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The Daily Think: Talent != Passion

There’s this paradox in art that the more personal the work, the more universal it becomes. It’s the answer to the artist who tries to make “relatable” work and ultimately falls flat despite great effort to address the human condition. Ultimately, the only condition anyone knows is their own, so attempts to capture the condition of anyone else read false. All conditions are pretty much the same condition. Everyone just has a different way in.

I know a lot of talented artists whose work gets a lot of attention. Maybe not great fame, but a following. Maybe never more than a hobby, but a hobby that gets recognized. Yet, despite being told how talented I am more times than I can count since I was ten years old, nothing I’ve done has ever gotten much of a following. I crack myself up, but I don’t get retweeted. I make myself think and cry, but the blogs I’ve had over the years seldom get a comment.

This makes me wonder if I’ve been lying all along, if there’s something about being me that I just don’t get, so no one else does either. The one thing that my colleagues and friends have in common that I don’t is that they can sustain their passions. Writing is only a passion for me when I’m actually doing it, but the reality is that I’ve spent much more of my life not writing than I have writing.

It’s taken me thirty years and a masters degree to start making peace with the idea that talent isn’t the same as passion. Some talents have the passion of a lifelong romance, some talents have the passion of a fling, and some talents are an awkward couple of dates. Perhaps that’s the lie that I’ve been telling in my writing all along, that a fling would last forever when I know it won’t. I can only hope that by letting it go I have an opportunity to find my true love.

The Daily Think: The Big Boss

The sign in front of the church read, “WORK FOR THE LORD! THE RETIREMENT BENEFITS ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD!” I’m not much of a god person, but I appreciate a good, clever church sign (even the hokey ones) as much as anyone, and it gave me a smile on my drive home from getting groceries.

Giant has stopped selling Tofutti cream cheese in favor of Greek-style cream cheese, which annoyed me as much as it amused me because that was the worst thing that happened to me today. I really have nothing to complain about.

Anyway, something about the church sign stuck with me. In the midst of the vocational chaos that has seemed to take over my life lately, I thought, “Wait, who do I work for again?”

There’s a saw among the new-agey spiritual types that your work, whatever it is, is your ministry. Not everyone is made to be in a “spiritual” vocation, or needs to be. Some deeply spiritual people are accountants and hospital administrators and cashiers. But the instruction goes that your work is your ministry, no matter what is, not matter how rote or pedestrian the tasks. Your work is your ministry.

I took that to heart many years ago, but somehow lost sight of it. It was easier when I was teaching, of course, and easier at times when I had a “fun” job. It’s less easy now, but that is the point, I suppose. It doesn’t mean I need to stay in chaos, but while I’m here I need to remind myself: “Who do I really work for?”