The Writing Biz: Six Lessons from Star Trek’s Mr. Spock

I loved Star Trek as a kid; I still do. So imagine my glee when this month’s Word Carnival had the theme Close Biz Encounters of the Sci-Fi Kind. My favorite character from the Original Series (and in fact any series) was Vulcan Science Officer Mr. Spock. He was a man of few words, often choosing to let an arched eyebrow speak volumes. When he did speak, though, he made a lot of sense. I always admired Spock’s analytical approach to every situation so today, I’m picking some of my favorite Spock quotes and seeing how they could apply to the writing business.

Mr Spock

1. Are you sure it isn’t time for a “colorful metaphor”? (Star Trek: The Voyage Home)

As writers, language is our business – our clients pay us to know and wield the nuances of speech and writing for their benefit. This quote reminds us that it’s our job to know when to dress it up or tone it down. And as Spock was always slightly – make that very – disdainful of human emotion, it also reminds us about avoiding hyperbole in our writing. Both of these are valuable lessons.

2. Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them. (Original Series, The Ultimate Computer)

Technology – we love it when we love it; we hate it when it doesn’t work. I have my geeky side, but this quote from Spock reminds us that we need to be in charge of technology. More specifically, it pays to have a backup plan so we don’t have to run around helplessly when it fails us (because it always does at some point).

That’s why the other day I spent time with the organizer of the writing webinar I’m presenting on Thursday going through what-if scenarios for how it would run if the technology failed. And when I do interviews, bitter experience has taught me never to rely on a recording alone; pen and paper may be old tech, but using them means I always have the info I need.

3. No one can guarantee the actions of another. (Original Series, Day of the Dove)

Ever had one of those times where you recommended a course of action and had the client ignore you and do his own thing? This quote reminds us to keep a balanced view, shrug it off, and maintain our sanity.

4. Instruments register only those things they’re designed to register. Space still contains infinite unknowns (Original Series, The Naked Time)

And then there are those other times, where you do everything you’re supposed to and it still doesn’t work out as planned. Or when you have a client who wants an hour with you to solve endemic problems. Not only does Spock remind us that we can’t know everything (those unknowns will get you every time) but the quote inspires us to do what he would do – be logical, check out all the variables and measure, measure, measure before deciding what to do next.

5. Your illogical approach to chess does have its advantages on occasion, Captain. (Original Series, Charlie X)

That said, even Spock was able to see the value of doing something unexpected and unwarranted, as his human crew mates did often. Sometimes, taking a risk pays off, whether that’s exploring the furthest reaches of space or simply trying a new business area. Who knows? You just might get lucky, or find, as Spock also said, that: Random chance seems to have operated in [y] our favor. (Original Series, The Doomsday Machine)

6. Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected. In this case, I should think “interesting” would suffice. (Original Series, The Squire of Gothos)

And finally, no true Trekkie could leave out Spock’s second favorite word. No lessons from this one, just a chance to imagine the raised eyebrow and dispassionate assessment of every situation – perhaps a reminder to leave the emotion out and judge new gigs on their merits? You decide!

As for me – one to beam up, Scotty! 😀

This post is part of the awesome Word Carnival, originated by the fabulous Tea Silvestre, the Word Chef. Click the link to read more posts on this month’s theme: Close (Biz) Encounters of the Sci-Fi Kind

Image: FromChicago

About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been mentoring writers here at Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Check me out on Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.


  1. Who knew you were a Trekkie, Sharon? 🙂 Very creative post. If Mr. Spock had emotions, he’d be very proud. 😉

  2. Spock is one of my favs too, Sharon. And I’m liking Zachary Quinto as the young Spock. When he tells Kirk about the purpose behind the kobayashi maru test, we get more great biz advice: feel the fear and do it anyway! “The purpose is to experience fear, fear in the face of certain death, to accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one’s crew. This is the quality expected in every Starfleet captain.” (from the 2009 movie).

  3. What geekery abounds in this Carnival! I love the 5th point – doing something unexpected and maybe a little off the charts? We all want to know the rules because that’s how you do things right! But thinking differently can really make all the difference when it comes to business. Sometimes it’s about luck, but lots of times it’s about not following the crowd off the same cliff!

  4. I LOVE illogical approaches, but often they’re rooted in some kind of logic (gut, learned, heard or otherwise) and I didn’t even realize. : )

  5. There is something so droll about these statements, Sharon, it makes me want to start from the beginning and watch the entire century of episodes. I loved the last one as it reminded me of my grandfather and backed up number 1. Getting rid of hyperbole is a great lesson to learn in life, marketing and writing. No 3 reminds us too that people get caught up in the riot of their own experience and that is often when hyperbole is at its worst. Best advice to shrug it off and maintain your sanity!

  6. Wow! How much do I love this post! Ridiculous levels of love. I particularly love #1 and #3 especially!

  7. Trekkies of the galaxy unite! I’ve always loved Spock, particularly as a part of the dynamic with Captain Kirk and Bones. Voyage Home had a lot of classic lines – to digress for a minute, my personal favorite that still makes me laugh – Chekhov hunting for a “nuclear wessel”. Classic!

    Spock was also very precise, and as a numbers geek that resonates with me.

    • The Voyage Home is my favorite Star Trek movie, Nicole – I think it’s the only one directed by Leonard Nimoy. 🙂 I hadn’t thought about it, but I suppose Spock does appeal to my geek side – hard to fault all that logic.

  8. Piles and piles of wisdom from Star Trek. I always loved Spock’s go-get-em style of laying down the wit, and it’s great to see it translated into some truly spot-on business advice.

    You can’t measure what you don’t understand; such a great take-away!

    “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end” – always something new to learn on the horizon.

    Have you ever heard the Spock vs Q series? It’s amazing and sure to give you quite a few more good Spock quotes you’ll want to use 😀

  9. Great idea on testing that technology! After having one webinar nearly flop because of ten minutes of technology HELL, I now see the validity of the back-up plan. 🙂

    • Yes, it’s a good idea, Lori. In the end, we found something that worked, although I didn’t account for my neighbor suddenly deciding to power wash the walls with an extremely noisy machine – guess you can’t prepare for everything. Luckily, she stopped just in time.