#8. Manufactured Passion
How to get things done when the energy of delusion proves elusive
This is not an essay about marriage. Nor is it a short story about two robots that fall in love . . . although I can envision a movie . . . what appears to be a moody meditation on marriage changes completely at the ten-minute mark when the husband is stabbed. He covers his wound until his wife presses desperately closer and discovers that he’s not bleeding . . . because he’s a robot!
And then she unscrews her head and reveals . . . she’s a robot, too!
Soon, though, right around eighteen minutes, they lose interest in each other. All the romance is gone once they realize they’ve both just been running a suite of love and affection algorithms. Instead of sticking together, they plot to break up their neighbors’ marriage and pair off with those two. Maybe it’s a comedy? No, it transcends genre! At the end we find out that the neighbors are robots, too, only they’re military assassin robots, and so the sequel becomes a kind of spy thriller.
Now, where was I?
Right. This is supposed to be about work.
In my last essay, we talked about one of my all-time favorite concepts, the energy of delusion. So, what happens if you can’t summon that belief in the importance of your task? How do you manufacture passion for your work?
Me! Call on me! I know!
Yes, you there, in the back row, with the huge head and giant teeth. Chris, right?
No, that’s my brother. I’m Greg.
Oh, right. Well then, go ahead. We don’t have all day.
Thank you. I have four pieces of advice for anyone suffering from a shortage of work-related passion:
1. Get Over Yourself
Sometimes a subject or story just doesn’t really interest me. If it’s my own work, and no one’s begging for it, I can always move on. But if someone has assigned me the story, and I’ve taken the job, but I’m struggling to find the passion, then I basically tell myself to stop being so annoying and self-important and just get it done.
2. Channel It
No, not the soul-sucking alien monster who appears in the form of a clown. By “it” I mean passion, and specifically someone else’s passion. When I’m ghostwriting, and the person I’m writing for/with cares deeply about the subject, then so do I.
3. Focus Only on the Work
I’ll hand this one over to the poet Derek Walcott:
“ . . . I do know that if one thinks a poem is coming on—in spite of the noise of the typewriter, or the traffic outside the window, or whatever—you do make a retreat, a withdrawal into some kind of silence that cuts out everything around you. What you’re taking on is really not a renewal of your identity but actually a renewal of your anonymity, so that what’s in front of you becomes more important than what you are.”
Yes! Get over yourself. Disappear into the work. Block everything out — ego, distractions (headphones help), twitter, and all the rest. Turn off the notifications on your phone and computer. (How does anyone tolerate those distracting dings?) Exit email. Give the kids the keys to your car and tell them go take it for a spin. (As long as they’re old/tall enough for their feet to reach the pedals, of course.) Now focus on the work and only the work. Trust me, it will advance rapidly.
4. Dress Seriously
The creative uniform is a subject for another essay. Quickly, though, I do believe that dressing seriously helps you take your work seriously, and makes that route to manufactured passion a little easier. For instance, years ago, when I commissioned myself to write an opera about a dumpster, I struggled for weeks to find the creative energy. Walking around the house in my Smurf pajamas, I grew despondent. Then I donned my favorite tuxedo (pulling it on over the pajamas, of course) and it all came out in a rush. The notes, the words, the emotional arc – everything flowed.
Was it my outfit? Not entirely. But I do think it played a role. I’m putting on my tuxedo right now, in fact, to get to work on that robot love script.
And I’m fairly certain I’ve settled on the next post in the series. Writing pants.
That’s it? Yes.
I hope this was helpful, or at least confusing. Either way, thank you for reading.
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