Pursue It Well

Pursue It Well

This was a year of extreme breakthrough for me on many levels. Professionally, I learned what I don’t want to do anymore and what I want to do more of. Cosmically (sure, why not), I learned where my position is in this life and how to better ascertain that (spoiler: it’s wherever I desire it to be). Creatively, I finally brought together ideas I’ve had brewing for nearly a year (more on that later). I learned these lessons by committing to one simple directive:

Pursue your PASSION and pursue it WELL.

Think about people who you think are really talented, who attract people to them, who really have that special something. Now imagine that person doing something other than what you know them for. Do you naturally assume they will also be good at that thing? I certainly do. Take Tim Burton, for example. I think he is a mastermind director. I had no idea he was also a sketch artist. And you know what? I think it’s brilliant work. The reason for this is simple: he is not talented because he found the one thing he is good at. He is talented because he has a vision and he is smart enough to apply that to anything he pursues.

The people who I admire are not talented or naturally good at one thing. They bring with them a fire/passion/charisma/drive that permeates the medium they work in. It flows through everything they touch. And that is why they are golden; that is why they themselves are geniuses and not just the work they produce.

This is a concept that I have spent a long time internalizing this year. I desire to be good at something just as anyone does. But, I don’t want to be known for one thing. I don’t want, for example, photography to be the only thing I ever do well. I want every passion I have to shine with the excitement I have for it. I want everything I do to have a piece of my soul in it.

Sort of like creating horcruxes, but not evil.

Let me explain how I’ve tried to embody that idea this year, and what the catalyst for it was.

I spent years trying to write a novel. I managed 80,000 words, and it was really, really hard. I was lost, I was confused, I had no sense of direction or plot, I didn’t know my characters, and it was simply painful to get to the end. I loved trying, but I loved reaching the 79,999th word even more.

“I’m done!” I thought fondly. And so I sent the manuscript off to my friend Ksenia, who promptly got back to me with the following advice:

“I know it took you years to work on this, but this is not a draft of a novel. Not yet. It’s more of a summery with some expanded scenes, something you write BEFORE you write the first draft. So it needs a lot of work before it will become a book.”

Needless to say, I had the stuffing knocked out of me for a minute. Literally, one minute. And then I put the stuffing back in, with extra care around the heart, and my world abruptly changed.


You make a choice, right there in the moment, right away, in a single instant, to be better.

When I read those words, I felt their truth. I felt the guidance. I felt ready to make them disappear.

I told you earlier that the lesson I learned was to pursue your passion and pursue it well. Up until this point in my life, my guiding force was “pursue your passion”. It wasn’t until this year that I put emphasis on doing it with integrity, with grit, with determination and with hours of hard work.

I received Ksenia’s feedback in mid-May. By June I had a book list to read and I was ready to be a student of writing. I wanted to learn CRAFT before I sacrificed my VISION. And I was not going to be so egotistical as to believe I was above any of it. I became a student in the most serious way.

I used to say I was a reader. The reality was, I just wanted to be a reader. I read about 1-2 books a year – that’s it. In the past 6 months I’ve managed to read 23 books, some fiction and some nonfiction, all teaching me how to be a better writer by studying craft. All of that was in between hosting my yearly convention, recording a 26-hour long Creative Live class, exhibition openings and more…all completely alone while traveling for a solid 3 of those 6 months. I say this because we are all busy. That is not an excuse. You make time for what is truly most important, and you don’t make time for the rest.

I made the time. And it was really hard, and I spent a lot of dinners with a baked potato trying to scrape in another chapter to keep moving forward.

Though let’s be honest, I love baked potatoes.

At some point I went from wanting
to publish a book to wanting to write a book.

I went from wanting a pat on the back for penning a novel to deeply and irrevocably desiring to craft a piece of writing from my imagination. There is a very, very big difference between the two, and it is one that is hard to admit.

This is the closest image I’ve created so far that reflects the feeling of my novel.

