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How I stay passionate

“Put the drama on the page,” advises my favorite writing guru, Julia Cameron. While I take her advice seriously, I surround myself with friends who—thankfully—don’t. They wear their passions, their dramas on their sleeves and regale me with stories of the exotic, the experiential, the practical and the mystical. They are always “on fire.”

Let me introduce you to my friend Jim. He used to hold a high-profile position in the Department of Defense but now works for a private firm offering creative business solutions to clients. He is the type of person who frequently tells “I caught a fish this big” stories, with one major difference: His stories are all true. Whether he’s been in Baghdad or Philadelphia, when he talks, his stories command attention. His larger-than-life tales are told with the eagerness of a curious child. More than anything, though, what attracts me to his stories is the passion with which he infuses them. Here is a man who has the right to be jaded, and maybe even should be, based on all the horrific scenes he has witnessed in war-torn zones around the world. Yet he isn’t. His curiosity about life is contagious.

“I want to travel to Australia and spend time with this tribe on this remote island,” he tells me. Why? It has nothing to do with what he does at work. “The world is so big, there is so much to learn. … How do they do what they do? Can it help us? How does biology help us? How does physics? I want to be out there and learn.”

And that he does, occasionally running away to Japan, or to Arizona to study the border patrol solution and learn how to apply those principles in other areas. He just has a lust for life and its adventures—one evening with Jim and you want to fly to the Himalayas and see what it takes to climb them, or to Vegas to see how the Bellagio really runs.

Julia Cameron advises “Artist Dates,” solitary activities you partake in to revive your artistic soul. My writer friend Lisa, whose elegant prose makes me quiver with appreciation, refers to herself as a tigress: She like to prowl alone, to look at the world in wonder by herself. I am not like that. Writing is already such a solitary process: I sit at my coffee table all day and stare at the china cabinet as I try to describe the ideal way to prepare a cinnamon-spiced stew, or recall how to select the perfect sea bass, or recount my travels to the Middle East. Eventually, the solitude wears me down and when I am running on empty, the last thing I want to do is spend more time alone.

I will go on an occasional solitary date, but mostly, I call one of my buddies. If I need the history of anything, I listen to my friend Rami. Janet has taught me how to enjoy nature by learning about the leaves, flowers and little creatures that inhabit our neighborhood. My friend Nazu, a writer, spends her free time as a clown doctor; her stories teach me humility. Randy, a New Yorker, goes out of her way to feed and clothe children she has adopted in a Bolivian orphanage. Her stories have taught me the world is not always about receiving. Andrea’s on-target advice about life and her willingness to share her experiences have opened avenues I never knew existed.

All of these friends have full-time jobs, but that is not what defines them; what sets them apart is their passion. This is what makes them different. Their varied ethnicities and backgrounds lend completely different flavors and seasonings to their tales. Their ardent fervor for life lifts my spirits and refills my creative reservoir with wonderment. They are not all Pollyannas but they do all have uplifting positive energy.

It’s true that while just one conversation with any of these people results in the birth of innumerable ideas, more important, it reignites my own passion for my work. The love they have for what they do resonates with me. Their stories hark back to the reality that the world is so big and there is so much to explore and so much to write about.

It reminds me why I write—and why I love to write.

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  1. What a beautiful and awe inspiring write up!!! Loved every word of it :)

  2. Great to read ur story but for me, YOU are the major source of inspiration and keeps me passionate about my work and cooking. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and inspiring so many of us, at times it like getting counseling from an elder sis, Monika… !!!!!

  3. Wonderful post (and picture), Monica! We all need our passionate friends for inspiration. They amaze us and help us recharge, so we can keep our own passion going and perhaps inspire others as you are doing (I agree with that comment!). :-)

    Thanks so much for this one!

  4. Roz Cummins says:

    One of the things that I like best about my friends is that they are supportive of whatever it is that interests me, and happy for me that it gives me pleasure. I hope the same is true of my support of their passions as well. I’ve certainly learned to appreciate certain things through my friends that I would otherwise never have known or cared about – from Kung Fu movies to growing giant pumpkins to the history of the Delta Blues. The fact that these things are precious to my friends makes them precious to me.

  5. inspiration is a circular process, from the inside and the outside… you have a very vibrant soul: no wonder you are open to others to receive and at the same time give back so much. Loved this story

  6. Well-said as always, Monica! I also love quiet time to write and contemplate, but crave the energy of others. I was on assignment doing food research last week and profoundly grateful I can spend time with people passionate about what they do, whether it’s crafting organic goat cheese or continuing a family candy store in business for more than a century. Very inspiring!

  7. Just reading this made my heart beat a little faster and put a smile on my face. This is such a good reminder that when I’m feeling a little “storied out,” I need to drive into town and meet with a passionate person to catch their energy and get inspired. It’s not always easy working at home — alone. Thanks, Monica!

  8. What an inspiring piece, Monica! As always, you just fired me up to keep writing! Thanks for keeping me motivated!

  9. I love your story! Passion motivates me and gets my juices going. Happy Holidays!

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