Writers, Don’t Forget the Love

Photo by Muffet on Flickr.

Today is Valentine’s Day, that special time of year when a person’s fancy turns to thoughts of soulless corporate megaliths co-opting our emotions so they can sell greeting cards, fancy dinners, and Russel Stover assortments. As we look to the sky and scream curses at a blind and uncaring universe that has so blighted us, we remind ourselves that love cannot be bought, at least not when some company explicitly recommends it.

Okay, let me start again.

Today I actually do want to talk about love. The love that we, as writers, can sometimes lose sight of when things get tough.

Writing advice blogs are generally full of hard-nosed advice about What It Takes to Be a Real Writer. There’s often not attention paid to the froofy bits, because in general, writers are assumed to have that pretty well locked down. All writers truly-madly-deeply want to write, so cultivating craft is far more important than cultivating passion, right?

I’m not so sure.

I know a lot of writers who struggle with their passions. The calling becomes a chore. The joy gets buried under a mountain of obligation. Yes, writing is hard work. Editing is hard work. Querying is a beat that can sap the will to live. Rejection sucks. There’s plenty not to like, ultimately. But they are necessary things.

And that’s why the writing blogs share their expertise about these necessities, because they can’t be ignored, much as we would love to ignore them.

But I think it’s equally as important not to lose sight of the reason you’re putting yourself through all this in the first place. Don’t forget the love.

Feeling nauseated yet?

I want to link to a video that’s been stuck in my head for the past few days. In this brief talk, Shawn Achor talks about how we can rewire our brains for happiness. It’s not that long, and it’s funny and informative stuff.

I included this video because I believe in the “happiness advantage” — that happiness is more productive than guilt or self-recrimination.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m generally a gold-star procrastinator. I’ve put things off to such an epic level that they’re deeply embarrassing to talk about. Writing is no exception. There are days where I would do just about anything to dodge the scary work — whether it’s busting out a draft, editing a troublesome passage, or outlining.

I want to do these things — to hear me talk about it, anyway. But they intimidate. They annoy. They inflate to unpleasant proportions. I still write, but there’s all this bullshit I go through first, and it’s exhausting.

Some people don’t struggle with this. Some people are all type-A writers who go forward without any internal struggle. I envy those people. Most of my life, I haven’t been that guy. But I’m working on re-wiring my brain.

My method isn’t complicated or large in scale, because I think complicated large-scale methods are a great way to fail. Every morning, I have some coffee. I have some breakfast. I fire up Write or Die. A half-hour to bang out a blog post. Break. Edit the blog post. Break. Another half hour to write a scene from my Big List of Scenes in whatever I’m working on at the moment. Break. Then, work on whatever I want.

So at the very least, I’ve gotten in a solid hour of writing. Often much more, but I don’t go through the day promising myself I’ll write, and then shrug and let it go, thus buying myself a ticket for the Guilt Train.

The biggest benefit of this is that it builds momentum. Every day, the writing gets easier. The words come faster. A couple of days without writing, and I feel like I’m working the rust off the gears again. But I built the habit, day after day, and soon enough it just became a part of me. I don’t dread writing, or agonize over not writing, when I stick to this plan.

This method works for me. I encourage you to find what works for you. Try new things until you discover the best way to break through your laziness, break down your block, mow over your avoidance. And no, Twitter does not count. I’m sorry.

Whatever you do, though, don’t forget the love.

  • joniw

    I can’t really speak to the writing elements, but DUDE, I feel like that video is talking about the changes I’ve been making in my life. Thank you for sharing that because it’s totally true.

  • Wow. Great post, Dan. That video is powerful as well. Thank you for sharing this. You’re absolutely right about building momentum. Once you do something enough that it becomes a habit, it’s so much easier to continue. That holds true for writing, exercising, whatever.

    • Thanks, Nicholas. You’re right, it does apply across the board!

