For Writing and Life: What Do You Want?

In the TV show Babylon 5 there are four questions that are central to the series’ theme, and that are asked by different characters throughout the story: Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?

In this blog series, I want to cover each question individually – what it means to me, and what it means to you. If you’re a writer (or pursuing a creative passion of any sort), I think these questions are especially important.

As a writer (and reader) of fantasy tales, I believe that one of the strengths of the genre is to give us a new and deeper way of looking at reality. The best fantasy always points to the truth. And so, I ask this question:

     What do you want?

We all want things: money, fans, ice cream, sleep, friendship, new shoes. We express hundreds of wants every day, from the fantastically wishful to the mundane.

In Babylon 5, it’s the Shadows and their servants who most often ask this question. For all their faults (the Shadows are the main antagonists of the series), they know how to pull the answer to this question from the deepest parts of a person. They do not ask this question because they’re curious about what a character wants for dinner or wants to do tomorrow – they are searching for the driving force at the core of each person, their deepest motivations.

Goals and Dreams

These two things are not the same, though they go hand in hand. A dream is the calling of your heart, your deepest desires and your highest wishes. A dream can be motivation, even when circumstances are against you.

A goal is a dream with a deadline. If you’re a writer, your goal might be a publishing deadline, a trip across the country for hands-on research for your next book, a daily wordcount, or maintaining a consistent blogging schedule.

Set a date, plan your action steps, and do the work. This is how goals – for writing, and for life – are pursued and accomplished. But a goal is useless – and usually unattained – if it’s not backed by a true want, a dream.

Never stop asking the question

As life goes on, you change and your writing changes. And sometimes your dreams and wants change, and that’s okay.

It’s important to keep asking yourself what you want. Periodically analyze your dreams and goals, and see if they are really what you want. It’s a good thing to change a goal because your deep desires and motivations have changed over time.

The Shadows, though they were masters at asking the question of others, had forgotten how to answer it for themselves. They could no longer be the guardians they were originally intended to be. They were so busy pursuing the same goal they had always pursued that they never stopped to explore their own desires. They became creatures of habit instead of dreams.

Make sure that you’re always writing about what you want to write about. This keeps your writing genuine and your voice unique. Never lose track of your dreams.

What do you want?

“The question is its own purpose. What do you want?” -Morden, “Signs and Portents”

For Writing and Life: Who are You?

In the TV show Babylon 5 there are four questions that are central to the series’ theme, and that are asked by different characters throughout the story: Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?

In this blog series, I want to cover each question individually – what it means to me, and what it means to you. If you’re a writer (or pursuing a creative passion of any sort), I think these questions are especially important.

As a writer (and reader) of fantasy tales, I believe that one of the strengths of the genre is to give us a new and deeper way of looking at reality. The best fantasy always points to the truth. And so, I ask this question:

     Who are you?

In the Babylon 5 episode “Comes the Inquisitor,” the character of Delenn is held prisoner by the Inquisitor who repeatedly asks “Who are you?” She quickly learns that the correct answer is not her name, her title, her family history, or her career.

Your name, your job, the different hats you must wear throughout your life – spouse, parent, leader, student – all of these help define what you are, but not who you are. If all of that were stripped away, and there was nothing left but you and your words, who would you be? This is not about what other people call you. What do you call yourself?

Your voice

As a writer, it’s important to know who you are. It is from this understanding of yourself that your best writing will come. This does not mean that you must write nothing but memoirs. Knowing who you are is what helps you to develop that indescribable yet vital aspect of writing: your voice.

I can’t give you a step by step guide to discovering your voice – if there even is such a thing. I’m still discovering my own voice. I have learned, though, that writing – as much and as often as you can – is the best way to develop your voice.

If you’re just starting out as a writer, it’s okay if your style and voice mimic that of your favorite author – that’s how we learn. Just know that even if you can spin a better tale than a famous author, if your voice is not your own, your writing will fall flat. Readers have an amazing ability – whether they can articulate it or not – to sense if a writer does not know who they are.

The right place at the right time

I believe that if a writer – or anyone – knows who they are and why they exist, then whatever they do in life will be impactful. “In the right place at the right time” is as much a matter of self-understanding and self-discipline as it is luck. A writer who has found their voice and writes from the heart will always be a powerful writer.

Every day I’m discovering more about who I am. I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin, as a person and as a writer. I’m confident that I’m in the right place at the right time to live a fulfilled and happy life. I’m learning more and more every day that my writing matters, because I matter, and the people who read my words matter.

Who are you?

“How do you know the chosen ones? No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions, not for glory, not for fame. For one person. In the dark, where no one will ever know or see. … When the darkness comes, know this. You are the right people, in the right place, at the right time.” -Sebastian, “Comes the Inquisitor”