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Passion is an elusive bugger. Finding it is like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands. And once you’ve got it, there’s no guarantee it won’t wiggle right out of your fingers and swim away.

People lose their passion more often than I realized. When I attended Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk a couple months ago, I could hardly believe my ears when she confessed that she lost her passion for writing after the unexpected success of Eat, Pray, Love. This, from a wildly successful author who thinks of herself as married to writing!

Naturally, she was panicked. The love of her life had left her. But then she took a friend’s advice, stepped away from her writing and let her curiosity lead her on a new adventure…one that unfolded in her garden. She dug, planted, watered and harvested for months. She kept her mind off of it. Then one day, while she was digging in the dirt, her passion returned. When it did, she stood up, brushed off her knees, went inside and got back to work.

Gilbert recently talked about this “passionless time” and the importance of curiosity in an O article, and I think her advice is worth sharing:

“If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.”

If your passion slips through your fingers and swims out of reach, let it go for a while. Put it out of your mind and follow your curiosity wherever it may lead you. Just remember to bring a net because you never know when it will return.

Have you ever lost your passion? How did you reclaim it?

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Inertia.

If I had to describe the biggest challenge I’m facing on the fiction writing front as of late, that is what it would be.

Complete and utter inertia.

Which is confusing, because last year I had so much momentum going during the first draft of my new novel that it practically wrote itself. I would spring out of bed at 5AM and write for a couple hours before work, then I’d race home at 5PM and do the same thing. When my manuscript was done, I revised it a little and sent it off to my editor secretly hoping that she would tell me it was brilliant and I’d be on the agent hunt in no time.

But instead, I got back pages upon pages of notes, which admittedly were filled with very valuable advice. Advice that meant I needed to rewrite most of my manuscript.

I’ve been facing this major revision for several months now, working on it here and there, but I can’t seem to find the momentum that carried me through the first draft. Five o’clock in the morning has never felt darker, colder or less conducive to creativity. And the same can be said for five o’clock at night.

What to do? Give up? Start a new project? Find a new dream? Change my name and go into hiding?

Disheartened, I turned to my husband for my advice. And in his infinite wisdom he reminded me that this is what “real” writers go through.

Huh.

I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s a great point. It’s easy to look at all beautiful books displayed at Barnes & Noble and assume they were written effortlessly. But I know from many a published friend that this is far from true. In the literary world, no one is exempt from the rigors of revision. In fact, many successful writers credit this painful process with getting published in the first place. Dream chaser, Therese Walsh, went through 3 major revisions (and even changed genres!) during the writing of her successful debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House).

Even New York Times Bestsellers aren’t exempt. Dream chaser, Allison Winn Scotch, talks openly about the painful revision process she battled through while writing her third novel, The One That I Want (Crown).

I think I’ve been looking at the revision process all wrong. Rather than feeling overwhelmed and hopeless about the massive revision before me, I should take comfort in the fact that most writers go through the exact same thing.

And if I want to be a “real” writer one day, then I must get through it too.

 

Anyone else out there battling inertia? How are you getting through it?

On Saturday I met a young woman named Christina, who recently moved to Bethlehem from Italy. I was immediately fascinated by her story because I’ve always fantasized about one day doing the same thing…in reverse. Of course, I peppered her with questions about her journey: What made you decide to move here? Was it hard to leave your family and friends? What will you do for work? And the big one: weren’t you scared?

She smiled at all my questions and in her best English she replied, “I try not to overthink it. Living in the United States has always been a dream of mine, so I finally decided to move here and see what it’s like.”

I was stunned and inspired by her nonchalance. If I were in her shoes, I doubt I would have been as laid back. But her words reminded me how important it is to do the things we dream of and not over think them in the process. After all, it would’ve been pointless for Christina to do too much planning before her trip because she never would have been able to predict all the opportunities, people and experiences waiting for her here in Bethlehem.

We all have different journeys that we dream of taking, whether it’s relocating half-way around the world, changing careers, redefining our lifestyles or trying something new. The danger in overthinking the journey at hand is that all the unknowns can end up scaring us out of it altogether.

Like Christina, if we open ourselves to the experience and trust that we’ll find our way, we too can live our dreams with the freedom and flexibility to choose the path forward.

And really, what’s better than that?

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