“What would you do if you could do anything you wanted to?” James Martin, author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, asked readers in a recent interview.
When at Wharton School studying business, this Jesuit priest says he shared his desire to study poetry with his advisor, who responded, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Martin disagreed, went on to study poetry, and says it’s what he remembers best from his education.
Of course, there are dozens of “practical” reasons not to pursue poetry or a writing life of any kind. It’s not likely to pay the rent or mortgage, at least for a while, and no one at your job may give a whit about your affinity for Whitman. The good news is this: No one needs to care about the writing you love other than you.
In my experience, when we let love lead, our lives and our work become far less confusing. We don’t end up in business school (because we “should”) when we are far better suited to teach composition, write articles, and author books. When we trust our passions to steer us where we are intended to go, we may find ourselves in a less prescribed career track. And it may take some exploring to determine exactly how and where we fit. Good thing creative people are good at exploring!
Inspiration may not immediately fill your bank account, but it is likely to fill your sails. Committing to a productive writing rhythm may not lead to your next big career move. But it just might make you happy. And there’s no better compass than happiness.
Who knows, doing exactly what makes us happiest may have an even greater untapped earning potential than that predictable paycheck. With passion as productivity engine, we’re far more likely to throw our shoulders into the work and stay with it, simply because it feels better to do so than to stop.
What would you do if you could do anything you wanted to? When in doubt, write.