The passion you harbor for writing or music… this emotion acts like the pull of gravity. If it’s balanced, passion will keep your projects in orbit. But too much and everything comes crashing down to Earth.
You can see the all consuming power of passion in many artists. Franz Kafka lived a life of solitude and frustration with writing as his only solace. The Greek scholar Archimedes was so absorbed with drawing circles in the sand, he hardly registered the invading Romans. To him, his work was more important than his life. Claude Monet made over thirty paintings of the Rouen Cathedral. When asked why he worked at it so obsessively, he stated: “I am a prisoner, and must go on until the end.”
It feels like that sometimes. Passion hooks our souls and won’t let go. We are expressive creatures, driven to create. But how do you channel this passion constructively without letting it slip into mania? We want a certain degree of obsession. What else will get us to plop our butt in the chair to write each day or to pick up the pencil to sketch every day?
In 2011, researchers from the Universite du Quebec a Montreal studied musicians and their take on their careers. The study revealed two different kinds of passion, dubbed harmonious and obsessive.
Artists with harmonious passion are motivated by personal mastery. The musicians in this category strive to play something they previously couldn’t. For artists or writers, harmonious passion would be to learn a new skill or complete a project for their own sense of accomplishment.
On the other hand, we have the obsessive artists. These are the types that see their art as a way to measure themselves against those around them. Are they better or inferior to other artists?
The study found that musicians with harmonious passion reported higher levels of satisfaction with music. Obsessive types felt like they were constantly running a race, one they could never win because there was always someone with more talent or success.
Here’s the thing. As creators, we often define ourselves through the art we create — be it writing, painting, music. That’s fine up to a point. When you think of yourself as a creative individual, that artistry should spill over into every aspect of your life.
Spending a few hours prepping and cooking a meal is not a waste of time because you can express your creativity through cooking. Hey, we’re not asking you to be the next Rachel Ray. You don’t have to be the best at everything you do. It’s not a competition. It’s just you trying to express yourself.
Your relationships with other people are ultimately what will tame your passion, keeping it from spiraling out of control into mania. You need to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Take time to be who you are rather than letting the current project consume you. Sleep, eat right, take breaks to do nothing.
Passion is like gravity. It can hold together the solar system. Or it can suck you in like a black hole. It’s all a matter of degree.