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There’s very little I’ve ever written that didn’t involve a passionate idea. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation, deciding which came first. Did I conceive of an idea during a moment of heightened emotion, or did an idea grow as I became more passionate about it? The passion can definitely energize me to the point where my pen or typing fingers can barely keep up with my imagination. Sometimes that’s great, when I have time to write everything down. If I get interrupted or my writing time ends, it can be as much a shock to my system as unexpectedly stepping off a curb or drinking OJ when I thought I was about to swallow milk.

When I was younger, every new experience was chock full of passionate potential. Every new, thrilling adventure was ripe for the page. This, after reading back over my writing from those times, wasn’t always the case. Sure it was fun to write about all of those things, even if I only used bits and pieces of the memories, but I had little context for them. The maturity and perspective that would come later were sorely missing. One thing is true: as I age and my memory deteriorates, those passionate experiences are the ones at the forefront of my memory. They are easily recalled when I need them, still vibrant, loud, and capable of triggering the memories of all my senses. It makes me wish I had jumped headlong into more things, just to have more of those vivid recollections for writing fodder.

When I have trouble writing from the perspective of a character, I can think back to those vivid experiences: car accidents, romantic encounters, protests, fights, or desires unfulfilled. There have been times of immense grief and regret in my life, balanced by others of complete joy and inspiration. It’s not just tragedy that makes art, in my opinion. There’s a whole palette of emotions and experiences that are necessary to understand, within them subtle and overt tones that offer a richly complex playground for details and character development. So much of this contributes to my writing, but times of passion are not immediately fruitful writing periods for me. It’s better for me to focus on the experiences, burn them into my memory, if I can, and use them later.

Most of my writing takes place in periods of calm and quiet. My mind is restless enough without the distractions passionate feelings cause. It’s all too easy for me to get lost in my imagination, until I’ve plummeted into a stream-of-consciousness chasm. I marvel at how I paid attention to my teachers all those years ago, when my imagination was always beckoning for me to follow or relive a passionate memory. It’s really a miracle that I can get anything done at all!

Passion is often compared to flame. While it can certainly feel like a wild, consuming force, I don’t think that’s entirely fair. What’s left but ash when a fire is extinguished? Passion has its place in my writing because it leaves behind memories that help me build and transform my writing. I think of it more like the heat applied to a pizza oven, where memories and emotions can meld into something more than the sum of their ingredients. Maybe just as cheesy as a pizza, or maybe something worthy of serving to others. Mmmm….pizza.

What fires your creativity?