  • Dan, I LOVE the video, and the post! Thanks so much for posting this today. Am sharing with lots of friends. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susan! I’m glad you got something out of it.

  • I feel the love! 😀

    I take certain days (not Valentine’s Day–this day, I have obligations to actual fleshy beings) to fall in love with my projects all over again. I work these into my schedule. Actual sit-down times to read and day-dream about why I loved the project enough to start in the first place. These days make all of the difference when I’d just rather say, “enough.”

    • That’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought about like that before. Thanks, Tracy!

  • Great video and post. I’m feeling the love too!

  • Wow! I absolutely LOVE that video, Dan. Thanks for sharing it! I truly believe that changing your mindset to focus on the positive–although not easy–can really impact our lives for the better across many different fields.

    • Thanks, Ava! I’m glad you liked it. I feel the same way.

  • Kern W

    One of the things that’s helped me rediscover the love this year has been winnowing my novel writing goals back to something that’s actually achievable. Instead of giving myself a mental thumping every day for failing yet a again to crank out a single word of my intimidating 2,000 word goal, I’m revelling in my 500+ words. If I skip a day now, I start to feel antsy, like something’s missing. Not to say that it’s always easy. Some days the words creak out of my brain so slowly I worry that I’ve forgotten how to cobble a paragraph together, but most days I open my laptop and the scenes just start spilling out.

    Now I just need to apply the same principle to my blog-writing. Baby steps!

    Great post, great video. Thanks for the writing Valentine. 🙂

    • That’s great, Kern. Thanks for the comment. I think baby steps deserve more credit than they get. Not every day has to bear witness to an epic turnout of thousands of words.

  • Twitter does too count! DOES TOO!

    But seriously, I like your point. I’m not a professional writer except on a very occasional basis, too occasional to even call professional – but I still like to read writing advice. I do get put off by the tone of much of it, though. I feel like telling the writers, “Hey, we’re not in boot camp, and you’re not my drill sergeant. Lay off already.”

    Somebody telling me to take it easier, and enjoy myself along the way, seems so crazy it just might work. And is a lot better than being called “maggot”.

    • I agree, M.K. I’m not much one for hard-nosed advice all the time either. I was just saying to someone this morning, if guilt and self-recrimination worked as a motivator for me, I’d be rockin’ it. But it doesn’t.

      For me, ironically, the writing I get paid to do (technical / marketing writing and such) is an entirely different animal. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how I feel about it — a deadline’s a deadline.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • sapuroso

    Thank you Daniel.
    This is a very motivating post!
    Writing on my blog is something a need to work into my routine.
    As to re-wiring the brain, I started on that awhile back, and just like fire in a forest,
    positive actions and love will spread the same way.
    Much love peeps! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the comment, sapuroso, I hope your writing is going well!

  • Anonymous

    I wonder why it is that there are so many more hard-nosed break-it-to-you blog posts on the heartaches and travails and pitfalls of writing than there are on the love of it. Of the good posts, I mean. Actually, I haven’t gone out of my way to read a lot of bad posts, and I suspect that the midlin’ range and rifraff are about the same ratio.

    I suspect it might be equal measure crankiness-of-the-creator-life-is-shit-sometimes and -there-is-a-way-out-of-this-rock-and-a-hard-place-sagedom. Maybe with a thick layer of my-enthusiasm-has-been-shat-on-before as crust, which tends to get extra crispy when placed on the great pizza stone in the Interovens and its vast series of connected flues.

    Your willingness to nudge a little beacon back towards the love of it …

    Well, friend, how else can I say it:

    Nicely done. Sincerely nicely done. Much needed. Much appreciated.

  • Anonymous

    It took me a while to get to this post, but I favorited it so that I could go back later. It is never too late to continue Valentine’s Day. Yesterday my ROW80 post compared having no time for writing as being similar as no time for sex. This has been a week of deprivation. My relationship with writing this week feels like a marriage when one partner loses sight of why she is in it. Time for Words and me to go on a romantic weekend!