I hate writing.
At least right now I do. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. Believe me. The problem is that I dwell too much on the end result. I want the end result – a finished, polished story – right now.
All that other gumpf in between – the typing, the self-doubt, the numerous, numerous revisions – makes my teeth itch. Sometimes when I’m in the thick of that stuff, I enjoy it. Right now, I loathe it, which means that I unfortunately loathe a rather sizable part of the writing process.
So many writers I speak to deal with the conundrum of loving writing and hating it at the same time. So what can we do about it?
The first draft: building a house that nobody would ever buy
“Rachel, whatever do you mean by that statement?”
Well, I’ll tell you, dear reader. On those rare occasions where I stop procrastinating and start actually writing a book / script / article, I equate it to building a house from scratch. I’m about to get all self-indulgent with my imagery now, so bear with me:
I’m standing in a wide, barren field. There’s nothing for miles but soil and the vast, endless black of space. In my hands I hold the plans for a giant, opulent house. I see that house clearly in my mind. I see the winding driveway, the arch windows that suck the very sunlight from the sky, the oaken doors, the pearl-accented bathroom and velvet-lined cinema room, all of it.
I lower the plans, and I’m reminded of how empty this plot of land is. How even when I lay the first brick to my dream house – my story – there’s every chance that down the line, that brick will crumble, or my inner critic will point at it and scream “oh my God, what an ugly, ill-laid brick you’ve laid there! What are you, a complete, mayonnaise-brained buffoon? What would EVER possess you to put the brick there? Just give up. Just give up right now, you fraud. Let the professionals build the houses, will you?”
Maybe I’ll send the inner critic on a shopping trip, and in her absence manage to lay a whole line of bricks. Maybe I’ll make it all the way to the roof, the windows. Hell, I might be rolling out that plush, cardinal-shaded carpet in my boss-ass home cinema, when a well-meaning friend (a betareader or critique partner, if that wasn’t abundantly obvious) pops around and makes a checklist of all the cracks, mould-spots and termite-eaten floorboards they’ve found. A part of me will thank them profusely, another part of me will ask why? Why, you eagle-eyed scoundrel? I only asked you around for a cup of tea and see if you fancied watching Strictly Ballroom on the big screen with me! F*** off home with your perceptive self!
Now the flaws have been pointed out, I MUST tear my leaking, drafty, spore-covered dream house down to its bones and start again.
“Yeah but Rachel I didn’t come here to read about your crap, rambling house analogy. I came here to find out how to love writing again.”
I know you did, and we’re getting to that.
What causes us to fall out of love with writing, then?
Falling out of love with writing usually has very little to do with having no ideas. Just like with any long-term relationship, pretty much anything can make you want to throw your hands up in the air and say “I’m done lol bye forever.”
What separates writing from relationships however is that writing never really lets us move on. Sure, it tricks us into thinking it’s over, that we can hang up our quills and take up an interest in, I dunno… kazoos or custom-made lederhosen. The urge always comes surging back however, when we watch a great film or pick up on an interesting conversation on a bus, when we read a book, put it down and think “F*** me, I could’ve written that SO much better!”
We fall out of love with writing when we forget what made us write in the first place – passion.
When the passion in your relationship fades, you might not always ‘show up’ the way you did in the early days, when everything was fresh and bursting with life. You don’t always listen, you don’t hang on every word that’s said, you don’t obsess over how things are unfolding, or every little gesture they make or how they say your name – writing is the same.
I haven’t fallen out of love with writing, but something else is wrong!
So you love writing more than ever, but you know something’s not quite right. Let’s take a look at some common roadblocks that every writer comes up against from time to time:
Not enough rest: If you’re not getting adequate sleep, that is almost guaranteed to have a negative effect on your writing. During sleep, your brain settles into the fertile soil of your subconscious, and it’s from here that most of your stories will spring.
Make a commitment to get a solid seven hours of sleep. Lay off the caffeine at least three hours before you go to bed. If you struggle to nod off, read a book (you should be reading lots anyway if you’re taking this writing lark seriously). Playing a white noise track in the background can drown out distractions like knobhead neighbours or the incessant grinding of your teeth against their spleens.
Feeling bad when doing ‘non-writing’ stuff: The problem with forming a writing habit is that it can start to feel like drudgery. Yes, you should set time aside to write, but you must also set aside time to just be. Writing is an important part of your life, possibly the most important, but it’s still only a part of your life. Being with friends, eating good food, getting laid, travelling, playing video games, walking the dog and failing to repeat all the complicated shit they do in YouTube makeup tutorials are parts of your life too. Denying them will only diminish your enjoyment of writing.
