Write Passionately And Prosper by Shan Jeniah Burton

What fires you up? What consumes you? What do you keep coming back to, again and again, in life? What are you passionate about? Do you indulge it, or feel guilty about it? Do you try to avoid it while you’re writing, because youfeel it distracts you from your work?

I used to do that, too. For me, it’s Vulcans, and it probably always will be. I have a deep, abiding passion for them that’s been with me for over three decades, now. There’s something about those green-blooded, pointy-eared beings who wear cool logic as armor over souls filled with intense and sometimes uncontrollable passions that ignites my imagination and utterlyfascinates me.

Yes, I have many other passions, but, again and again, the Vulcans draw me in, compel me, demand – politely, of course – I give them and their stories my attention. For most of my life, I told myself that the fan fiction I wrote wasn’t “real” writing, and that I was “wasting time” when I indulged it. I wrote those stories in notebooks I kept hidden, showing them only to one or two select people, and I ridiculed myself for the time and energy I expended on them.

I was cheating myself.

Only when I decided to take my passion for Vulcans seriously did I move forward as a writer who creates not only Star Trek fan fiction, but also:

  • An original fantasy series, part of a duology with my fanfiction Trek universe;
  • A poetry collection;
  • A series of novellas about life and death at a private no-cost hospice resort;
  • Short stories and flash fiction.
  • Several essays, and nearly a thousand blog posts, so far.

Those are the tangible proof that something shifted when I embraced my Vulcan passion. There are also other, less easily quantified benefits:

  • I’m better at allowing my characters to breathe and live on the page.
  • I understand more about what to say and what to leave unsaid, and the power of the smallest gestures – a swallow, the brush of fingertips, a glance, a sigh…
  • I’ve extended and stretched the way I see myself as a writer and a person, and how my passions feed all of my writing.
  • I come to my writing with a sense of freedom and playfullness inspired by indulging my passions, and I immerse myself in the realities I create.

I used to divide my life into rigid categories. I had a ‘Real Writing’ category, and an ‘Other Stuff I Write But Feel Guilty About’ category. But I’ve come to see that it’s all writing, just as writing is a part of me. Interconnection, interweaving, all swirled and blended together into an ever-shifting whole. Everything I write is Real Writing. There is no “other”. It all feeds each other, and that’s where passions come in.

Loving what I do makes me a better writer.

It’s not because I love Vulcans. It’s because I accept that I love them, revel in my love for them, and give myself permission to write about them, observe them, delve their minds…to let myself sink into all that it is that makes them irresistible to me, and to capture that and offer it to you.

I get more out of indulging my passions than I do out of fighting them. Since I began treating my fascination with writing Trek fanfiction as equally worthy, I’ve allowed myself to indulge in delightful observation of T’Pol and Spock, my two favorite Vulcans (anyone else want to read that as ‘My Favorite Martian’, or is that just me?).

Vulcans aren’t human. Their body language, thought processes, and approach to life are quite different. There is a stillness about them, a lack of the types of exuberant, spontaneous motions we humans tend to engage in. Their usually submergedemotions aren’t nearly as much a factor in their decision making as logic. A small lift of the eyebrow conveys amusement, frustration, surprise…a tiny shift of visual focus to indicate anger, discomfort, evasion…each movement means more, in Vulcans, and, in order to find my stories, I’ve needed to become attentive to those subtle shifts.

Vulcans are also a study in contrasts and unresolved inner conflicts. Writing them requires understanding and conveying the lighting flashes and thunderclaps when they lose their calm and control. When the maelstrom of raw emotion is loosed, they might kill to win a mate; make illogical and self-destructive choices, sob, seduce, scream, or sink silently and rigidly into themselves.

In learning to read Vulcans, to focus on those tiny clues and glaring signs of their inner thoughts, motivations, conflicts, and emotions, I’ve honed skills that make me a better writer no matter what species my characters are.

Because that’s really what’s at the heart of fiction writing – understanding why our characters do what they do, how to read and see into them more deeply, to know what it would be to live within their skins, their minds, their souls, their lives.

It isn’t about Vulcans or Star Trek – not really.

It’s about passion.

Because the best writing is based upon passion. We don’t choose our passions; they happen to us, based on many factors: exposure, interests, personality, needs…By indulging our passions, we’re engaging ourselves more wholly – and isn’t that exactly what we need to do, to be the best writers we can be?

At the beginning of this post, I asked what you are passionate about, and whether you indulged those passions. Now, at the end, I offer up a challenge. If you already indulge your passions without guilt, can you see the ways in which they’ve enhanced your writing? If you don’t, will you find some small space you can give to your passion, freely and joyfully?

You may find that your life – and your writing – will become richer and deeper, if you do. May you, to paraphrase the Vulcans, “Write passionately and prosper.”

~*~

Shan Jeniah Burton

 

4 comments

    1. That’s not odd at all, to me. “This Side of Paradise” was a one-episode arc. We met Leila, learned that she and Spock had some murky history, and then there were the spores that allowed him to develop whatever it was he felt for her, and denied, when they first met on Earth.

      This scene holds the passion of self-denial, of choosing duty, friendship, and loyalty over the chance at love. Later, we’ll learn that Spock was in fact engaged to a Vulcan woman when they were children – could be that that has something to do with his denial- of Leila, and Christine Chapel (oh, do I have stories about those two!)…

      On the other hand, this scene with T’Pol and Trip occurs a way into season 3. By the time they get to this point, they’ve been working together, butting heads, teasing, fighting, flirting, and learning about each other for three years. They’ve been a part of one another’s lives, and they’ve saved each other’s lives, more than once.They’ve seen each other at their best, their worst, and lots of points in between. They’re crewmates, friends, adversaries, and, as Trip puts it, ‘a hell of a team’.

      The neuropressure they’re doing through this scene is an intimate act, for a Vulcan. We see it evolve between them, and we see them drawing closer through it, for several episodes before this one. And, after this scene, there’s the awkward morning-after (with an alien complication), and some major upheaval still in the future (upheaval that’s only been hinted at, here).

      Where Spock’s scene is the passion of denial; T’Pol’s is the passion of acceptance: of herself and of Trip, of the fact that she’s not going to be able to live a strictly Vulcan life when she’s chosen to serve on a human ship. She’s given up a lot to be there; her own commission, her people (she was ordered to return to Vulcan), her rank. In this scene, she gets something to counterbalance that.

      Her scene works better if you’ve watched the series up to that point, and understand what it means to both of them that she is able to become so intimate. It also helps to know that she’s flawed and imperfect in her own way, and that there’s more going on here than we see until later in the season.

      As for loving Spock – right there with you, since I was 13 (I’m definitely the loyal type!). But a lot of what I love in Spock – the struggle against himself, and to reconcile himself – is also there in T’Pol. Enterprise is set a hundred years before the original series; things between Vulcans and humans, and Vulcan culture, too, is different, for reasons that become clearer in season 4.

      On a side note, Jolene Blalock, who gave T’Pol life, grew up wanting to be Spock’s daughter. I think that gives her portrayal of T’Pol a depth she might not have had, otherwise.

      But, all that said (see what happens when you get me talking about Vulcans?!), it’s okay with me iif you find Spock’s scene the more passion-charged one! Infinite diversity in infinite combination, no? =)

    1. Things have opened up so much since I stopped being ashamed of my passion and instead flung it out for the world to see! And I am so much happier, in all my writing (which doesn’t ALWAYS have Vulcans!).

      I can feel when someone is embracing their passions. It comes out in the writing, in a certain freedom and joy that shines through.

      Glad you liked it. It was so much fun to write! =D

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