It’s inevitable. At some point, the honeymoon ends. We wake up one morning to find that our spouse left dirty underwear on the floor, used our toothbrush again, or forgot it was the anniversary of our first kiss. We realize that marriage isn’t all candlelight dinners and roses.
And we begin to understand that it takes work to love someone unconditionally.
It’s inevitable with writers too. The honeymoon—the passionate love affair with writing—eventually hits reality. We wake up one morning at 5:30, take a look at the clock, and decide that our pillow needs us more than our characters. Or we sit down in front of our laptops and suddenly cleaning the toilet never looked more appealing.
We begin to understand that writing a book isn’t always fun and bliss—that wow, it takes work.
This month, many writers are taking part in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). The goal in the month is to complete a book (or as much as possible).
Although I’ve never personally participated, I’ve heard from many writers that it’s an incredible way to jump-start the creative juices and get a great start on a novel.
The day before NaNoWriMo started, I saw tweets like, “I’m so excited. I can’t wait to start!”
The first day, I saw tweets like, “Writing is awesome! I woke up at 3:07 am and got in 5211 words in the first hour!” (I’m slightly exaggerating, but only a tad!)
The whole first week, I saw so much enthusiasm that I was about to throw out all my other responsibilities and start a new novel just so I could join in the fun.
Then this week—the second week—I’ve noticed there are fewer tweets, more feet dragging, and less of the initial excitement.
Because the truth is, we can’t sustain unending hype over our writing long term. It’s just not realistic. Instead, the reality is that there are days when we’ll wake up and we won’t want to write. We’ll think we write like a two year old. And we’ll dream about spilling coffee on our laptops so that we won’t have to work on our story.
What can we do when the honeymoon is over? What can all those NaNo’ers do to keep writing this month after the initial excitement fades? What can any of us do to sustain a long-term relationship with our writing?
1. Realize it takes hard work. Expect it and embrace it.
2. Don’t despair when the feelings of love go away. It’s NOT the sign you’re suppose to give up your writing aspirations.
3. Make a commitment. If you decide to write a book, commit to seeing it through to completion. Ignore the blah feelings and choose to write anyway.
4. Give yourself weekly or daily goals for a number of words, pages, or chapters.
5. Think smaller. Break down the daily goals into more tangible hourly challenges. (I personally challenge myself to a certain number of words per 30 minutes and write it on a sticky note to hold myself accountable.)
6. Stop making excuses. Grab whatever time you can find, and just do the work. Whether it’s thirty minutes here or fifteen there, we can find the time—if we want to.
7. Don’t expect perfection. Expecting perfection in our spouses is sure-fire way to develop problems. And it’s true in our manuscripts too. Take the pressure off. We don’t have to have perfect writing—especially in a first draft.
8. Plan a date or two per week. Give yourself and your writing extended time together, a chance to be alone without all of the distractions and interruptions. I find that the story really starts to flow after several hours of writing.
9. Romance your creativity. Pamper her—give her chocolate, read a well-crafted book, or take a soothing bubble bath. Set the mood—listen to romantic music, light candles, anything to enhance your creativity.
10. Remember what drew you to your writing in the first place. Go back to that first love—writing with abandon, just because.
11. Find an accountability partner. I usually ask a twitter friend who’s in first draft mode if we can hold each other accountable for our weekly goals. There’s nothing better to light the fire than when you know you have to check in with someone at the end of the week.
12. Get counseling—from a reputable freelance editor or a good writing craft book. I always find new inspiration when I read a how-to article or book.
So what about you? What do you do to keep the love affair with your writing going? How do you keep your commitment for the long haul, even when the honeymoon is over? (And if you're doing, NaNoWriMo, how's it going?)