My education has become obsession. I returned home from my final trip of the year at the end of November and I’ve spent every day curled by the fire reading, writing, and brainstorming. My Love sits with me for hours a day as we talk about the motivations/desires/traits/conflicts for my characters. We mull over the most whimsical, surreal settings we can think of. And in all of this, I have the most spectacular revelation:

I CAN DO ANYTHING, as long as I do it well.

I can make anything happen to my characters, create any type of setting, give any motivation and write however my imagination tells me to…as long as it is done with integrity and craft. That is the most liberating thing to discover.

And the funny thing is, I discovered that a long time ago. When I took my first picture I had spent the week learning how to craft my imagination. When I uploaded it, I heard from people who connected to it, who understood it, who felt understood by it. I already knew what it was like to stare into the unknown, but to do so with heart and integrity.

I had forgotten.

My friends, this is the most beautiful journey. It doesn’t matter what you ambition is. Pursue your passion, and pursue it well

Share two things with me: 1) What are you a student of? 2) What object would you turn into a Horcrux?

Post Script!

Here are my favorite books from this year:

  1. MYST by Rand and Robyn Miller, for the world-building. I still think about it on a weekly basis and wish I could exist in those books. (It is a trilogy).
  2. SABRIEL by Garth Nix, because it came the closest to my own sense of storytelling and prose. (Also a trilogy).
  3. STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL by KM Weiland, which was the most helpful novel-writing book I read.
  4. AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman, which is quite a tome and mixes mythology with the mundane beautifully.
  5. HARRY POTTER by JK Rowling, which I had read as a child as well but DANG, that woman can WRITE. Period. (I devoured the whole series).

In a league of its own, however, is THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemisin. WOW.


22 thoughts on “Pursue It Well

  1. Hi!
    I just want to thank you for sharing your wonderful talents, and thoughts, inspiring me to become more determined in my own work! I have been a singer/songwriter for 30 years, but I also draw/paint and try to write something else than songs and poetry. I look in on your work as often as I can, and love it! Best wishes for another creative year and your pursuit of your goals <3 You have helped me in not losing faith 😉

    1. Hi Mai! Thank YOU for your kind message and for sharing a bit of your story. My dad is a bass player and songwriter so I’ve always had a lot of respect and awe for creativity through music (though that has not yet been my calling). I wish you so much forward momentum in the new year!

  2. Wow Brooke – I kept nodding my head yes as I was reading your post. I am 64 this year and I recently realized the same thing – I don’t care if I make money I just want to be good at my art.

    This has been my passion for the last 3 years and there are many lessons to be learned on many different levels when you strive for excellence. I feel this is the year where I began to see the change, to know which road to follow, to get results. What I learned from you is to share your heart no matter what…

    I am a student of photography, set design, Photoshop & Lightroom, drawing, and learning to forgive with an open heart.

    I would turn my crystal globe into my horcrux. It would conceal part of my soul and no one could tell because everything is upside down when you look in to it. I would have to be very careful with it because it could be easily shattered.

    I read a lot and the book that touched me the most this year and I believe affected the way I now write was Without a Map by Meredith Hall.

    1. Hi Janeane! Oh I love all of this! That you are pursuing your passion with such integrity is a beautiful thing. The idea of the crystal globe horcrux is brilliant. I’m still thinking about mine. I will most certainly check that book out! Happy new year!

  3. Wonderful epilogue to the year, or perhaps a preface to 2018? The one thing that my soul has been entwined with all my life are animals – I love training, interacting and performing with them. My original passion were horses and over the past 20 odd years I have moved on to dogs and even train professionally for the movie industry. I never stop learning. Working with another living being constantly creates new challenges. There is never a static time. I have been good at what I do, I have been at the top of my game for many years, but here is what I want to touch on. When you are good, maybe very good, you can easily slide into a comfort zone where you ride on your achievements and don’t continue to push yourself, don’t continue to learn and add to your craft. The reasons for this are probably endless, but it is a dangerous, slippery slope. I have or perhaps still am in such a slump. I am still good at what I do, but I start to loose traction, to loose that edge. My fellow competitors whom I used to leave in the dust are catching up and overtaking me. I have recognized this and am addressing it now, but it will be a lot of hard work to gain that momentum again. It is perhaps at this time in some peoples’ lives that they “retire”, or give up, or change focus. It is an interesting challenge to have to address.
    As to what I am learning – well photography of course :-). It is a passion, perhaps an obsession, I spend hours each day on it, and I try to create from within me, but my horcrux contains the souls of animals (as long as we agree we are using this in a good way :-)). Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent with us. I hope that 2018 will be an amazing year for you

