Once upon a time I wrote a short essay about passion—being passionate, following your passion, lack of passion being a fatal flaw, that sort of thing—rendering my opinion that the whole notion is overblown.
It caused something of a stir. Some agreed with my ruminations, others did not. One reader (and fine writer) opined that passion was a prerequisite and that fire and enthusiasm for the work were important considerations for editors.
Perhaps. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with being passionate about your writing if that’s what butters your biscuit.
But it ain’t necessarily so.
A reliable—but not precise—accounting of editors I have worked with includes some 15 or so with magazines and periodicals, at least two dozen on anthologies of short fiction or poetry, and somewhere north of 20 in the process of getting books, both fiction and nonfiction, into print. Some editors I have worked with on only one or a few occasions; several of them many, many times.
None ever asked about, commented on, or required enthusiasm—passion—on my part.
But I have absorbed a few notions about what seems to be widely regarded among the red pencil set. Here’s some of it.
Good ideas are valuable. Not just ideas that are good on their own, but good ideas that fit the nature of the editor’s requirements. It should go without saying that they expect quality writing—well-structured and readable and all that, with a certain amount of flair. Research—when applicable—should be thorough and your facts should be straight; even fiction should feel credible. Your manuscripts should be clean; as free of typos as possible with proper grammar and punctuation and spelling and such.
Finally, and probably most important, editors like reliability. If you meet deadlines, keep your promises, and do what you say you will—and are asked to—do, you’ll be doing everyone a favor. Including yourself and your career.
If you’re passionate on top of all that, fine. But don’t plan on enthusiasm alone getting you through.
Woody Allen is credited with this little bit of wisdom: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” In the broader sense, that advice certainly applies to writing.