What Moves Us
by Jennifer Paros
Rest in reason; move in passion.
-- Khalil Gibran
Several weeks ago, I found myself suffering again. I observed the
situation and quickly diagnosed it as “writing-related” and
acknowledged that I was frightened to return to working on my book.
Once again, I was confused about the story and feeling inadequate to
the task. Because the writing wasn’t coming easily, I condemned
myself for not knowing the route I was to take and this condemnation
was creating a sense of failure and hopelessness.
Then one day, I sat down and thought about the feeling of the
book, rather than the Rubik’s cube version I could not solve. I
asked myself what moved me about the characters and their emotional
journeys and soon I remembered that which made me want to tell the
story in the first place. I understood that one character was to
become a leader and the others were to each bloom in their
individual ways. Soon, this tuning in started guiding me to the
specifics of how the materials needed to be reorganized, edited, and
Once I focused on these truths, I found myself back in the game.
Even though I didn’t have all the answers, I could now write towards
a feeling I wanted, my passion for the project reemerged, and the
process became happy again.
Years ago, when I first started studying drawing, the professor
explained the basics of light and shadow. On her pad she drew a
cube and in the right- hand corner, a sun or light source. From the
light source, she drew a black arrow pointing to the cube and
explained how light hits an object on one side, creating shadows on
the other. I listened but distinctly remember thinking, “Huh?”
It is hard to accept now that I could not understand this concept.
But what was compelling me to draw at that time apparently had no
use for, or interest in, light and shadow. However, some time
later, I was painting and the emotional nature of the image led me
to lighten certain areas and darken others. After a while, I
realized I was rendering realistic shadows and remembered that
lesson- and finally got it. “Oh- that’s what she was talking
My connection to the emotional content of the subject matter led me
to the skills I needed.
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2010
What we most want to create pulls us forward and helps us find the
way. What we care about most, excites and impassions us not only
lights us up but lights the route. It teaches us how, it gives us
“technique”, it gives us “voice” and it gives us compelling work.
And other people’s opinions, approaches, advice become only as
valuable as they are useful to those ends.
In high school my junior year, I had a big term paper assignment. I
selected a subject, had it approved by the teacher, and began
researching. When we turned in our 3x5 note cards, in the next
phase, I was told I must change my approach to the topic. I
collapsed in a puddle of drama and despondency, unable to wrap my
brain around how to do what I wanted and yet change it. I became
paralyzed and in my Eleventh Hour, my father (an educator himself)
rushed in for the save, swooped down, and was able to rescue the
assignment – but not me.
I received a high A on what I considered a boring, stupid,
too-many-paged monstrosity, and was left but a shell of a
sixteen-year-old writer. Not only was it not the paper I had wanted
to write, but it seemed it wasn’t even my own.
I had been excited about my ideas, but had become distracted from
the feeling of what I most wanted to express and so the
details of how it would be done became overwhelming. I didn’t know
that what had originally moved me could, if trusted, guide me again.
And so I resorted to approaching the paper as something that needed
to be fixed rather than a means of expression, and the
journey became mechanical.
When we use what we love to draw us forward in our work and our
lives, it’s okay that we don’t have all the answers or specifics -
for it’s reassuring enough to be following what matters to us. For
what compels and touches can and will teach us what we need to know,
show us the way, and keep leading us to more of the same.
There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion
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Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.