The Passion of the Writer
I have just come from a superbowl party after watching that AMAZING game. Apologies to all you sports haters, but I am going to use a football metaphor in today’s post. You know I love pop culture – and the superbowl is about as pop as it gets. And wasn’t that an EXCITING last few minutes? No matter who you were rooting for, that was high drama.
Whether you love sports or hate them, you can’t argue with the fact they’re packed with drama. There are multitudes of stories in every sport, in every game, behind the scenes and on the field of play. Sounds like the makings of a good post, don’t you think? But that one will have to wait for another day.
I had already planned today’s post before I watched the game; of course, during the game, I couldn’t help think of the ways it tied into my theme, which is:
I’m currently working with a writer who is naturally gifted as a novelist and storyteller. She wrote a wonderful first novel without ever really studying the craft of fiction. Now, in order to polish it enough for possible publication, she needs to buckle down and study craft. But she is finding it difficult. She sees “craft” as a bunch of arbitrary rules and as she tries to write and rewrite with those rules in mind, she feels the life being sucked out of her. The necessity to do something a “certain way” rather than the way it originally flowed out of her is robbing her of her passion.
How do you overcome that? How do you study the craft of fiction and allow it to inform and improve your writing while still maintaining your passion?
I was thinking about this question during the football game. If you watched it, you may have noticed there were an unusual number of penalties called. A penalty is when someone fails to follow the rules of the game. When they break a rule, they lose yards toward their goal. Why are there rules in the first place? Well, lots of reasons, but one reason is to preserve the integrity of the game. The beauty of the sport (any sport) comes not only from how well someone can run or kick or throw or whatever… it comes from how well they can do it within the pre-set guidelines. The rules. They can’t just run or kick however they want. They have to do it a certain way.
Similarly, the “rules” of writing are there to help us create a work of beauty (although unlike in sports, they are not hard and fast rules but simply principles). Break too many rules and a penalty is called… you lose your reader’s interest, you lose their trust, you may lose them altogether.
Those football players have nothing if not passion. I wonder, how did they learn to channel their passion so that it fits within the strict rules of the game? I’m sure many would love to run out on the field, let loose, and do whatever they want. But that’s not what wins games. They’ve had to allow their passion to be informed by a deep and lengthy study of the craft of football. They’ve suffered for it. They’ve worked at it. Somehow, they’ve made it this far without losing their passion.
And how do writers do it?
I want to hear from you, especially published authors. I’ll bet there are many newer writers who want to know the answer.
You tell me.
Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent who plays fast and loose with metaphors.