    1. Epilogue and Prologue 🙂 I love that your passion is with animals. Part of mine is as well, not so much the interacting part (though that is the greatest!) but animal rights and rescue.

      It is important that you note how the way we pursue our passions change as we do, as time passes, as circumstances become different. Something to keep in mind certainly for anyone wherever they are on their journey.

      Thank you for sharing, Gaby!

  4. Dear Wordsmith

    Thank you for sharing your messy bits.

    By request: I am also a student and have a passion, for kinbaku. A Japanese art form

    using jute.

    Your words have me thinking about the interplay of passion and heart?

    I am thinking about passion as finding and connecting with your heart by going deeper

    in life.

    I did playy with replacing your word passion with the word heart. Not sure it works the

    same? Hmm.

    thank you for your creative poke in the eye. blink blink

    cheers Douglas

  5. In a nutshell, I would say I am a student of self expression (usually through photography). I have been following your journey for the past 10 months, and you have been a true inspiration for me. My husband had a major stroke in June 2017, and I created a series of composited self portraits to help myself deal with the emotional upheaval through his months of hospitalization and rehabilitation. This is something I never would have thought of doing without your inspiration, and I truly believe it helped me heal. I called the series “Stroke of Emotions”, and to my amazement and surprise, five of the images have been chosen for exhibit at a photography gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia during the month of Feb 2018.
    I sense from some of your writings lately that other people are wanting you to continue doing “more of the same”. No matter where your life path leads you, I know you will continue to inspire others to be the best that they can be. Listen to your own inner voice, and never let what other people say or think about your work to influence your direction. Stay true to you. I am looking forward to seeing where your dreams take you.
    As for a horcrux, I would definitely have to give it some thought…that’s a new word for me…lol.

    1. Ah no, horcrux?! Must read Harry Potter 😀

      Self expression – YES! That is a much better way of putting how I feel as well. I’d love to see your new series. What a a way to heal. And it will help others do the same, to be certain.

      I really thank you for encouraging me to try new things – that is a breath of fresh air 🙂

  6. I loved this post. I think this topic is exactly the reason I have backed away from creating. When I was feeling well, I put everything I had into learning and executing my photographic dreams. If I do it, I want to be able to feel like I’m putting in my 100%, even if the images don’t turn out as planned. For me, my horcrux would be a feather. I’m usually too serious, heavy on myself. I would use the feather to remind me to lighten up if I want to fly. Love you girl!

    1. I LOVE your horcrux, it is perfect for you. And for me. And for a lot of people 🙂 Darling, you just have to jump back on the bandwagon when you’re ready. And if you need me to fly out there and put you back on the bandwagon, so be it 😉

  7. Brooke, thank you for your words! I feel like you took them straight from my heart and made them eloquent. You are such an inspiring person, I always look forward to hearing what you have to say, and this post is the best! I am currently starting out in a new direction with my photography (I have dabbled for years, but only in the last few months have I really put in the work, the learning, the grit, as you say) and I’m feeling so passionate and driven to create my own Horcruxes! I understand having multiple passions as well, as I recently took up drumming and fell madly in love with it. Music is my Horcrux, and I want to thank you for reminding me to WANT to learn, and not to be blinded by the end goal. To allow our love of what we do to guide us, as that is where we really find ourselves and grow. I don’t think anyone should have to choose one passion over another, and yes, doing it well, with passion and determination, is all that matters. You are such an inspiration, and I can’t wait to read your novel one day!

