Passion vs. Practicality: Finding A Middle Ground

January 5, 2009 at 10:49 pm (2008)

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I jokingly referred to this blog post on Twitter as Life vs. Everything Else (or What Happens When You Can’t Be Creative Because You’re Too Busy Paying the Damned Bills), but I don’t really think I was joking at all. In fact, I sadly think I’m actually serious.

When you’re younger, it seems you have so much time to discover yourself, to chase a dream and perfect a skill. Parents and teachers recognize these skills or talents and help you find a creative outlet to pursue them. Dance instruction, art classes, music lessons…You’re not only encouraged to cultivate your passions, but you’re practically expected to.

So what happens between adolescence and adult-life, between school and the reality of the working world, where values suddenly change? How does it happen that artistic outlets become closed off and creative expression takes a backseat?

How did life suddenly get in the way?

And how do you turn it back around?

In college, I was at the height of creative productivity. Cranking out short stories and poetry and essays in workshops and classes while leading literary endeavors felt satisfying and natural. However, for the past three years since graduating, I have struggled to find my place in the world outside of academia, searching for the right blend of passion and practicality, wondering how to nourish that creative impulse in jobs that just don’t call for it.

I first found my creativity stifled when I began a job in international exchange, where numbers ruled and problem-solving meant figuring out why we were over in the cash drawer. In my position, I sought to utilize my writing skills every chance I could get and managed to keep creative sanity by drafting professional correspondence and composing instruction manuals for new hires.

When I left that job for one in Corporate Communications, I couldn’t be more excited. In this new job, I was able to style photoshoots, edit and organize press releases, arrange events, and write internal communications. It was a job I loved and excelled at, but that quickly turned sour. My confidence waned, my feelings of self-worth plummeted, and my belief in myself, and my writing, became non-existent.

Thanks to the outlet that this blog provides, thanks to some wonderfully encouraging new friends, thanks to a country of inspiration and a journey of self-discovery, I’m able to see how very much a part of me this desire for some form of expression is. And finally, I’m beginning to see that there can be a middle ground between creative fulfillment and corporate life, and that I belong somewhere in that in-between.

These past few months, I’ve rediscovered my passion. I’ve found what I’ve been looking for.

Now, I find myself brimming with a familiar curiosity, eager to learn and experience the world around me. My mind feels always occupied with ideas for creative projects, opportunities, and stories.

I have a new site set to launch in February.

I have the outline of a new novel and two short stories waiting to be written.

I have my original novel waiting to be finished.

I have ideas for artistic community involvement.

I have a personal art project waiting to be produced.

Blog posts, freelance editing projects, marketing, publicity, and event ideas…

I’m full-up, wanting to do it all.

The thought of not pursuing these projects and opportunities is incredibly disconcerting; it feels as if a part of me would once again fade, and I’m not ready to let go of this incredible feeling.

Though I know, as much as I would like to, I can’t devote myself full-time to these projects. I have a job, that as much as I would like to, I just can’t quit. I very much enjoy the environment of a business, I’m good at what I already do, and, most importantly, I have debt to pay off and monthly bills to take care of that would certainly prevent me from doing so in the first place. Practicality wins this round over passion, yet I’m not willing to let that passion go.

I need to find some kind of balance, only how do I do I start? How do I take these dreams further, devote proper attention while working a 9-5, manage these projects and feel artistically fulfilled while remaining stuck in a creatively-stifling environment?

These are the questions I have to ask as I begin a new adventure. For the past few years, I’ve struggled to rediscover who I am as an individual, culminating these recent months in the greatest growth experience I could have ever expected.

Now, it’s time to have a little fun, experiment with chance, and follow the path of this new creative journey.

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3 Comments

  1. Kristin said,

    It’s a tough balance to strike, true. Some nights you just don’t have the energy or the will. Some nights you’re brimming, overflowing with creativity–until you sit down to do something, and then it all vanishes. Some nights you just want to SLEEP, dammit!

    But there are other nights. Nights when everything flows, when the ideas come fast & furious, when that magic happens and you remember why you’re doing it in the first place.

    Use the good nights to deal with the bad ones. When you just can’t handle forcing those neurons to fire, remind yourself that there will be other nights, and they will be amazing.

    Kristin – Thanks so much for your comment. You say “some nights you’re overflowing with creativity until you sit down to do something and it all vanishes…” EXACTLY. Which is why, when I find that creativity, I try so very hard to hang onto it, because I don’t know when it will fade.

    It feels as if I’ve only just found that creative spark these past two months, and it feels powerful and inspiring and I’ve realized that I just don’t want to live life without that anymore, because it’s very much a part of us, isn’t it?

    I’m going to take your advice to heart and try not to get too frustrated with myself when that creative flow ebbs…because if it is a part of us, then maybe it never really goes away.

    Thanks so much for your comments and inspiration, and best of luck to you! – Susan

  2. lolasmum said,

    I can really relate to that post. I gave up a full scholarship to a masters program because I wasn’t sure if it was going to be “practical” even though I had never felt more grounded in my life. I’ve spent the past 5 years trying to get back to that head space.

    Finally, as a stay-at-home mom, I feel that I can put my passion & creativity into raising my beautiful daughter and have time (sort of!) to pour more creativity into side projects, like my website. I know it’s a luxury not everyone can afford (although we’re hardly living luxuriously) it has been my solution to the problem.

    lolasmum – As much of a comfort as it is to realize I’m not alone, I hate to hear that anyone can relate to posts such as these for what it brought for you. It looks like things have turned out for the best for you, though, and I’m so thrilled to see that. I think that there is such a divide between what our passions are, what intuition says, and what is practical, or what outside forces might dictate. And it’s tough to find that balance, to get back to that passion that might be so much a part of you.

    It certainly looks as if you’re getting there, and I hope that I can learn from your example. Thanks so much for the comment, and best wishes! – Susan

  3. Defygravity84 said,

    The beginning of your post is exactly what I’ve been obsessed with lately, the concept of “what if my college creative writing classes were as good as I’ll ever get.”

    Sarah – I’m beginning to see that maybe now is when we take our passion into our own hands…When you’re in school, you can sign up for lessons or courses that will essentially guide you, that lights that fire underneath you and keeps your creativity aflame. But then you’re dropped into the real world after graduation and you don’t have the luxury of professors to act as mentors (and we had some great ones, didn’t we?). I think this is the challenge to yourself — if you want that passion back, you have to work hard and find it. Begin with small steps, find your own mentors, and open yourself up to the idea. It’s so incredibly hard to find this balance — this difficulty for myself is what sparked this post in the first place — but I’m also beginning to see that passion is a part of you, and if you create the smallest spark again, some pretty wonderful things can begin to happen.

    Go literal with lighting the candle — you said it set the creative mood for you before. If it works, keep it going! And have faith in yourself and your abilities. You’re great. Love, Susan

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