When we grow from teenagers into young adults, it can be very difficult to find out what we want to pursue in our lives. I think it’s important for someone to consider what passion they want to pursue, rather than seeking a career choice first. Making money is important, but if you’re not happy, then what’s the point? I think the better question is “what do I want to do in this lifetime?”
Even if you’re working a job that’s not ideal, once you take the first step towards your passion, you will likely find work related to your niche. You may be asking, how do I find these passions? What even is a niche?
There may be no better place to find an answer to that question than the film Whisper of the Heart. There is also a sequel called The Cat Returns, that expanded on the foundations that this film had laid out. Whisper of the Heart’s main character Shizuku learned about her passion for storytelling and writing after hearing an incredible story from a wise old man named Nishi. She also finds a creative drive to write her own story after meeting his grandson Seiji.
Whisper of the Heart teaches us that one of the best ways to find creative fuel for your brainstorming is through inspiration from incredible relationships. However, you have no one to blame but yourself for your failures. You will meet people that can help you accomplish your goals, but it is ultimately your responsibility to take the initiative and make the decisions to reach your destination.
How to Discover your Passions
The most difficult part of any journey is taking the first step. However, it may be difficult to find out which staircase will be the right one for us. If we made it to the top and found out it wasn’t for us, it would be pretty disappointing. So how do we uncover our passions so we can start doing what we love?
Well, there are a variety of ways this can happen. Sometimes fantastic stories can inspire us to create our own narratives in writing, as what happened to Shizuku. However, not everyone is a writer. People can obtain inspiration from many different things.
For example, filmmaker Peter Jackson often discusses that his rise to fame is partly due to his fascination with the movie King Kong (1933) in his childhood. As a child, this movie filled him with so much wonder and imagination that he sought to make his own stop motion projects. Eventually, as he grew older and wiser, he was given the opportunity to remake the movie in 2001. This film ended up becoming a box office hit, became a 3D ride at universal studios, and was responsible for placing him on the radar in the film industry.
In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku found a drive to write a story of her own after being introduced to one of Nishi’s many antiques, a cat statue named Baron Humbert von Gikkingen. Nishi found Baron at a tinkerer’s shop in Italy paired with a female statue. The tinkerer refused to sell them unless they were sold together. That is, until a friendly woman heard what was going on, and offered to buy the female statue so she could meet with Nishi. The tinkerer gave in and Nishi and the mysterious woman had fallen in love as if it were fate for them to meet. Unfortunately, Nishi was drafted in the war and was separated from his lover and never saw her again, or the other statue.
This fantastic story was partly responsible for inspiring Shizuku to write her own book, with Baron Humbert von Gikkingen as the hero. This is because stories are incredibly complex pieces of information that can covey heavy emotions and messages that can make us feel as if they were made specifically for us.
The first time I watched Whisper of the Heart I felt as if this movie was made for me. I have been confused for a long time and this film has offered some clarity on a lot of issues I have been going through.
Speaking of this, stories can even help us combat the issues we are going through in our lives since they can be very relatable to us. One example of this would be in The Monster Calls, where The Monster helped Connor grieve over the loss of his mother through his stories.
Now, if you’re looking for ways to apply this information to your own life, I would recommend finding a medium of storytelling that can apply to your specific personality and passions. If you like reading, that’s awesome. There’s plenty of great books out there that may be able to spark your creativity. Life of Pi, The Alien Shore, Pellucidar, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, are great examples of books that can spark endless amounts of imagination and philosophy.
If you’re interested in the history of our world, then you may be interested in documentaries. Although documentaries aren’t exactly a traditional form of storytelling, they still document an event, interesting person, or phenomena that have complex histories that can serve as excellent sources for brainstorming. For example, Elephant in the Living room is a documentary about the irresponsible ownership and neglect of exotic animals. After being exposed to such a thing, someone may be inspired to do more research and take up a career that allows them to take action to reduce the number of instances of this terrible phenomenon.
