Not long ago, I was in conversation with a business woman who compared herself to me. The comment went something like, “I’m determined to make my business work. It just will, because I’m so determined. Like you are with your writing.”
She meant it as a compliment. I am absolutely sure of that fact. But the comparison bothered me, and it’s taken me weeks to figure out why.
See, from where the business woman was standing, my dogged, often masochistic ability to pursue my dreams, despite a mountain range of setbacks, looked a lot like sheer determination. And in her mind, that thing she saw as determination was strong enough, big enough, to make anything work, regardless of odds, or circumstances, or, well, economy, I guess. And the reason her comment bothered me is because I don’t necessarily believe that’s true. I don’t think determination is enough. Ever.
That thing she sees in me, the one she named determination is not actually determination at all. It’s a little voice in my head that won’t stop talking until I listen to it, a grinding in my gut that won’t calm until I feed it, a restlessness in my fingers that won’t settle until I pick up a pen or pull out a keyboard, it’s the thoughts in my brain that swirl in a cyclone of colors and light and sound, tastes and smells and feelings, keeping me up at night, occupying my mind throughout the day. It’s a part of me that’s as vital and important as air.
Confession: I have more rejections than anyone I know. More than anyone I’ve even heard proudly announce as they told their story of success. And you know what? It sucks. I hate it. Hate it so badly that every night, I decide to quit writing.
But then the next morning, I wake up, go to the gym, come home—brain brimming with ideas—go to my computer and write anyway.
Call that determination if you want. All you want. But people like me, we know the difference. Determination may get you places, may keep you going when things get rough, and might even help you succeed. Eventually.
But if you really want something, so bad it gets under your skin, squeezes your lungs until you can’t breathe, hums like electricity in your veins—that’s passion. And in my world, passion is the most important element of success.
That is what I have, and the reason I know I’ll get to where I want to be.
No. Determination isn’t enough. If it was, I’d have been able to quit a long time ago.