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.
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