“Placing Too Much Importance on Passion”

January 25th, 2012 by

In two recent interviews I did with Academy Award winning screenwriters, I was struck by the fact both of them said one of the most critical factors in writing a good story is for the writer to be passionate about the project. Then today I read this from writer and teacher Jane Friedman:

Recently, I ran across this quote:

Passion is the quickest to develop, and the quickest to fade. Intimacy develops more slowly, and commitment more gradually still.

—Robert Sternberg

I’ve taught hundreds of students with passion. I teach few students with commitment to do the best work possible.

Passion or not passion, that is the question!

As soon as I read this far in the column, I figured what the issue was: How we define the word. Friedman offers this:

I think part of the problem is how we define passion, so allow me to introduce Herdegen’s definition:

Passion is a deep connection to an idea, a strong bond which creates a feeling of desire. It contains elements of both commitment and excitement but is not limited to them.

Passion plus commitment is not too common in my experience.

While I agree there is some value in consciously joining the two — passion + commitment — in my book, if a writer is really passionate about a story, the commitment will be there.

It’s like Joseph Campbell’s articulation about the theme of The Hero’s Journey: “Follow your bliss.” If we identify that about and for which we are passionate, deeply and existentially, doesn’t it mean our commitment will follow?

What do you think? Is passion necessary to write a great story? Is passion without commitment meaningless? Does true passion translate into commitment naturally?

And how about this: How do you go about finding what your bliss is?