A Writer’s Passion: Not From Above, But From Below

Writing Advice

It’s Monday morning. For a lot of you that means — what? Getting up, going to work. For me, it’s the same as Sunday. It’s the same as Saturday. It’s the same as Friday. The days shoulder together. Amoebic, they splurch together making one big super blob floating in the mushy middle of my morning brain.

It’s easy to become inured to it. That’s not necessarily a good thing, mind. When every day seems the equivalent of pig’s gruel, gray and gooey, you start to feel a little lost, a little empty.

You gotta push past that shit as a writer. I mean, you probably have to push past that shit in any job — but at your day job, you can conceivably spend an hour or a day not doing very much and get away with it. The paycheck shall still come, after all, provided you don’t do this in full-view of those who control your financial destiny. But a writer — well, like I’ve said before, it’s swim forward or die.

And that means you need to find the passion in your work.

In every work.

On every page.

Hanging on every word.

Question is, how does one do that, exactly? Stop treating passion like it’s an external thing. Stop expecting it to come to you. We expect passion to fall from the sky: “Oh, this is a subject about which I am passionate. That other subject, not so much.” Bonk. “It hit me in my soft, spongy head. Huzzah!”

Passion does not come from the sky.

It is unearthed from the ground. It is discovered through mental archaeology. (And yes, if you choose you can wear a fedora and run around with a whip. I can be often found in public this way. Without pants.)

This is especially true of the freelance writer. Someone might hand you a 5,000-word assignment on the breeding habits of goblins. It isn’t a subject about which you’re particularly energized. That’s fine. That’s normal. Find the passion. Find the hook. Find what connects you to the material. Become passionate about it. Unearth the secret bond you have with that material. You might discover this by asking, “What’s my angle?” Or, “What’s this about?” Even better, “Why do I give a fuck?”

That last question is always a good one.

Why, oh why, do I give a fuck?

If you don’t give a fuck, the reader won’t give a fuck.

If you don’t put passion into it, it’s quite unlikely that any passion will rise out of it like steam off of warm ground. It’ll be cold and barren. Audiences can feel that. Hands on the ground, they feel that inert chill.

No passion means no hook, no angle. Not for you. Not for them.

This is a freelancing secret, by the way. The work is always the work, but you have to bring yourself to the work and put your own passion into it. It won’t be there waiting for you. It’s like all things in life: it takes effort. Some writers are allergic to effort. Those writers will inevitably fail. Because passion?

That’s what will keep you going.

That’s what makes it all worth it.

That’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s Monday or Thursday or Bloomsday or Caturday. Because every day is a new archaeological expedition in which you unearth the words that excite the everloving shit out of you.

That’s what being a writer is all about.

13 comments

  • If you don’t give a fuck, the reader won’t give a fuck.

    Everything a growing writer needs to now about why writing well is important, summed up in that sentence.

  • Upon delving into my Reading List O’ Doom: Section A, The Classics, I’ve discovered something. Most of the time, I’m forced to consider more modern works that touch on the same themes found in books written a hundred years ago, and invariably, I find that authors in the past tend towards more passion than modern day writers.

    Now, I don’t want to make that a blanket statement, because mileage varies greatly, but…

    You know what? This is a blog post reply. I’ll just do that instead.

  • My freelance world was entirely different from yours. If I had a 5000 assignment, it was likely on something like the relative effects of LIFO or FIFO inventory valuation methods on after-tax cashflow for startup companies. Passion for the subject was hard to come by. But I had to have passion for the result. I had to be able to look back at the end of an assignment and say, “OK, it’s well organized. It’s clear. It makes all the right points in the right order and in the fewest possible words. The tone is appropriate for the audience.” So passion? I dunno. Certainly not the sort of passion I might work up for Goblin fucking, I mean depending on the Goblin . . .

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