Whenever I teach a workshop I talk about my belief that we need to write with passion. By that I mean we need to care, really care about what we have to say—whether it’s a book, a story, a newspaper article, an essay or anything else. Our best chance to connect with the reader is if we care. And let’s face it, writing can be a difficult career. If we don’t care about what we’re writing it’s a career that could drive us crazy. Somewhere, somehow in the core of everything we write, we need to find something we care passionately about. We need to share the emotions it evokes for us—and for readers, too, when we put into words what they’ve maybe felt but couldn’t articulate.
Last night, at the Writers League of Texas in Austin, Joe O’Connell spoke about his book Evacuation Plan: A Novel from the Hospice. When he accepted a grant to be writer in residence at the hospice, he was looking for research for a mystery he was writing, he told us. Instead he found the stories that make up Evacuation Plan. His emotion, his passion for this material came through in every word he said and afterwards there was a long line of us buying his book.
Now I have to say, I went knowing what he would talk about and not being able to imagine wanting to buy the book. Until he spoke and his passion grabbed me. I knew I would love the writing because of it. It was clear that he cared so much that he saw beyond the obvious and transformed the nuances of what was happening into what he wrote. It became fiction that captured the truth as opposed to the mere reality of his experience.
And that’s what we all can do, if we’re writers—find the passion within us for something in our work that will let us transcend the material to connect directly with our readers and help them feel the experiences about which we are writing. If we can do that, it will be a long time before our readers forget us—if they ever do.