Once upon a time, you decided to become a writer. You read articles and books and everything you could get your hands on about writing. You were excited about the story you were telling and couldn’t wait to sit down and disappear into your story world again. You didn’t know all the writing rules. You didn’t know about plotting or structure, you just wrote. You were happy with the process and innocent about the realities of publishing.
Typically, I write for beginning writers, so if you are at the beginning stages, this scenario I just mentioned might be how you feel right now. Wonderful! Stay in this stage as long as possible.
But today, I’m writing more to seasoned writers. Those of us who have been writing for some time and have lost that joy that made us want to write to begin with.
What Made Us Fall Out of Love?
If you think of a relationship with a person, a romantic relationship or a friendship, what happens? At the beginning everything is new and exciting. You love listening to the person’s stories and history. You want to know everything about them. You love watching them do anything — eat, sleep, play a game, anything. Just being in the same room with that person makes you happy.
Over time, however, you start to feel comfortable being around that person and the stories begin to feel old and tired. You learn about some of their annoying habits. You find that they’re not always fun and happy, they have good days and bad days. If you form a lasting relationship and share things like household expenses and chores, you might even get into arguments. The relationship becomes work.
If harsh words are spoken or if that person or you do something to damage the relationship, you may eventually fall out of love with that person.
The way you avoid the decline of the relationship is to not let things continue to spiral down. You remember what you loved about that person. You keep the communication between you open. You spend time together doing things you both love. You appreciate the everyone has annoying habits and learn to accept them.
With writing, some of the same things make us fall out of love with the activity we were once so passionate about. We might present our beautiful masterpiece to an agent or editor, and they might reject it. This creates doubt about our abilities, sadness, and disappointment. Our love has let us down and made us feel bad about ourselves.
Or we might sell our story idea (the marriage begins), then realize that now we have tons of obligations. Marketing and promotion take up our writing time. We must think of things like creating websites and branding ourselves. All the while the business of writing eats up hours of our week, we still need to write the next novel. And we begin to think and worry about what is selling and not selling and if maybe we should write for the market instead of what we like. Writing becomes work.
At this point, you’ve fallen out of love with writing.
Heal Your Relationship
Like with a relationship with a person, you need to return to that time of innocence. Obviously, you don’t want to forget all you’ve learned about the craft of writing. You even want to maintain the business skills you’ve picked up.
But let’s be honest, no one ever prepares us or teaches us how to have a successful relationship or a successful business. Most of us are completely unprepared to take care of ourselves, much less to be a loving, accepting person to someone else. Likewise, writers who enter the publishing world have never run a business before and are sadly poorly prepared to take their fledgling business to any heights of success. But the good news is that we can learn as we go, and this helps us not to make the same mistakes again as we move forward.
So, now that you’ve had a taste of rejection and branding and all the other “jobs” related to writing, you know what to expect. You are ready and more mature, and you can make this relationship work.
But to fall in love again, you have to make time for writing and spend time together. Do not worry about the market. Don’t worry about selling your book. Think only about the stories you love to read and you love to tell. You can’t maintain a relationship with your loved ones if you never spend time together, and can’t stay in love with writing if you never write, or if you write things that don’t make your heart sing.
Do the things you did at the beginning. Read more about writing. Take walks on the beach. Dream about places and characters and historical settings. Taste amazing foods that could end up in your stories. Live life and let it inspire you to create.
My husband and I love to travel. It’s something we share, and it helps us to strengthen our relationship to have something to do together. What do you and your creative spirit like to do together? I love to drive to the beach or the lake in the mountains and watch the water. It helps to recharge me and to think and make plans and create new stories.
This is the healing part of falling in love again, spending time think creatively and doing what you love to do, and reading the stories that inspired you to become a writer in the first place.
Rebuild Your Relationship
Sometimes, as I’ve mentioned, if we do something that hurts the relationship, it really begins to kill that love. With writing it can take the form of not writing, of not feeding your creative spirit, of telling yourself that you’re not a good writer or that you’re unworthy of being published. These are damaging beliefs and can hurt your ability to continue writing.
