When you think of James Bond, what comes to mind? Buildings blowing up, cars flying through village markets, bad guys brandishing automatic weapons. And in the quieter moments, bespoke tuxedos; luxury automobiles; beautiful, objectified women.
James Bond or Jason Bourne, if you prefer—Hollywood has certainly given us many of their ilk to choose from—they do things. We call them “action heroes,” after all, not “being heroes.”
It’s so easy for us to get stuck in be:
“I want to be a writer.”
Yes, well, writers don’t have a lot in common with action heroes, other than creating them. How can we turn this statement into an action?
- “I want to type furiously.”
- “I want to endlessly contemplate a blank computer screen.”
- “I want to spend so long hunched over my laptop in a coffee shop that the smell of roasting coffee becomes permanently embedded in my nostrils.”
Whenever you notice yourself writing the verb “be,” stop. What do you really mean? Get specific. See the sights, smell the smells, feel the emotions. That’s what you want to write about—not about being but about doing.
(If you’d like to be better-armed in the fight against passive verbs, I’d be happy to send you a lesson I put together.)