Passion 2

I have a stack of books to read that is about 18 inches high. I used to be a passionate reader who could fall into the world between the covers of a book, but that all changed for me when I started writing my own fiction. Historical fiction requires a lot of research and reading for research is different. You try to get the big picture and then you look hard for the details that are both informative and useful in your story.

Writing can also make someone a very critical reader. Any writer makes decisions about how they want to write; who they are, their voice as a writer. Once that has happened, anything that ISN’T what you’ve discovered as the truth of your “style” can be very irritating. I used to be pretty open to a range of styles — including the miserable Henry James — but now, I’m very intolerant. And when I try to read Henry James, I just imagine a chubby sanctimonious old fairy in drag. I don’t know why. There’s nothing wrong with fairies or drag or being chubby, but the image disturbs the stories. I’d rather watch them as films.

And then passion…

As a young person I was described as “passionate.” I thought it was a compliment. Now I view that as a train careening off the tracks. Passion is wonderful, intoxicating, a motive beyond all motives but it is NOT what wins the race. Maybe it’s impossible to start a race without it, but it’s not enough to win. The tortoise knew that, the ants know it, but I was more hare and grasshopper (perhaps am still?).

And now…

I also see how my ignorance is involved in passion. It’s don Amarante in Milagro Beanfield War saying of Jose Mondragon, “If we knew what was going to happen, none of us would do anything.” Jose Mondragon’s passion enflames the town into taking action on its own behalf.

11 thoughts on “Passion 2

  1. Stay passionate but don’t get in the race. You are not a quitter if you don’t start in the first place. Stay your course and run your own race. We are always our own worst critics, so change courses. Dare to not be hare. Slow and steady wins the race.
    Geez, did I give you enough clichés there? I think you are beating yourself up and I don’t like to see that, Martha.
    BUT…as a non-writer, tell me if I have this all wrong.

    • I don’t know if you got it all wrong — I think these are just the natural result of living life, though. When I was young I thought all that I needed to do was be very passionate about what I was doing and it would all work out, whatever it was. So, I don’t think this is beating myself up — I’ve learned by now that that gambler in that Kenny Rogers’ song had a point. 😉

  2. It’s true the voice of the writer is important. I too find myself less patient with bad or annoying voicing. I recently read a ‘popular’ book, I hated it. The voice was so childish and yet the subject was not. It came across as awkward and a little creepy.

    • There’s a very popular writer of historical fiction who writes so badly I’d like to throttle her, but she clearly understands something I don’t — PLUS she developed a HUGE following with a very different kind of book. Creepy is the world for it! Not that I’m God’s gift, I know I’m not and maybe that’s part of my problem. Maybe if I believed I WERE it would be less serious for me.

  3. Writing has made me a critical reader … but mostly, writing has stolen all that time I used to read. It’s hard to fit in time and brain space for other peoples’ writing — even when I really want to read, I get sidetracked by writing ideas.

  4. I have a stack of books to read, but it’s because I’m a terribly slow reader with a bad attention span. I enjoyed reading your post to see why you still have a stack of books to go through.

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