Category Archives: work

Missing Something

I walked up to the documentary filmmaker after her presentation at my school.

“I’m a filmmaker too,” I said. “Well… it’s more of a hobby.”

She smiled and nodded encouragingly. “That’s how it starts.”

She’s right.

What’s the difference between a hobby and a career? And how do you differentiate your serious professional passion from your serious personal hobby?

This is what I think: No matter how talented you are in a certain area, if you don’t mind letting somebody else do it, let somebody else do it. Example. My major included a heavy-handed serving of design, and I impressed a professional designer whom I deeply respect with my emerging design skills. Though I have above average ability in design, I’m totally happy leaving it to others. Design is not my calling.

Instead, pursue subjects that you’re not only talented in, but that you feel shouldn’t be happening without you. Example. In summer of 2016 I was a tour guide in Admissions when I found out last minute that a video crew was coming to campus to film. I could feel myself getting antsy as minutes ticked by that morning. I was missing something. Something big. I was in the wrong place. I plucked up my courage and asked my boss if I could go, and was greatly relieved to hear the gracious yes.

This is the difference between a hobby that stays a hobby and a hobby that becomes a professional passion. If you can tolerate other folks doing it for you, if you don’t feel possessive about it, then it’s not really your passion after all. If, however, you feel you’re truly missing something when the work is being done without you, that you’ve just got to be in the fray, you’ve found your niche. Chase it. Catch it. And take the time to encourage wannabes.

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When I Grow Up

To-be-a-DENTISTUp and through college, it seemed to me that the ideal thing was to know what you wanted to do with your life and then head for it. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question everyone gets asked, and when you give multiple answers, it somehow seems less ideal than a decisive, “I want to be a dentist!”

The truth is, no matter how passionate you are about your chosen field of study, it won’t be enough to satisfy you. Creative people in particular need variety to grow on and inspire their work. Screenwriters will tell you that you can’t just be a screenwriter—it’ll sap your life energy. Variety really is the spice of life.

If you know what you want to do, by all means, go for it. If you don’t, then experiment. And even if you’ve found your calling at this point in life, take a break to pay attention to your hobbies. You’ll be better prepared for whatever it is you’re made to do as a Person of Many Interests and Talents.

Discovering Your Career

It can take years of adult life before an individual realizes what they’re really good at. Years! Since I’ll be applying to graduate programs in a number of months, I’m inclined to speed up that process.

I’ve found that passionate interest can be very hard to tell from practical talent, and when pursuing a career, talent (more than passion) is what counts. Passion is a prerequisite to talent, and acts as the necessary motivation to devote time and effort toward an activity. However, the presence of passion doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of skill.

Take for instance my three years of competition in speech and debate. What got me started in the league was my passionate interest in oral interpretation, a form of storytelling and acting. I also experimented with debate out of curiousity. As the years went by, my interps never ranked very highly (though I loved performing them). Debating, however, was another story—I consistently ranked higher as my skill level rose. Despite my own bias towards interp, dispassionate panels of judges helped me realize where my strongest talent existed.

The ingredients of speedy self-discovery seem to be experience, second opinions, and (to a lesser degree) contemplation. When all these components come together, it’s hard to ignore the boundaries separating talent from pure passion.

The Tragedy of Life

Are you waiting? Waiting for inspiration, for experience, for the life you want to come to you? I think we all are, at least a little bit.

I’m in college, still a freshman. I can’t help dreaming about the future. And yet, dreaming is only good for so long. I had aspirations of getting published when I was 11. Now, I have novels, poetry, short stories and a novella to my name, but none are published. What I do have published are some articles in the school newspaper, a few award-winning poems, and my blog. I think it’s a good start; yet on some days all I can think of is what I haven’t written and the things I haven’t done.

Go for it now. The future is promised to no one. ~Wayne Dyer

Expect an early death — it will keep you busier. ~Martin H. Fischer

I’ve lived these quotes. Some days I’ve tried to accomplish everything I possibly can, with the idea that by the day I die, I’ll have missed nothing, done everything, completely used myself up in life so that there will be nothing wasted in death.

But you know what? After a long day of work, just before I’d go to sleep, I’d know that even though I did so much, accomplished bazillions of things, there were always more things to be done. And all I could see were those remaining tasks on my endless mental list.

Live every day as if it were going to be your last; for one day you’re sure to be right. ~Harry “Breaker” Harbord Morant

I’d never be ready to die at this rate. There would always be more to do. Not to mention that it’s terribly difficult to plan for the future with this mentality. What’s a mortal to do?

Workaholism is one extreme. There is another extreme that many more of us are guilty of, especially when it comes to writing.

We wait.

The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it. ~Author unknown.

That’s a quote I can live with.

Before I discovered NaNoWriMo, I was actually waiting to live life so I’d have enough experience to write something good. What did I, a mere youngster, have to contribute to the world anyway?

How wrong that mentality was. Isaac Asimov began selling his science fiction stories when he was 19. Mary Shelley published Frankenstein at age 21. Helen Keller published her autobiography when she was 22. I look at these authors, and glimpse what I can be if I choose to act, instead of wait.

Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think. -Chinese Proverb

Life is not about doing everything you possibly can. It’s also not about waiting. I’ve found that doing something, joyfully and perhaps slowly, and growing in that experience, is more important than doing just the right thing at the right time and doing it perfectly.

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake…” –Francis Bacon

What’s holding you back?

Wordplay

I have a knack for turning play into work. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could switch that around? Earlier in my life, writing was play, but now that I think of myself as an author, writing and editing have become a burden. This is not as it should be.

In my high school speech & debate years, one of the important lessons I learned was that if you want to give your best performance, don’t try to. Consciously trying to perform well takes away the joy and experience of the performance itself, for both performer and audience. If you want to perform well, the key is to forget you’re performing. You’re playing. If you’re having the time of your life, or simply enjoying yourself and reveling in your activity, your audience will be able to share.

The same is true of writing. Consciously try to do your best, and you cripple yourself. The key to excellence is a willingness to experiment and play and enjoy your work. Remember how your writing was once play, not a chore, and make it into play again.

I’m doing this by setting aside 15 minutes a day, no more nor less, to play with words. No expectations, no word count, nothing but freedom to enjoy myself and remember how wonderful writing once was to me, and still is.

“Yes, I’ve made a great deal of dough from my fiction, but I never set a single word down on paper with the thought of being paid for it … I have written because it fulfilled me … I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

-Stephen King