People often ask me where I got my inspiration for one thing or another. Or what possessed me to do something. Or why I have a passion for a particular project. The assumption behind those questions, I think, is that if one could find out where such causes originate, it would be possible to pick a promising field of endeavor then activate the inspiration to spark higher levels of achievement.

But it doesn't work that way. In my experience, I do the project I can't stop myself from doing. Passion is the thing you can't control, by definition. It's the same with inspiration. At any given time there are dozens of projects that I think make sense, but sooner or later one bubbles to the top on its own, logic ignored, and takes over my schedule.

Dilbert was like that. It drove me; I didn't drive it. It felt as if some invisible hand was pushing me. You can label it passion or inspiration if you want. Religious folks might have a different interpretation. The only point is that it controls the person, not vice versa.

If there is a logical component to chasing these passions - beyond the thin rationalizations I tend to layer on them - it is the fact that sometimes you have to get them out of your system to free yourself for the next one. For me, this was most true with my book God's Debris. It was my first non-Dilbert book, at a time that writing such a thing seemed like a really bad idea to all observers. But I had no choice. The book sprang fully formed into my head one day while I was showering, and I couldn't do anything else until I got it out. That meant writing it.

So when people ask how they can find their passion, the answer is that your passion finds you, as long as you can free up your schedule from the "must dos" enough to let it in. When I had a full-time job, before Dilbert, I awoke at 4 AM, sat alone in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee, and waited. I did that for a year or two, just emptying my mind and freeing my imagination. I don't remember the day I picked up a pencil and started drawing instead of sitting during those hours, but I'm sure I didn't have a choice.
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +10
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Mar 19, 2009
This week has been an interesting one. Lessons learned. Life lived. Opportunities presented themselves as if out of the blue. Emotions ran amuck but was able to focus on the present moment and reel those rambling thoughts back to a place that brings me inner peace and joy. Whew!

Liz at Successful Blog is the regal queen of the blogosphere. Her eloquent writing tips, blogging tips, unique ideas for creativity and just all around warm personality draws readers in. It’s like the Cheers of the b-sphere. Pull up a bar stool and settle in for a chat. Liz offers up a welcome smile and wisdom in a way that you know she’s talking to you not at you.

Terry Starbucker at Ramblings from a Glass Half Full just makes me smile. Being a music enthusiast I LOVE that he’s doing a soundtrack for his life. Drop on in and see for yourself why Starbucker is one of the dashing gentlemen of the blogosphere. And who can resist Troy Worman’s enthusiasm at Orbit Now? His Og Mandino quotes alone are enough for a daily drive by. Skooch on over!



<a href="http://www.drug-intervention.com/washington-drug-intervention.html">Drug Intervention Washington</a>
Nov 25, 2008
I think I shall try the waking up early method, even though I am more creative at night. I love to write, to taste the words as they emerge from the primordial soup of ideas and take on form and meaning, but between being a teacher and the only breadwinner of the family it has been difficult to translate writing to something "worthwhile". Then again, I have no need to justify myself to others, is there? Passion drives us to do the stupid and the impossible. Thanks for the much needed encouragement (even if you didn't mean to do so): I start writing today.
Nov 20, 2008
This is exactly why I started my blog last week, inloveandwarblog.blogspot.com Even when I was in my crappy office job I would write stories. I'm sure my blog will jeopradise my career as a school teacher because of its racy content, but I don't see that I have a choice.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 20, 2008
oh, wrong post
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 20, 2008
Nah, Scott, good idea, but useless. Polish are very protective of their dead bodies. Lithuania tried to claim (for less sensible reasons than green energy) the body of Czeslaw Milosz, who won Nobel prize for literature for poetry, devoted to Lithuania. No luck.
Nov 20, 2008
Just curious - what inspired you to sit in a chair with a coffee at 4am? Had you decided that you had to do something else with your life but didn't know what just yet?
Nov 20, 2008
So what you're saying is, if we want to write a book, we have to shower? Damn, I thought I got away from that requirement in Jr. High School!
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 20, 2008
An inspiring post - literally.

I've been working on a project lately that I just have to get out of my head, so I identify with the feeling. But between work and family its been so hard to find time. After reading your post though, I got the notion of waking up at 5 in order to work on it before I head to my job in the morning. I did it for the first time this morning and it was amazing how clear-headed I was and how much I was able to get accomplished. Not being a morning person by nature I really didn't expect that to be the case. It's a no-brainer that I'll be doing this again tomorrow, and I just wanted to thank you for the suggestion.
Nov 19, 2008
@ Aardwizz: great post.

