It hit me recently that I’ve been at this writing thing for 20+ years. I sold my first story—a Keys for Kids devotion—in March of 1997. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the honeymoon with the writing craft is long past and some days my love for it falters.
I’ve done many things to keep that love alive. Here are some that I’ve tried. If you and writing are having relationship problems, they might work for you too.
1. Spend at least some of your writing time writing what you enjoy.
Even it if you don’t have a market for it, even if it’s a genre that doesn’t sell easily, indulge yourself. For me that’s writing poetry. For you it might be song lyrics or childhood memories or journal entries.
Rob Blair, a former full-time freelancer forsook that gig for a night shift hotel job in order to pay the bills and have the energy to work at the writing he loves. In his blog post 5 Freelancing Tips that Will Help You Write that Novel he describes how doing only dutiful writing messed with his love of the craft, though it left him with some benefits too.
2. Read writers who inspire you.
These can be essayists or fiction writers, poets, memoirists, or writing teachers. A book I love in this department is Barbara Ueland’s If You Want to Write. She is super encouraging and the samples of writing from her students often leave me wanting to toss the book aside and reach for my clipboard to try my hand at creating something as wonderful as she has just shown me.
3. Read successful pieces you’ve written in the past.
I have binders of published clips and on the rare occasion I look through these, I am always surprised. Did I really write that? Maybe I could do another.
4. Specialize in the genre where you’ve found success in in the past.
We’re not all meant to be writers of fiction or memoir. If you’ve enjoyed writing nonfiction for children or lifestyle articles for women or home school how-to, pursue that line of writing instead of trying to write a novel simply because that’s what all the successful big-name writers seem to be doing.
5. Take a break from writing.
If writing has become just another job at which you must slog, see what it feels like to not write for a week or two. Whenever I’ve done this, the rest and distance work magic at rekindling my desire. When lines start coming to me unbidden, I know the love is back.
6. Write regularly.
In this way overcome resistance to writing as you get familiar and make friends with all the stages that you personally go through to come up with a satisfying piece. When you know from experience that you always have trouble with, say, writing the first draft, you won’t panic when the words don’t flow or be as tempted to procrastinate. You can remind yourself that once it’s written you get to do the tasks you enjoy—revise, edit, and polish.
7. Realize that the expectation you’ll stay in love with writing is unrealistic if something else isn’t in place first.
This is an idea I’m grappling with right now because writing isn’t an end in itself, is it? It’s part of something bigger—communication. If we’re not first excited about and committed to the message we’re communicating, perhaps it’s not surprising that we tire of the means. Maybe more than a love of writing, we need to first cultivate a love and passion for our message.
This idea hit me a few weeks ago when a man visited our local writing group. He was there because he has worked with Muslim immigrants and realized that there is a dearth of discipleship materials for them. He is hoping to learn to write so he can write those kinds of materials. He said something like, I don’t see myself writing for the sake and love of writing that many of you seem to have, but to fill a need.
His observation made me ask, am I more in love with the act of writing than the message I’m hoping to communicate? And, why do I write? Is it because it’s a skill I’ve developed and practicing it makes me feel good and fulfilled? Or is it because this skill is a tool I can use to communicate something that the world needs, something that is way bigger and more sustaining and lasting than my feelings about the process of writing can ever be?
Violet Nesdoly lives near Vancouver B.C. and has had poetry published in Prairie Messenger, utmostchristianwriters.com, Time of Singing, Your Daily Poem, and many anthologies. She has published two books of poems, Calendar (2004) and Family Reunion (2007), and the novel Destiny’s Hands (2012). She loves trying out new poetic forms and writes often about nature and faith. Find out more about her and her work at VioletNesdoly.com