I asked my Creative Writing professor a question that I think about so often– “How has the act of writing changed for you now that you it as a job?” One of the things I fear most about the future is the translation of my passions into my profession. My professor responded with an honest and real answer: He said reading had changed so that he was constantly scouting for techniques and strengths in the text as assets to replicate in his own… that the act of reading had become, more or less, a refined practice of study, and the act of writing a regimented and structured act upon which the framework of the rest of the day was built. “The awed and raw fascination of it all, of reading a new short story, or gawking at characters for the very first time…” he explains, “I suppose it is not gone, but it is different.”
This terrifies me. I didn’t have to even ask him for this answer– I knew it would be the reality. I cannot imagine looking at the world as a writer through the eyes of a mathematician or a scientist, constantly trying to pin down the variables and processes that will perfect my writing. Joy and passion are the chemicals of the artist, and once that is jaded… what have you? Just work, is all. Just another thing to do. Just another monotonous action to defy time, to defy death, to fill the voids of existence.
As an individualistic society, we are taught to pursue those things which satisfy us internally, but the problem with passion is its flightiness, its restless reincarnation from person to person, until we are halfway through our lives sitting behind a cubicle at some editing firm squeezing in time between coffee breaks for our latest novel, telling ourselves that this is it, this is the one, the same thing we’ve told ourselves for thirty years– or we’re giving another speech in front of a crowd of college students who are rapidly firing questions about our latest best-seller, and repeat the same twenty answers that we’ve given for years now, and head home to fulfill the rest of our day’s writing quota.
Maybe this is all a grossly amateur way of looking at things, but I know one thing for certain– I cannot possibly allow myself to lose that wonder and awe for everything that I love. No matter my success and my relationship to my work, the act of creating has intrinsic value, the strong declaration into the universe that I was here. I existed. And I suppose that it is work– it must be– but so long as I never lose that rose-colored lens, so long as I never look at a work of art as anything less than divine, I suppose it will be okay. And we don’t do it because we get attention or compensation… we do it because, as my professor said, “It is central to our self-concept. It is who we are.”