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.”