I was engaged in conversation with a few painters and photographers. One person observed he'd never felt passion for anything. Then, he found his art and experienced passion - temporarily. Now, he felt lost.
As often happens, the conversation rolled over and over and over in my mind.
Hmm, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt passion for my art. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt passion for anything. Yes, I've experienced joy, delight, elation, frustration, and a host of other emotions for my art. But I don't think I've ever felt passion for my art.
Which led me to ask the question, “What is passion?”
What follows is merely my rumination; my thinking “out loud”. Perhaps my thoughts will help someone else consider the question, “what is my passion?”
Passion then and now
I started with the etymology of the word.
Passion stems from an ancient Latin word and originally meant “to suffer; to endure”.
Passion suggested one was “moved to action where there are pain and suffering.”
Coming from that old Catholic School Girl background, passion had a specific meaning - a rather frightful meaning to a young, impressionable mind.
Today, those old usages have been replaced by “feeling a compelling emotion.” In common parlance, “passion” has become synonymous with “bliss.” How often have you heard “follow your passion”? Or how about this one, “Do what you’re passionate about.”
Is Passion a "thing" or a process?
This new meaning for “passion” suggests “the what (or the thing) you feel a compelling emotion about” will complete happiness, wholeness, and contentment. If you do the one thing you feel strong emotions about, you will be fulfilled. (Feel free to insert any other positive and affirming descriptors.)
The instruction to do what you’re passionate about implies a “thing,” or perhaps a modality, or a process. You are passionate about watercolor painting. You are passionate about wedding photography, or newborn photography. You are passionate about a result. You are passionate about the process of painting, the process of photography, the process of creating.
Or is Passion a “why”?
What if passion is an amorphous energy; an energy that stirs through your entire life? What if passion is a silent force that pulls you forward? What if that silent force moves you to action where there is “pain and suffering.”
What if the “pain and suffering” is about
- how you choose to live your life,
- beliefs you hold,
- decisions you make,
- life experiences,
- accumulated wisdom,
- your world view,
- how thoroughly you know your motivations?
My thoughts about passion
What if passion is a singular driving force? And what if that driving force influences every aspect of your life, every opportunity, every attempt, every learning, every skill you develop, every piece of art you create? I think passion is the “why” we make our choices in life and art.
I reckon our passion may require serial explorations of modalities before we fully understand how it guides our choices, our art. I think we eventually gravitate to the creative method that allows us to fully exhibit our “why” - our passion - to the world.
A clear example of"passion as why" is Shannon MacFarlane, the compassion photographer. If there is one driving force throughout her days, it is her call to "care". (You can read her story here.) She cares because she has lived the life of uncertainty her clients' experience. As a mother of a child born severely ill, she has been intimate with the possibility of death. She took to her camera to document her son's journey in the neonatal intensive care unit. She wanted to document the glory of her son in his hardest moments. She wanted to honor his very existence.
This passion - this “why” - is the singular force that drives her forward. This "why" influences every aspect of her professional life, every piece of photographic art she creates. Her passion has led her to an art form rarely attempted or accomplished by others. And her passion has guided her to produce art of immeasurable value to her clients.
Does the passion of every artist have to be so intense? No, the development of passion for any artist does not require life and death situations. I do think passion develops with a built-in consequence. There is an emotional price to pay if passion is not developed or expressed.
Where does passion come from?
Let's take another look at the original meaning, that Latin root. Passion meant to suffer, to endure; moved to action where there are suffering and pain. One can only endure or "move to action" if an experience has taken place. Passion develops from experience. Passion originates from engagement. The growth of passion can start from your childhood or from the experiences of adulthood.
You can not develop a passion for something unless you have had an experience with it. Passion does not dabble; it goes all out. Passion drives you to be better, to be best. Passion does not accept "good enough". Passion is a deep investment to be pursued and elevated as it directs your choices, your actions, your art.
And yes, I think a passion can run its course.
Is passion required for your art business?
I’m going to say “yes.” However, that passion is the “why” you bring to your business. It’s not the "thing" you do.
Your passion is not the modality of your art or art business. Your passion is not the process of your art or art business. Your passion is not the emotional state generated by your art.
Don't feel guilty if you aren't passionate - it only means your experience tank is low. If you want to be passionate about something, get out there and "get your hands dirty." Try something, engage with it, and try it again. You'll learn if it's your passion.
Wrapping up thoughts of passion
What is your passion? What drives you? What are your thoughts about passion?
Thank you, fellow artists, for your conversations. You made me think deeply. Thank you.
And, thanks for reading this article.
Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure.
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