Some of you may be searching for inspiration in movies, but don’t know where to look. If that’s the case, there’s a social media platform called Letterboxd that allows you to easily search for films that you may be interested in and allows you to communicate with other film lovers. You can even search for lists created by other members that may be tailored to your particular taste. It’s also a great way to make friends if you’re open to reaching out.
I sometimes use Letterboxd as a tool to combat writer’s block. There have been some terrible days where I have found myself completely robbed of my creative juices. One remedy I have to get my brain flowing is step away from writing and watch one of the films on my watch-list. Sometimes I’ll see something that’s a total game-changer and could even help me write the project I’m working on at that moment. The truth is, storytelling is a fantastic tool to help you find your inspiration, but you’re going to have to find a medium that works for you.
In the next section, I’ll show you a more cookie-cutter resource I use to help me stay on track. This resource was also partly responsible for helping me find my niche in the world.
One resource that I use that has proven to be very useful for me is a website called tagul.com. It is a word cloud generator that allows you to write down anything that you’re into. It enlarges words that are similar to one another. The generator will also enlarge words that are closer to the top of the list, which may reflect what means the most to you, as they were the first to come to your mind. This way you can visualize what’s most important to help you discover your niche.
If you’re stumped on what words to add to your cloud, you can use mine as an example. Don’t worry about your words not being “adequate” enough. Just write what comes to your mind. Please take note that my word cloud is likely going to look very different from yours. You’re going to want at least 40 words on your cloud for the best results.
For a quick exercise to get your brain flowing, I’ll take you through my thought processes after creating my word cloud. Well, after looking at this word cloud, I took a moment to visualize what all of this meant. After all, this word cloud is going to be a reflection of yourself.
After I created this word cloud, I saved it for future reference. I chose three words that were my favorite from this word cloud to serve as a representation of my niche.
Those words are:
I am a very introverted individual, so that may reflect why I chose solitude as one of my choices. I wanted something I could work on that I could put all of my creative energy into, and could double as something that could I could use to express my emotions and ideas from the movies I love. Hence, this blog came into existence. I also love animals, so I decided to use this blog as a platform to write a book discussing the importance of animals in the film industry. Once I reach my word count goal, I’ll collect all of the posts I made towards this book and edit them to fit the format of a book.
I could also use this blog as a platform to express other ideas that I’m passionate about, such as habitat loss, which I have discussed in my post “Can Humans Coexist with Nature?“. In the future, I could use this word-cloud to follow many other endeavors.
How to Polish your Passion
Now that you have found your niche and have taken the first step in your journey, how do you get better at what you do?
In Whisper of the Heart, Nishi owns a rock that contains a shiny crystal inside of it. Nishi says that you could polish the rough, outside of the stone, but what you’ll get would be worthless. The gem inside of the stone is purer, and there could be another crystal inside that gem that we can’t see. Any lapidarist will tell you that polishing stones takes work and effort. Different types of stones are much harder than others, and it can even damage or break your equipment if you’re not careful enough.
The same can be said for our passions in life. Sometimes, it’s not the fact that these things take work and effort that scare us. The scariest part is taking the first step. However, what’s even scarier, is knowing that you’re likely going to experience failures along the way. For many people, it’s an incredibly hard transition from childhood to adulthood. After all, it can be hard to reach for what we want because up until now, most of what we wanted had been handed to us. The truth is, all you have to do right now is take the first step.
Sometimes I get intimidated by the future because I envision how amazing it will be, and how much I have grown. One exercise that helps me mitigate this fear is to focus merely on the next step of my journey. If you polish what you know and make it better, you can take the next step, and so on and so on. Dreaming of the future won’t amount to anything, and it will only make your tasks sound harder than they actually are.
This is a trap that all of us have fallen for. We can be intimidated by the long and grueling road ahead of us, and we settle for what we have accomplished and pretend that this is enough for us to be happy. The truth is, for Shizuku, she has to traverse this journey by herself, and for many people in a similar position, that can be scary and devastating.
To help me explain my thoughts, I’ll use a similar situation from another film. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Buck’s death in the climax was a reflection of Caesar’s transition to becoming a confident leader. At the beginning of the film, Caesar used Buck as a bodyguard of sorts to enforce his rule. However, Caesar strengthened his charisma and leadership skills to the point where he no longer needed Buck as a crutch.