To rebuild that writing muscle, you have to get back to writing what you love.
Think about what excites you. It doesn’t have to be the same things you were writing previously. Maybe in the past you wrote romantic suspense, but what has been exciting your lately is fantasy or science fiction with a sprinkle of romance. Pursue that. Sometimes authors find that they were in the wrong genre and that was the problem to begin with, that was why they lost interest in writing.
Play with your writing a little bit. Writing different genres is one way. Change the storytelling structure. Change your writing process. Change the time you write or where you write. Modify and try new ideas until something excites you.
When we want to rebuild a relationship, we listen to what the other person wants. Listen to what your muse wants. What is that creative energy inside you asking for. Write that!
Don’t allow the business of writing to kill the passion and joy of writing. Yes, it has to get done. At home, you have to pay bills, you have to do laundry and cook and raise kids if you have them, but if you let those things get in the way of your love relationship, the distance begins to grow, and the love begins to fade. You forget why you loved that person in the first place.
Understand and accept that part of having a career as an author involves the business aspect, unless you’re just writing for yourself and your family. This does not have to kill the joy of writing. Schedule hours for the business and do what you can. If you can only spend an hour a day marketing yourself and your books, then that’s enough. Don’t compromise your writing time.
I remember my mom telling me that my kids will never remember if the house was dirty or if it didn’t look perfect, but they will remember if I spent time with them or took them to fun places. My mom is a wise woman, so my house isn’t spotless.
Write great stories that you love. Make that your main focus. The promotion and marketing are secondary. The business is important and can’t be neglected completely, but it should not take over your writing time and should not stress you out so much that you don’t write.
Love Always Wins
Some writers fear that if they write what they love, there won’t be a market for it. I’ve even heard some writers say that authors and editors should stop advising new writers to “write the story of their heart”. I thought about that and aside from being a bit vague (I used to wonder what writers meant), I’ve come the conclusion that we should NOT stop advising writers to write the story of their heart. That is the best advice ever.
Let me explain what it means and why it’s the only advice you should listen to.
First, what it means
Each of you is unique with your own history and strengths and interests. You and I could not write the same story even if we were given the same plot idea. I bring my background and values and beliefs to each story I write and so do you, even if you don’t think you do.
Therefore, you have stories that speak to you that will never speak to me because we don’t share the same interests, values, histories, etc.
I have many friends who write terrific immigrant stories. They can do this because it’s part of their history. They lived that experience, and they can retell their stories with passion. It comes through in the storytelling. You might have heard of the controversy with the story American Dirt written by Jeanine Cummings. The book was an Oprah book club pick, so it got a lot of attention. But many in the Latino community did not like the book because the events did not feel authentic, they were experiences that that author did not live only read about in other books written by other Latino writers. The writing itself was good, but people felt that the book relied on stereotypes and that the author appropriated stories that were not hers.
Was this the book of this author’s heart? I don’t know. I can’t speak for that writer. I don’t know why she chose to tell that story, but it does tell me that the closer we stay to writing from our own creative identity, the stronger our writing will be and the better it will be received by our readers.
Writing from your heart means writing the story only you could tell and the one that brings you creative joy and makes you love writing.
The Only Advise to Follow
People who say we should not give new writers or experienced writers this advice, say that writers waste too much time writing stories that no one wants to read. That writers should not write the story of their heart if it is not a marketable idea.
I think the irony of that belief is that most of the blockbuster novels that break genre and become big hits are from authors who wrote the story of their heart, not what others thought they should write.
I also think it’s arrogant and insulting to tell writers that what they want to write is not marketable. Who am I or who is any author to tell you what is marketable? If I knew what readers and publishers would want a year from now, I would write it. No one knows because it’s not the story itself. It has to do with the individuality of each writer, the voice that a writer brings to a story, the unique perspective. It has to do with the writer writing the story of their heart.
If you love your story and you are passionate about what you are writing and it brings you joy, then you will not have a problem publishing it and finding readers. I know this because love always wins.
Have a story to tell? Want to learn how to record personal experiences before they’re lost or write a novel? Let started by downloading for free Julia Amante’s “Free Your Story” framework.