Friday, September 25, 2009

"The Whirlwind of Passion"...

When I was in Grade 9, my english teacher gave our class an assignment. Pick a soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet and present it in front of the other students. I dare say you can imagine how this went over with the majority of the class...

I will admit to initial trepidation myself, even. This Shakespeare stuff was weird and awkward and didn't make any sense was the general consensus and I had no reason to believe to the contrary. Until I actually started to read the stuff, that is.

I can't explain it. But those words SPOKE to me. The rhthym, the music, the way the lines of text even looked on the page of my school-assigned purple-covered paperback edition (which, larcenously, I don't think I ever actually gave back at the end of the year, so enamoured was I). Something about the language just hit me. I chose Juliet's speech in the so-called 'balcony scene' (the one that starts out 'Thou knowst the mask of night is on my face') and... I memorized it.

I was the only one in the class who did that. Learned it 'by heart' as it were.

It set off a chain reaction that has culminated in my life's passion. It also got me a week's worth of 'weirdo' stares from my classmates (but also earned me bonus marks from the teacher - heh!). That one speech - and performing (in however small a way) that one speech - put my little sneakered feet squarely on the path of reader/writer/actor/storyteller. It imparted, with one swift blow, a profound, passionate, undeniable love of language - specifically of words meant to shape a story, tell a tale, move an audience, ellicit emotion - that sticks with me to this day.

I love it when I encounter the phenomenon. I can get lost in a story for days at at time, or for moments. Reading this week's entries from my fellow Girls was particularly wonderful for me. Because even brief blog entries can spark that passion in me -- although earlier in the week, they were also - admittedly - sparking hunger pangs, too, ladies! (Evocative food writing? That's pretty cool. *salivates*)

So my passion, at its most basic I suppose, is story. But - and here's an important distinction - it's not just the need to write. Or the need to perform. It's the act, itself, of creating something that can be inhabited by someone else's imagination. (Great art or photography or dance or - yes absolutely! cooking! - does it, too.) But it's not just the force of passion at work in most cases where something is truly extraordinary. Because when a piece of art really moves you, it's not just the passion working behind it. It can't be. It's also the craftsmanship and care and skill used to shape and hone that initial raw passion that is so vital to both the process and the outcome.

With the celebration this week of my WONDROUS STRANGE paperback release - and with me being smack in the middle of writing the 3rd book in the trilogy - I've been thinking about this idea of passion a lot. Particularly in terms of my character, Kelley. We have a shared background in the theatre and the passion that goes with it. And I worry a little bit about her because of it. Probably in much the same way my parents worried about me when I announced that it was the Theatre Or Bust for me. You have to be a little crazy to be in the acting business - I think I might have said that before - and you have to be committed. But you all so have to be disciplined. Passions are all very marvelous - but not if you let them run away with you. Let's face it - most of the time that just leads to over-writing, self-indulgence and plain old hamming-it-up-ery!

Like Hamlet says, upon giving instructions to the actors of his play:

"... use all gently;

for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,

a temperance that may give it smoothness."

I hope that's a lesson Kelley learns. Girl's full of passion at the moment. Temperance? Er... not so much.

So what do you guys think? Am I full of hot air? Is Hamlet? Is pure passion by itself ever sufficient in the act of creation? Is art better left undiluted by craft? Leave your wisdom in the comments - which (ooh! Multi-tasking!) automatically enters you in our Novel Girls Blogoversary Contest-o-Wonder! This week I'm giving away a signed-n-shiny copy of the WS paperback, plus you'll be entered for the grand prize of $100 Amazon Gift Card with which to indulge passions of your very own!! (details on the side bar of how to passionately increase your chances ot win win win!)


RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thanks for sharing such a personal post. Thank goodness for a great teacher and performing Shakespeare.
I'm going to get your novel WONDROUS STRANGE on payday.
All the best,
PS - Have a wonderful weekend!

Robyn Russell said...

Passion can result in a beautiful achievement--only if there's enough preparation ahead of time.

Oftentimes someone spends years developing a skill, but the world only sees the moment (or final product) in which it's displayed, with great passion. The passion may be more evident than the preparation.

On the other hand, it takes great passion to get a person through that long process of preparation, and often passion sets great work apart from the rest.

Anonymous said...

:( I just woke up so wisdom is far from my mind right

Kristen said...

I absolutely love all things Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet has always been a favorite of mine. So thank you for sharing this with us! I loved Wondrous Strange (just bought a hardcover I loved it so much) and can't wait to read the rest of the series!

kristina shields said...

I really disliked reading 'Romeo and Juliet' when I was in 9th grade. I will hopefully get Wondorus Strange. It sounds very interesting.

Rashmi, a Mommy Reviewer said...

Lol, that was so familiar to me! I was like that too. Books spoke to me. I memorized passages and got weird stares. I'd be eager to get to the assigned reading while my classmates hated it! I'm still a bookworm and PROUD of it :) Haven't read yours as yet, but you're on my list now :)

I'd also love to host you and The Novel Girls on my book blog, with guest posts, giveaways etc. Let me know. Thanks!

Sandra said...

Hello :) Am I too late to enter? I hope not. I believe passion is very much a nesccesity in whatever we choose to stirve for in life. If we want to be happy in whatever we do, what goals we follow or career paths we set we need to be passionate, it can be writing, astronomy, teaching whatever. If you do not love what you are doing, if you are not passionate, obsessed with it, I can't see how you can be happy or stop yourself from growing tired of what you are doing and feeling unfulfilled. :)