LISA MALTBY Illustration & Lettering


Welcome to my blog where I post about all things creative, from my latest food illustrations, design work and hand lettering doodles, to articles about freelancing and creativity. I hope you like my posts.

The problem with passion: how to channel creativity.




“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good.” 
— Roald Dahl

Being passionate is much more than just enjoying what you do. There is a distinct difference between those who have passion and those who are simply driven. I recall all of the people who are well known for their skill, their poetry or intelligence, and I see something more unique in them than the millionaire who owns several business, or the would-be painter who doesn’t have time to paint. They all have one thing: passion. 

I’m guessing, if you’re reading this, that you will probably have some sort of passion yourself. The problem often comes, not when you don’t have enough, but when you have plenty - oodles of the stuff in fact, so much so that you don’t quite know where to start. And what if you’re passionate about lots of different things? Which passions do you pick up and run with and which do you drop?

There is, unfortunately, a downside to creativity. People will tell me how lucky I am to be good at a variety of things, but the years I spent working out what to invest my time into meant that I never really got to be passionate about any of them in the ways that I wanted to. I was doing things to please people, to somehow prove I was good enough, or because people told me it was a waste not to. I became shallow in my pursuit of passion; I’d lost it in the midst of striving.

Sometimes you have to just stop and – without meaning to sound like a spiritual guru – find yourself again; do a bit of that awkward soul searching stuff that initially makes you feel uncomfortable but eventually makes you realise what’s important to you. I could invest in any one of my ‘passions’ because they are all a means of expression and creativity, but there are only some that excite me. Like, really excite me. This is different from feeling that you simply enjoy things – it’s when things make your tummy do some sort of acrobatics at the thought of doing it. And I guess that’s the difference between an interest and a passion; just because you’re interested in something doesn’t mean you have the passion to do it; Just because you’re good at something doesn’t make you passionate either.

The best way to find out your true passion is to remember what you were like as a child. More often than not, the things you were truly passionate about then will have stayed with you. The difference when you’re a child is that you don’t have everyone telling you what to do with your life, you simply live it. For me it was drawing and writing. I was always drawing. I liked stories too - I’d love to hear my Dad reading them and making them up. I wrote and illustrated my own children’s book aged nine. I still have it. It reminds me what I’m about and what I love to do. 

Maybe you know exactly what your passion is, but what does it mean to 'embrace it with two arms’? People love to encourage others to be passionate about what they do, but I’ve met plenty of people who have turned their passion into an obsession, cutting out other people along the way. There needs to be a healthy obsession with it; an ability to put it down;  a determination to invest in it but not to be controlled by it. It is an expression, not an oppression. That doesn’t always mean it will be easy to pursue it, it just means that the challenges will be driven by a healthy drive. Somehow true passions always have time for other things like family and friends. They are inspired by the simple things; other opportunities to explore life; walks in nature; time invested in relationships. True passions become a lifestyle; they fit in with your life and those around you, like a great tapestry. 

Interestingly, I read an article this week about how you should never base your career on your passion – as though passions were too close to the heart and inconsistent to pursue. Jobs should primarily be based upon skill, so it said, in order to develop a successful career. The question was asked: will people pay me for my passion? It’s an interesting point. After all, passions may not always pay the bills and we need to be realistic, but if skills have no passion to back them up I would imagine that you would be embarking on a very unfulfilling career. I doubt that Roald Dahl questioned how much money he could make out of writing before he embraced it with two arms. There’s also no question that Roald was extremely good at his passion too, so I guess there needs to be a collaboration between the two; a perfect partnership between skill and passion. 

Passions need to be cultivated, to be encouraged. It takes wisdom to know how to develop the skills to go alongside them. How do you develop your passions? Primarily this is through time – a commitment to invest in the thing you love. It may mean sacrificing other things or setting aside a few evenings a week to develop your skills. Secondly, you need to get inspiration from other people too – courses you can do or books you can read. And finally you need to seek out opportunities – relevant voluntary work or competitions you can enter. Keep your eyes open to find ways to develop your passion to it’s fullest and seek out people who will inspire you and be honest with you too.

Then just do it. Just pick up your pencil or your computer or your pen, or whatever it is you need, and just do it. Do it because of passion and not because of a drive for success or recognition. This will be hard sometimes because it means pressing on when you feel like there are mountains to climb. It means being faithful. It means going at it full speed ahead. It means not giving up. It means embracing it with two hands.

© 2014