@ webgrunt: The high in a food coma is not due to lack of blood. It's a serotonin boost from the insulin→tryptophan→serotonin→melatonin cycle. I ain't no fatty but I loves ma food comas!!

For more info wiki "food coma" or check http://www.thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/dieting.htm.
Nov 19, 2008
It's almost as if you're talking about 'destiny'.
Nov 19, 2008
Ah, !$%*! I put in several years of getting up before dawn for work, and now you're telling me I've got to do it again if I want to find a passion? At least the bakery was paying me!

What comes first, anyway, talent or passion? How can you have a passion when you have no particular expressive abilities?
Nov 19, 2008
Scott has rediscovered the concept of a Muse.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2008
webgrunt: Haha, I thought of that, but I decided I wouldn't be able to say it cleverly enough.

I'm fat too, but I never felt like food was a passion. A true passion is fulfilling for it's own sake, and food is like this in some ways, but it doesn't take long before you reach the point of diminishing returns. You can eat two cookies, and that's fine, but once you get to four you start to feel ill, and if you eat six you're already way past that point.

I mostly eat to distract myself from things that make me uncomfortable. From your comment about getting little enjoyment out of anything else in life, I'm guessing that you have the same problem. A lot of people distract themselves in one way or another, and I don't think it's a coincidence that obesity rates started to rise around the same time that smoking became socially unacceptable in most circles.
Nov 19, 2008
It's funny that you would talk about not being able to control your passion. This is a little geeky, but the word "passion" is based on the Latin "pati," meaning to suffer. This, in turn, is related to the Greek word "pēma," or suffering (think "pathos"). The sense is that passion is something that controls you or acts on you. Think about passive voice in a sentence (although this probably comes from a different root). In a passive sentence, such as "The man was punched by Scott Adams," the man, the receiver of the action is emphasized over the doer of the action. In fact, you could cut out the "by Scott Adams" part altogether and still have a complete sentence. In the same way, the archaic sense of "passion" was something that was suffered or allowed (as in "suffer the little children to come unto me" from somewhere or another in the Bible)

The ancient Christians (Eastern Church at least; I don't know enough about Western Christianity to know if they did too) focused on ridding themselves of their passions to achieve freedom. Since their passions were really in control of their lives, they considered a life where the individual was not enslaved to these driving forces to be true freedom (a little different from our modern concept of being free to pursue our passion, huh?).

Anyway, it's something to think about. We assume that following our passions is a good and worthy thing. On what do we base that idea? Is it good to be driven by passions?
Nov 19, 2008
"sometimes you have to get them out of your system to free yourself for the next one"

So when are you going to get Dilbert out of your system so you can move onto the really big one?
Nov 19, 2008
Thanks for the timely advice. "You don't find your passion, your passion finds you."

<"Religious folks might have a different interpretation">
Psychologist have yet another term for it. OCD.
The military has yet another term: Insubordination.

I've found that different organizations have different terms for similar concepts when dealing with the human spirit.
Take "I know what I should do, but I have trouble doing it." (say, dieting).
The military calls it "Lack of Discipline"
The religious calls it "Sin"
The psychologist calls it "Insanity" (or the more mild "Disorder")

One of these days, someone needs to invent a better language for these things, that don't have all the baggage of the culture that defines it.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2008
Yup. You're right. And here I am thinking that you are so rational.

It also works for us normal people. Free your mind from the b*llsh*t and it doesn't last long before the ideas start popping up.

Question: If your premise is true and my passion would be to murder people, would I be able to stop it?
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 19, 2008
If you put enough stuff into your head, something is bound to come back out eventually. Most people try to filter what goes into their mind so it is possible to have some influence over your creativity.
Nov 19, 2008
I liked what you said about making space for the inspiration. I have for year wanted to be creative in some way but never had anything that I was driven to express until 2 years ago. Now I have been working on it little by little and I try not to pressure myself too much to finish my project. I have been working on it from burst of inspiration to burst. Friends and family don't really get it and think that I am lazy or incompetent, but I really see that I don't do good work unless I am fueled by that inspiration.

Also, with my secure day job, I don't have the pressure to make my passion support my life, which even just thinking about kinda kills the joy I have for it.

Love the Blog, Scott, and the forum for interesting discussion.
Nov 19, 2008
Having a passion, and the opportunity to follow it, must be one of the greatest feelings in the world. We surely appreciate that you've followed yours. Passion is one thing that separates an artist from the rest of the drones of the world. I just wish we all had a chance to be able to survive following our passion. Some folks do, others have to give it up for the day to day humdrum stuff (like paying bills). Thanks for following yours!!!
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog