Here’s the really cool thing about finally knowing your life purpose with crystal clarity:
When you’re clear what your true purpose is in life, you’re able to use that purpose to tap into a wellspring of passionate energy that then propels your forward in all the different ways you choose to express your purpose, including your writing.
You may be thinking at this point, “But can’t I get published writing about something I am not passionate about and doesn’t have anything to do with my purpose in life?”
The answer, of course, is yes. I’ve done it, and the stories were published. In fact, those experiences enabled me to understand the importance of identifying and writing about topics that I am passionate about. And what I discovered is that I want to write— as often as possible— about topics that fuel my passions.
The hard lesson I learned about passion came fairly early in my freelance career. I had sold my veterinary practice and was striving to become stable and profitable as a full-time freelance writer specializing in writing magazine articles. At the time I lived in Greensboro, North Carolina, which was also the home of a magazine publisher of an in-flight magazine. Because I lived close by, I mustered up enough nerve to visit the editor, a nice woman named Maggie. This was my first face-to-face meeting with a magazine editor, and I was nervous as a groom standing at the altar.
Maggie must have picked up on this and made it a point to be gentle and cordial, so I survived the meeting without any undo embarrassment. After that, I started sending her ideas for possible articles. After sending four or five different ideas, I received a call from Maggie, offering me an assignment. She told me that she liked my writing style but that none of the ideas quite hit the mark. She did, however, need a piece on the trend of business suites. I didn’t know much, nor did I care much, about business suites, but I figured an assignment was an assignment. After all, I didn’t have a long line of other assignments. I could use the money, which was good, and the clip, which was even better. (A clip is a copy of a published article you’ve written. You include copies of your clips in future queries to other magazines to show editors that you can, indeed, write well enough to be published.)
I took the assignment. I worked hard on it, interviewed a lot of suite experts, and turned in what I thought was a credible article. Before too long, I received a check in the mail and a new assignment.
This one was on office technology. I love gadgets, so the subject was fairly interesting. I wrote it, received the check, and a new assignment. This went on for four or five different articles, each one business related, and each one less and less interesting. The worst one I remember was about office furniture. Even though I lived within thirty minutes of High Point, North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world, I had no passion for the subject. But I took the assignment anyway and churned out another article.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my lack of interest about the subjects was having a grave effect on the quality of my work. In short, the articles I submitted were poorly written. I hadn’t bothered to look at the published articles, or I would have seen that they were being heavily edited by one of the magazine editors prior to publication. I was too busy for such nonsense, not to mention that by the time I finished the articles, I was bored to tears with whatever the subject had been.
After finishing the last assignment, several weeks went by without a word from Maggie. True, I hated working on those articles, but I needed the money. I finally called her and in my most pleasant, up-beat voice said, “Hi, Maggie, I’m calling for my next assignment. What do you have?”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line before Maggie replied, “Well, frankly, Brad, there won’t be any other assignments.” She then went on to describe in some detail how far short my articles had fallen. She told me that she’d kept hoping I would learn from their editing efforts what they were looking for, but since I hadn’t shown any inclination in that direction, she felt it would be unwise for the relationship to continue.
I was devastated, although deep inside, I wasn’t surprised. Somehow I knew I wasn’t putting forth my best effort, just the best I could muster for topics that sparked no passion in me. It was one of the most important lessons I learned in those early days.
Do I still take assignments that I am less than passionate about? Yes, once in a while, but not without knowing the dangerous ground on which I’m treading. In those cases, I make it a point to find something about the article that does interest me, something about which I can generate a bit of enthusiasm. And I strive to keep such assignments to a minimum by always having a lot of great passionate ideas circulating to many different magazines.
As we pull around to the home stretch in Part 2 of the Manifesto, I’d really enjoy and appreciate hearing from those who are following along. What are you gleaning from the Manifesto? What questions do you have? What else would you really like to see explored in more depth? Post your comments below.