Too busy doing other s***: Sometimes life just happens and it’s completely outside of your control. You get ill. Your boiler breaks. Your best friend gets dumped. Your boss comes a ‘calling for that big world-ending Powerpoint presentation a week early. Your cat runs away. Your other half can’t get to school in time to pick the kids up so you have to go fetch ’em. Your annoying uncle’s in town and your ma will KICK OFF if you don’t go over to her house and listen to him go on about them bloody foreigners while blowing stale tobacco smoke in your face and picking his nose when he thinks you’re all busy watching Casualty.
Life happens. The world doesn’t care about your writing dreams and that’s not your fault. Yes, you should guard your time and spend it wisely, but know what battles to fight.
Not feeling good enough: One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that I’ll never be the greatest writer in the world ever (or even the greatest writer in this apartment, ever *side-eyes the irritatingly talented Robert*).
Now, don’t judge me for my delusion. You’ve had it too, don’t even deny it. You’ve daydreamed about mile-long queues of glittery-eyed fans waiting for this one moment in their life when they get to talk to you, world-building, dream-weaving, yarn-spinning deity among men you. You’ve seen yourself picking up that Lifetime Achievement Award. You’ve seen the vision thousands of years from now. The one of a schoolteacher on the terraformed planet Chorizo58 of the Heartburn Nebula sigh wistfully to her class about you, the greatest scribe to ever walk the Earth.
Every writer dreams of being the best. The truth is however that there’ll always be someone better.
Being at peace with this truth, and forgiving yourself for your human imperfections may just illuminate the path back to love for your writing. The irony is that by accepting that you’ll almost certainly never be the best, you can relax into your craft and create work that’s truly beyond anything you’ve created up to this point. Funny how that works!
Denying what we actually want to write: The publishing industry seems to be littered with trends, and it’s hard to know what will ‘sell’ or catch on. It can feel like the only way to ever be successful as a writer is to cater to those trends, and this may mean denying your actual passions.
Chasing trends is a surefire way to put a shelf-life on your writing . Whatever’s hot today will be incredibly stale five years from now. Do yourself and your writing a favour and spend some time writing about things you actually care about. If you want to dabble with what’s hot right now, by all means, but don’t exclusively write things that you think other people want. The hilarious thing is, many people don’t know what they want until they see it. Creating something original might just win them around.
“Write what you love…write the things that look like your heart, pulled open with prying fingers. Walk towards yourself as a writer, not away. – Chuck Wendig
Writing is playing
Remember when writing was fun?
Remember when it was the first thing that popped into your head of a morning?
Remember when you used to feverishly scribble notes down, stealing words like stealing kisses from a lover on the stairwell?
Remember when you ached to write?
Remember when you didn’t care what the world thought of your writing or if they’d l0ve it like you do?
What happened to that writer?
What happened to that love?
Why’ve you left your muse in a litter-strewn alleyway somewhere, crying and stumbling about the place with one shoe missing and half a kebab trickling down her arm? WHY, YOU CAD?!
Don’t worry. You’ll find her again, I promise. All you need to do is retrace your steps. Think about those heady days when you truly loved writing, and recreate the scene. Listen to music, visit a coffee shop, take a train somewhere new. Take photos. Sample new food. Wonder. Wander. Feel everything. See, touch, taste, smell, hear everything, and nothing.
This is where the magic happens. This is where the bolt strikes out from the blue. When expectations fall away. When the critic runs out of barbs. When all you see is the joy, and the life, and the sheer thumping chaos of creating.
Your muse never abandoned you. She’s there, I promise, waiting for you. Loving you from afar. Stop holding back .Stop worrying. Just fling your arms open and run towards her.
Helpful articles on falling back in love with writing:
- Jeff Goins – How to fall back in love with writing (stop writing for approval, find your voice, recreate the romance)
- Inspire Portal – 15 ways to fall in love with writing all over again (find your flow, let go of perfectionism, figure out what only you can say)
- Chuck Wendig (Terrible Minds) – 25 ways to get your groove back as a writer (read outside of your comfort zone, have new experiences, team up with other writers and brainstorm)
How do you fall back in love with writing? Tell us all about it in the comments!