7 Ways to Use Passion to Power Your Writing
Need inspiration? Tap into what makes you happy! The old adage to “write what you know” is only partly true. I’ve also found that to be a successful author and enjoy the process, you need to write what you love. Not only does it make writing more fun, it also makes it easier since your passion, inspiration, and curiosity push you forward from page 1 to the end. For me, that primary passion is natural remedies. I’ve always been amazed by the healing properties of herbs and medicinal plants.
This passion came from my mother. When I was growing up, she regularly used natural cures such as calendula for minor cuts and scrapes, arnica for sprains and bruises, lavender essential oil for stress and insomnia, and homeopathic remedies to prevent colds and flu. Throughout my career, this passion has powered my writing, from articles on health topics to seven nonfiction books and four natural remedies mystery novels.
The Path to Finding My Passion
After I graduated from Boston University with a degree in communications, I worked in a variety of industries including advertising, radio, newspapers, and TV production, from Boston to New York City to Hollywood. But none of it felt like the right path. Working in TV in Hollywood had seemed exciting, but the days were long and the competition for writing jobs was fierce, although I had success as a screenwriter.
As time went on, I missed my family and friends on the East Coast more and more, and I wanted to move back to New York. At about the same time, someone mentioned that I should become a magazine writer. After the fifth person suggested this occupation to me, I realized that the universe was sending me a message! Not only could I write from anywhere, which meant I could move back to New York. I could also live a more balanced life—no more 16-hour days in production—and be my own boss. I could also share my knowledge of all things natural with readers.
In 1999, with my first assignment for Woman’s Day, I started a new career in journalism writing about health, wellness, and natural cures. In the query to the magazine, I had focused on natural ways to de-stress. This unique point of view made my work stand out and captured my editor’s interest.
Over the past 17 years, my passion for all things natural has served me well. I’ve written articles about natural health for many national publications including USA Today’s Green Living, Natural Health, Mother Earth Living, Vegetarian Times, Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens, and Spirituality & Health magazine.
This work led to writing nonfiction books with a focus on natural remedies, alternative medicine, and holistic health and healing including The Country Almanac of Home Remedies (Fairwinds Press/2011) with herbalist Brigitte Mars and my latest, The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty: 125 Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-Free, Cruelty-Free, Makeup, Skin, & Hair Care Products (Robert Rose/2016) with Vegan Beauty Review founder Sunny Subramanian.
Writing Cozy Mysteries, Naturally
When it came to fiction, my agent, Ann Collette of the Helen Rees agency in Boston, and I brainstormed one day and came up with the idea to use my background in natural remedies to create a cozy mystery. The natural remedies mystery series was optioned by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster in 2011.
Writing mysteries is the most fun because I get to create my own unique universe and populate it with interesting and lovable characters. I’ve chosen to make my protagonist a holistic doctor named Willow McQuade, ND. Willow also owns and runs a health food store called Nature’s Way Market & Café in a three-story Victorian in the heart of real-life tourist village Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island. She solves mysteries with the help of her ex-cop boyfriend, Jackson Spade, the founder of a new animal sanctuary, and her ex-BF, TV producer, and new winery owner Simon Lewis.
To reinforce the natural theme, I feature natural remedies in all four books in the series. In the first book, Death Drops, there are a variety of natural cures and therapies; the second, Scent to Kill, features tips on aromatherapy; Garden of Death includes information about medicinal plants; and my latest, Dandelion Dead, suggests ways to use edible plants and the reason for choosing organic wine.
Follow Your Heart
Now that you’ve read about how my writing career has been powered by my passion for natural health, it’s time to think about how you can discover your own. Take a look at these seven categories and see if one or more of them sparks your imagination!
Take A Closer Look at What You’re Passionate About
- Is your passion a place? One of my passions is my hometown, Greenport, New York. This once-sleepy fishing village is now a thriving tourist destination. For this reason, I set my books in a fictional version of Greenport. I also love everything British and am a complete and total Anglophile! On my trip to England next year, in fact, I’ll be researching a new novel set in London and the countryside.
What places do you long to live in or visit? England, like me? Or say, France? Spain? India? Japan? Australia? What exotic locales have always intrigued you?
- Is your passion a time period? Are you interested in the Revolutionary War? Or the Victorian era, the Edwardian era, the 1700s? The 1800s? 1900s? Now? The future? I’m especially fascinated by Britain during World War II, and this has inspired my story about a botanist in that time period.