In a similar vein, after Shizuku finished her first draft of her book and showed it to Nishi, she realized that she had just shown him the rough and unpolished outer shell of her crystal, and now she just needed to polish it until it’s just how she envisioned it.
It’s okay to show the unpolished, rough, outer edge of your crystal to the unforgiving world. When I started these movie reviews, it was so difficult for me to research films because I didn’t know what to look for. So, sometimes I would rely on other people’s analyses to help me put the pieces together. Over time, I noticed a pattern in the movies I watched. I noticed that if something is shot in a certain way, it could represent something. Or, if a phrase, theme, or color pallet is repeated multiple times in a film, it’s probably important and pertains to what the film is trying to say.
I could go on and on, but my point is, I got much better at understanding movies, and pretty soon I could form a consensus on a film all on my own. The biggest fear I had that prevented me from making content in the first place was the fear of a schedule. I thought that I had to write as fast as I could or else my content would be worthless.
This phenomenon is represented in the film when Shizuku confessed to Nishi that she felt she had to rush her writing because she just wanted to finish it. However, Nishi comforts her by saying that polishing a stone takes time and effort, and nobody is going to take your work away from you. You can spend as much time as you want on it. In my case, I eventually came to the conclusion that I was writing for myself, and not for anyone else, so I was going to write on my own time.
Even if it takes you ten years to finish what you want to accomplish to get to your finish line, then so be it. Just try your best and make sure you aren’t doing this for anyone but yourself.
There’s one last thing I’d like to talk about. Although you are fully responsible for following your dreams, you might find more success if you accompany yourself with someone who is also hard at work at doing the same thing. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. If you surround yourself with amazing, hard-working people, you’ll start to adopt their healthy behaviors.
Sometimes when someone is being treated for an addiction, they may be advised to challenge a buddy who is also suffering a similar addiction. You’re more likely to succeed if you work together with someone else who is suffering from the same problem. Not only is there a sense of competition, but you may also find a sense of comfort knowing that someone is watching your back making sure that you are on track. You may also feel accomplished knowing you are helping someone go through the same thing you are.
Comparably you might find solace with a special person who’s watching your back, making sure you’re not beating yourself up. This person likely isn’t doing this for their own benefit. They’re in this position because they’re genuinely interested in you. In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku obtains this insane drive to write a story because she wants to impress Seiji and share her happiness with him.
She sees his passion for making violins and takes note of his plans to visit Italy to serve as an apprentice to someone who can teach him more about his craft. When she admired his work and inquired about why he wanted to do this, Seiji was a little hesitant at first. If anyone else asked Seiji about his passion for making violins, he would likely be deeply offended that someone would ask such a question without a care of what it means to him. Let’s be honest, why would you care? Why would anyone want to know about the process of making a violin?
Shizuku asked about his passion because of her love for him and wanted to learn more about him, not because of interest for violins. Even when Shizuku expresses her admiration for his great work, Seiji responds with “How can you say that with such a straight face? Anyone can do that”. Shizuku beautifully responds with “Why? It’s what I think”.
After we see Shizuku obtain a drive to share her heart with someone special, we can see how she suddenly achieved a motivation to write a story. She admires Seiji so much that she wants to be at the same level as him. When Seiji comes to see Shizuku for one last time before he goes to the airport, she helps him push his bicycle up a hill instead of being dead weight. Shizuku yearns to feel the same sense of accomplishment from her writing, as Seiji feels with his craft of making violins. Once this equilibrium has been reached, they have become a couple that are empowered by each other’s strengths.
I understand that all this information is a lot to take in. If you haven’t seen the film, I would highly recommend placing it at the top of your watch-list to fully understand the information I communicated to you and form a consensus of your own. Once you take the first step, the rest of your journey is a cakewalk in comparison. It’s still not going to be without its hardships, but if you find something that’s really important to you, that’s likely not going to matter to you. And remember, if you ever feel like you’re isolated or trapped from the outside world, you are never truly alone.