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.