What era in time appeals to you most?
- Is your passion a famous person? Author Joanna Slan writes mysteries about Jane Eyre; Susan Wittig Albert writes the Beatrix Potter mysteries. Susan Elia MacNeal’s books feature fictional spy Maggie Hope, who works for Winston Churchill and the Queen during World War II.
What famous person inspires you? Whom do you want to know more about? Whom would you love to have over for tea?
- Is your passion helping animals? Author Linda O. Johnston writes a cozy series about pet rescue, and I include this theme in all of my books, too. Saving animals and ending pet abuse are both very important to me. I have two dachshunds, Murdoch, 1, and Wallander, 7, from All American Dachshund Rescue, and two cats, Tinker and Tuppence, both 14, from the Webster Foundation. All are named after fictional sleuths! Can you guess which ones?
Do you love animals? How have they made your life better? How can they inspire your writing? How could a special animal play a role in your story?
In Death Drops, a homeless dog wandered into the front yard of Nature’s Way and into the pages. I hadn’t planned it, but there he was! Needless to say, Willow rescued him and named him Qigong, which is an ancient practice for healing. Since then, Willow and Jackson have rescued three more dachshunds, Rockford, Columbo, and Zeke.
- Is your passion a practice? Author Tracy Weber runs her own yoga studio and is now writing her Downward Dog mysteries about yoga. Author Rosemary Harris is a master gardener and writes mysteries about gardening.
Is there some practice that you have a passion for? How has it improved the quality of your life? What do you want to share with others?
- Is your passion a hobby? On Killer Hobbies (www.killerhobbies.blogspot.com), the members blog about the hobbies that inspire their murder mysteries, including knitting, needlework, yoga, and animal rescue.
Think back…what were your hobbies when you were growing up? For example, did you enjoy scrapbooking, photography, drawing, or collecting books, stamps, or dolls?
What hobby do you enjoy now? Brainstorm ways to write a mystery about it.
- Is your passion an interest? Are you crazy about coffee like cozy mystery author Cleo Coyle or nuts about cheese like Avery Aames?
What can’t you get enough information about? What kind of magazines do you read? What articles interest you the most?
Let Your Imagination Run Wild!
One of the first steps in finding your passion is to think about these categories. Let them run through your mind when you walk your dog, play with your cats, take a shower, and cook dinner. Play around with ideas and keep the portal open. You are learning about yourself, what interests you, and what you feel inspired to create.
Once you figure out what your passion is, think about how you can use it in your writing. How can your passion help you to create a new world for readers? Tap into your love for a place, a time period, a famous person, a love for animals, a practice, a hobby, or an interest and let it guide you forward.
Write It Down
Write down all of the thoughts and don’t judge them, just let them flow. Buy a special notebook, and you’ll find plenty in The Strand’s store that are amazing, like the classic bound Sherlock Holmes journal, or the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde or Don Quixote journals that are sure to fire up the imagination!
Create an online folder on your desktop and fill it up! Jot down every idea and inspiration; clip web pages and article and blog posts on Evernote to help you create a new world. Or take notes on your phone or tablet. The more you think about your passion and how it can inform your writing, the more a story will begin to coalesce. But don’t rush it; take your time and enjoy the process of creating!
When you’re ready, you can share your idea with a fellow writer, your writing group, or a good friend. Just make sure it’s someone who is rooting for you to succeed. I usually keep new ideas to myself for a bit to give them time to grow and mature before I share them with anyone else. When I do, it’s someone that I trust, either my agent or a writer friend who can provide constructive feedback.
The most important thing of all is to enjoy the journey. Relax, open your mind, and have as much fun with the journey of creating as you do with the result!
Please share what you’ve learned! Post a comment here about your passions; you’ll be in the drawing for a copy of Dandelion Dead: A Natural Remedies Mystery!
CHRYSTLE FIEDLER, a freelance journalist specializing in natural remedies, alternative medicine, and holistic health and healing, is the author of the Natural Remedies Mysteries series. Her many consumer magazine articles have appeared in USA Today’s Green Living, Natural Health, Remedy, Mother Earth Living, Spirituality & Health, and Prevention. She is also the author/co-author of seven nonfiction health titles including the Country Almanac of Home Remedies with herbalist Brigitte Mars and The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty with Vegan Beauty Review founder Sunny Subramanian. Chrystle lives on the East End of Long Island, New York, in a cozy cottage by the sea. Visit www.chrystlefiedlerwrites.com.