Five Ways to Fall in Love (Again) With Your Writing
I love those job-themed memes. You know, the ones where six images are displayed and phrases are offered about what friends believe, what society believes, and what one really accomplishes. Have you seen the memes about writers? Hilarious. My version is thus:
Note the last image. A muscular fellow rolling up his sleeves, tackling the job at hand. It’s simplistic but it’s what writers must do. Effective writing is roll-up-the-sleeves work. Writing takes discipline and creativity; it’s satisfying and exhilarating. However, there are times when it becomes exhausting, even hair-pulling. When writing a novel, the task may seem impossible. Joy quickly is lost when deadlines loom and blank pages sabotage day and nighttime hours. Writing has become a chore, a slog. What do you do?
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I offer “H.E.A.R.T.” or five ways to fall in love with your pages and characters, again:
Are you happy? When you think of your book or even your keyboard, does it satisfy you? Are you enjoying your characters and your plot’s ascension as you write? Or has writing become the equivalent of a gray-sky day? Before you blame yourself or your writing skill, evaluate what’s happening with an objective eye. Sometimes it’s not you or your writing ability, it’s the plot. Or the characters. Or the scene. What’s happening with your characters and the situation you’ve put them in? Are you happy about these people and this place? Why are you spending time with this project? If, after you’ve taken a macro view of your emotions, the answer is that you’re not happy, it’s time to re-evaluate. Revisit what satisfied you about your current project. Write a list, talk with a writer-friend, or consult with a writing professional. After that, if you’re truly not happy, it may be time for a significant change or even time to begin a new project. Allow your inner voice to guide you toward happiness with your writing work.
When I was teaching, at the start of every semester, I offered writing tips to my students. While my students were great, few of them enjoyed writing nor were they excited to be taking Composition 101. That’s why their eyes would brighten when they heard me tell them to get away from the keyboard. Rather than stare at a blank page, I’d tell my students to take a walk, get on a treadmill, or have a short nap. I shared this advice because I discovered that some of my best writing was accomplished away from mechanical aspects of writing. The subconscious mind needs time to develop words, paragraphs, and concepts. The key is to establish a specific writing goal in one’s mind and then do a physical activity. Remember to keep a paper and pen nearby.
“The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” ~ Agatha Christie
Admire good writing. Perhaps during this month of love, it’s time to treat yourself. Rather than indulge in calorie-laden Valentine’s candy, put your work down and pick up a favorite book. Read it and admire the author’s technique. Diagram his or her plot, analyze an impressive paragraph. Why does the work affect you? What moves you? Let this exercise in appreciation be an inspiration. Immersion in a special book is a mini, low-cost writer’s retreat.
Review or self-edit with care. In fact, neglect it. Yes, I said that. Stop re-reading every preceding paragraph and editing it; it slows down momentum. Like tennis players who are trained to forget their most recent shot because it’s mentally taxing and it interferes with forward energy, writers should ignore less-than-perfect sentences and move on. Get the words on the page to meet daily goals. Then, devote the last hour per writing day or the last day per writing week to editing. Get the story on the page and accept that review will come later. Don’t self-edit every minute of every hour that you’re spending on your work. If a writer such as Stephen King claims editing is divine, then leave the practice for an honored time and purpose.
“To write is human, to edit is divine.” ~ Stephen King
Finally, take heart. You’re not alone, friend. Writers spend an extraordinary amount of time in solitary, with weird people and conflict in their heads. It can be overwhelming. Take heart that you’re truly not alone in your mission. Other writers are doing the same thing, feeling the same way. Reach out to a writing group in person or online to share the highs and lows of the writing process. Discuss how you’re feeling about your work. You may be amazed at how much lighter the writing burden feels after off-loading the stress of putting words to paper.
Then, take a deep breath and begin again. Take heart, enjoy the writing process with renewed vigor, and happy writing.
Blog Shout Out: The Guide to Literary Agents
What’s a literary scout? I was reading one of my favorite blogs recently and came across that unfamiliar term. According the Writer’s Digest sub-blog, “Guide to Literary Agents,” a scout is a short-cut to an agent. He or she is a literary assistant of sorts who hunts for manuscripts that his or her agent-boss is seeking. Scouts may work for entities such as a publishing house or international literary agencies, and the scout is valued for extensive industry contacts as well as an understanding of current needs. Crowd-scouting exists on sites such as Amazon, where readers work as a collective commission, voting for manuscripts that are seeking a publisher. Scouts appear to be elusive creatures, however. It is said that you don’t find them; rather, they find you. Intriguing! The informative post is written by guest contributor Stephanie Stokes Oliver, who scouts for Atria Books. Additional information about literary scouts is here.
Note: There are so many well-written blogs about books and writing that it can be difficult to keep up; I’ll be highlighting one of my favorite blogs each month.