FREELANCING | WRITING | SCI FI
6 Writing Biz Lessons From Star Trek’s Mr. Spock
by Sharon Hurley Hall
I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan. I’ve always loved the values, and I’ve always loved the tech. And Vulcan Science Officer Mr. Spock (he had other roles later) is and has always been my favorite Star Trek character. Though I’ve enjoyed some of the more recent iterations of my favorite Vulcan, in my opinion, no-one can touch Leonard Nimoy’s original portrayal.
Spock was a man of few words, often choosing to let an arched eyebrow speak volumes. (Oh, how I wanted to arch my eyebrow precisely like that!) But when he did speak, he made a lot of sense, and brought in some necessary logic and analysis to counter Captain Kirk’s wade in at all costs approach.
A while back, I took part in a challenge to link sci-fi with my business. Naturally, I went for Star Trek, and even more naturally, I chose Spock for inspiration. Here are the writing business lessons we can learn from six great Spock quotes from the Original Series.
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 to avoid 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 I spent time with the organizer of a writing webinar I was presenting going through what-if scenarios for how it would run if the technology failed. And it’s why I’ve been planning well ahead for the anti-racism courses I’m running with the Beyond School.
And when I do interviews, bitter experience has taught me never to rely on a recording alone. Depending on the situation, I may have two different recorders running, and sometimes I go old school. Pen and paper may be old tech, but when I write 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? Or a situation where you think you’ve got everything nailed down, only to have your client go in a completely different direction? That’s freelance life for you, sometimes. 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)
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)
Logical as he was, even Spock was able to see the value of occasionally 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)
“Fascinating” has always been one of my favorite words, especially if I manage to pull of Spock’s air of being slightly above it all. But no true Trekkie could leave out Spock’s second favorite word, “interesting”.
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!
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2020
Sharon Hurley Hall is an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. This is an expanded version of an article originally published on Get Paid to Write Online.