Passion in Work


I am so glad I have a job that eats my life.

Not that there aren’t parts that are hard or frustrating – like how little I make, the sheer amount of unpaid overtime I put in, and seeing some of the most tragic and infuriating situations you can imagine. Those things do get to me sometimes.

But I honestly believe I am one of the luckiest people on earth. How many people can say that their evening plans were interrupted because they had to help give emergency care to a harbor seal in critical condition? How about handling animals daily that most people in the world don’t even know exist? Or seeing a bird fly away who came to us bleeding and nearly dead from emaciation? Or, even better, figuring out some easy new trick that hikes the quality of our animal care just a little higher?

For me, it isn’t about some kind of ethereal, spiritual connection with animals (The wolf paused as it walked away and glanced back at me. In that single look I could see his gratitude.GAG–) or some weird pride issue (Ha ha, I have an owl at my house, I’m so special!BLECH!–). I won’t deny I love the feeling that I’m making a difference, or that sometimes it amazes me the things that my colleagues and I find commonplace. But it is more than that, different than that. It’s part challenge, part wonder, part filling a void of compassion few other people know exists. And for someone who spends quite a lot of time putting words together to describe the indescribable, that’s really the only way I can describe it.

Sometimes I lose sight of all of that. I get tied up in the frustrating parts or dwell on the negative.

This is true of writing as well (you didn’t think I’d get there, did you? Well, you underestimated me!). I’ve been pretty stuck on revisions for the better part of a month. I work on it just about daily, but I haven’t been making any real progress. I just keep focusing on that one thing I haven’t figured out to my own satisfaction, and then the entire story begins to fall apart in my mind. Then I get overwhelmed with just how many things I ‘need’ to fix. And then I start making up problems that don’t exist.

The solution to both problems is to remember the good things and rekindle the passion. In my work, it usually works to imagine doing some other job. Or to take a minute while I’m cleaning up piles and piles of bear poo to think about what I am actually doing, and how I’ve wanted to do it ever since I was little. Or to pause long enough in my daily rounds to watch a tiny baby cedar waxwing try to swallow a berry bigger than its head in one gulp.

I need to bring perspective back to my writing. No, it isn’t perfect; I do have a lot of work to do. But it’s manageable. There are things that work as they are. I like reading my story, I like my characters. That one plot problem does not take the entire story down with it. I will find a solution to it at some point. Things aren’t a hopeless tangled mess, they’re just a tangled mess.

And even if I don’t solve it this draft, I need to let my beta readers (and after them my agent/editor), tell me what is important. I am often surprised by what things my critique group focuses on, because often what I deem awful and messed up is not a problem for them as readers. But something else I hadn’t even thought of threw the story off the rail. And, surprise surprise, there’s actually an easy solution to that problem. And surprise again, that solution actually fixes what was bothering me before.

So back into it. And I’m actually feeling motivated again, for the first time in a month.

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