You have a great idea for an article, blog post, short story or novel.
You feel the topic is fresh and interesting, and you’ve brainstormed your main points. After a bit of work, you come to the moment when you’re ready to write.
But when you get down to actually putting the idea down on paper (or into your Word document), you can’t seem to infuse that initial excitement about your idea into your writing. It seems to fall flat.
You know it’s not the idea that’s the problem. Nor is it your writing ability; you have the chops to write well.
So what is the problem?
The Difficult Transition from Idea to Execution
Sometimes the transition from idea to execution causes problems.
At times, the story seems to be hovering over some lost horizon because, as the cliché goes, you can’t see the forest for the trees. And if you are working on something as enormous as a novel, it can seem like a huge forest with so many trees (elements) that your vision can get muddled and your eyes tired from trying to “see the big picture” all the time.
Kahlil Gibran said in his famous book The Prophet that “thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly”.
I memorized that line more than forty years ago because of its profound wisdom. Just how do we get our terrific ideas to ‘fly’ in a cage of words?
We do so by tapping into our passion. Passion for our topic and passion for shaping words.
Don’t Mistake Enthusiasm for Passion
You can be passionate about your story idea, but that could just be enthusiasm. Don’t confuse the two. I’ve heard clients talk quite excitedly about their plot, and it might actually be a great idea. But when I dig into the writing looking for the heart of the story, I don’t find the passion.
So, what do I mean by passion? I’m talking about a strong feeling, conviction, belief that comes from within. A belief that this is an important story to tell, a pertinent theme to explore, or a significant argument to make.
If you can find a way to tap into that joy of shaping words to create a beautiful bird, it will come through in your writing.
Return to Your First Love
Your greatest hindrance to passionate writing is self-criticism.
Instead of worrying over why we write, or analyzing our writing to death, I suggest we return to that first love of storytelling. That’s why you started writing anyway, isn’t it? We must not only shut up the ‘critic’ and other inner hecklers that get in our way, we need also to journey back to a simpler place, where we rediscover the joy of creativity every time we sit down to write.
Sure, if we have a contractual deadline dangling over our heads like the sword of Damocles, it can be a bit tricky to stop glancing up. But if we want to get to that place of passion, we have to.
Can we write like that every moment we sit down and dig into our story? Not likely, though I imagine there are some writers who come close.
Is that something we should aim for? I’m going to say “no”, because I think the emotional and energetic side, to put it one way, doesn’t always serve us best. There are times when we have to get quiet and think. Or not think. Times we have to problem-solve and talk to ourselves, untangle tight knots in our plot (or back).
So maybe passion doesn’t look like excitement all the time. Passion can also look like dedication, persistence, patience, meditation. To me, it has many faces.
What Does Passion Look Like?
These are some of the things I notice in books that scream passion:
- A delight in the language – Amateur writers and writers lacking passion tend to lean more toward the cookie-cutter or formula-type way of structuring plots, scenes and sentences. There is no depth.
- A delight in rich characters - As writers, I feel we should be fascinated by people. Humans are complex, contradictory, confusing, erratic, surprising, hilarious — the list goes on. Writers should capture the human condition in all its weirdness. Passionate writing loathes stereotyped characters.
- A delight in storytelling - When you read a riveting story, you can sense the writer herself is enthralled with the story. She’s not just plunking down the words she thinks will fit nicely, the way you might work a jigsaw puzzle. She’s enamored with the process of telling the story.
Passion Might Not Be Important for Every Writer
Passion may not be why you write. Writers write for various reasons, each of them valid and not to be judged.
I have friends who pump out novels using formulaic structure, and they aren’t a bit passionate. They make a decent living at what they do, they support their families, and they are perfectly happy with their work. I think that’s terrific . . . for them.
And it may be terrific for you as well. There is a need in many marketplaces for skilled, non-passionate writing, and someone has to do it. (Think of all those computer tech manuals!)
But someone also needs to write passionate stories for readers longing for such stories. Maybe you are one of those writers.
If you want to be one, you need to stir up your passion for words, for your characters, and for storytelling itself. You need to push away all those encroaching voices within and without that pull you away from your passionate core.
Some people listen to stirring music or read great literature before sitting down to tackle a scene, or take a walk in nature to clear their head or stir the imagination.
Can you think of some ways that might help you tap into your passion when you sit down to write? If so, share them here in the comments. Let’s incite each other to passionate writing!
About the Author:
C. S. Lakin is the author of thirteen novels and works as a professional copyeditor and writing coach. Her websites are dedicated to critiquing fiction and instruction and encouragement to help you survive and thrive in your writing life.
Image: Passionate woman courtesy of Bigstockphoto.com