice of immersion? If it’s writing, I’m here for you.

Photo courtesy of

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