  8. I’m a student to every master, just as they themselves are students to others. The master is not necessarily “better” or more advanced than the student, but rather has journeyed in a way that the student has not and has unique and insightful perspectives to share. They speak their truth and only theirs. And that truth will elevate those who are eager to learn. I’ve met masters under cardboard in alleyways, found them in books, been randomly seated next to them on business travel flights, and ended up sitting across from them at coffee tables in the aftermath of parties at 3am. Too often, the time is all too fleeting. But too often I don’t realize they are masters until they are gone.

    The concept of a horcrux is new to me and I had to google it. I’m going to coin the term “white horcrux” – forged in the wake of good – just so there’s no confusion, lol.

    There is an artists’ village in New Jersey called Wheaton Arts. One of the things you can do there is work one-on-one with a master glassmith to make a one-of-a-kind piece of art glass about the size of a baseball. You choose the shape – spherical, ovoid, etc., the colors and how they will be twisted and distributed in the glass, the inclusion or exclusion of bubbles, etc. At the end, you have something almost permanent, formed by your mind and your body, by choice and by chance. In a sense, a physical representation of what we ourselves are. This 900 gram lump of crystal glass would be my white horcrux. I wish I could share a picture of it here. 🙂

    1. What an incredible horcrux!! You must read or watch Harry Potter if you’re not up on horcruxes! Happiest ever new year Tim, I can’t wait to see you next year!

      And, what amazing advise about finding mentors. It inspires me to look deeper.

      1. The thing about masters is you don’t always know what they’re teaching even as you learn it. So I try to surround myself with people I respect, knowing that at some point the light will go off in my head – there will be an “Aha! moment” that pulls everything together. Thank you, Brooke for being one of my more important masters – and one I’m fortunate to have recognized early on. I continue to learn a lot from you in so many disciplines! Happy New Year to you and yours! I’ll be thinking of you frequently and I’ll see you in the Ether until we meet again, which I hope will be sooner rather than later. 🙂

  9. This is a great post that really hits home for me! I have been working on a novel on and off (more off than on) for a few years now, and I make far too many excuses on why I “Don’t have the time” to work on it. So thanks for the kick in the pants!
    1) What are you a student of? Writing and fine art photography.
    2) What object would you turn into a Horcrux? This is really a hard question….. I think I would have to go with a Tree, a nice big old one. Because when I think of the few things in life I truly live, nature is at the very top of the list.

    Thanks for the book list, I am looking for something right now so thanks! 🙂
    Wishing you the best for the new year! 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…it felt wonderful reading them…
    I am probably a student of everything I find interesting…and I find many things interesting…
    About Horcrux…I am more like staying invisible and observing without getting observed…I don’t want to touch anything just watch them in their natural form…so don’t want to create Horcrux….

  11. Wow. This post is exactly what I needed to read to start the new year. I so resonate with your words, especially this part : “I want every passion I have to shine with the excitement I have for it.” I feel like I spent most of 2017 wondering what craft was my real calling. I dabbled in lettering, illustration, design, writing… Until this fall where I rediscovered your art (I’ve known your work for years now) and bought all your CreativeLive classes so I could reconnect with my long lost photography practice. I now finally understand that there is never just one craft we’re supposed to do… rather, like you said, it’s the passion and purpose we bring to the craft that matters.

    This year, there is so much I want to learn. I want to keep honing my photography, I want to write with patience and purpose… I also want to learn how to weave and how to make little felted animals (for no particular reason)… I’m sure the list will grow in the next few days. Like you said, we can do anything! (As long as we do it well… I will take that to heart as the year unfold)

    I would turn into non-evil horcruxes all the little thoughtful gifts that my friends and family gave to me over the years… My late grandmother’s cameo necklace, a plush doll that a friend gave me when we were fifteen, the silver bracelet with my name carved on it that my godmother gave me when I was born… I feel like by keeping these memorabilia close… it’s a part of their soul and their love that I carry with me… I don’t know.

    Anyway, thank you for your healing words and your passion. You are a real inspiration to me. I can’t wait to see what you’ll create this year!

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