6 Ways to Fall in Love with Writing
It's February, and love is in the air—visible if you squint through the thick fog of resentment. Sadly, the same combination you'll see throughout the month (naïve infatuation, forced affection, and bitter isolation) are common in writing. You started writing because you loved it! So how can you fall in love with writing again? Here are six strategies.
1. Focus on passion.
From 2010 to early 2011, I spent the vast majority of my writing time on freelance articles. I was writing about bikini fashions and glock accessories, about unicycle clubs and baby clothes—anything, really, so long as I was getting paid.
I hated it. Moreover, I hated writing. At the end of a day of writing for profit, the last thing I wanted to do was write for fun.
Then I decided on a job change. I still wrote for a living, but I was determined to write quality content that fell within my field of interest. The end result was happier clients, higher pay, lower stress, and more energy to devote to creative projects. Whether you're struggling with freelance work, writing within commercial genres, or falling into line with your own definitions of what sort of writer you are, you're not doing anyone a favor by writing against the grain of your passion.
2. Take advantage of the honeymoon phase.
Every project has a rush of creative ideas that floods in at the moment of epiphany but quickly starts to dissipate. While it can be dangerous to pursue every new idea, the alternative is to disregard the projects that have your creative juices flowing.
I'm not recommending that you disregard follow-through on your existing projects. I try to keep one project "in my sights," dedicating a half hour of writing to that project each day. Outside of that half hour, I'm allowed to write whatever I damn well please. The system has worked pretty well for me, and even the projects I abandon a few pages in serve to stimulate ideas and keep me in practice for other, more "serious" writing.
3. Establish your romantic rituals.
For all their issues, my parents also modeled some wonderfully positive romantic behavior. Every night, my dad makes my mom a cup of hot cocoa and rubs her back while they watch TV. Every night, they read together. Every Friday, they go out on an official date. As demonstrated by my parents (as well as Lily and Marshall of HIMYM), rituals are part of what make romance romance.
There's no reason not to establish similar rituals to "put you in the mood" for writing. My own ritual consists of getting a cup of tea (my tea shelf rivals that of Ramona Flowers), turning off my wireless connection, turning on one of my various instrumental playlists, and diving in. As a result, any time I even start my ritual (by readying my cup of tea), my brain shifts into writing mode.
4. Stay above the Losada line.
Okay, okay: Sometimes you can't avoid the irritating parts of writing. Whether it's brainstorming, organizing, proofing, re-writing, submission, or the inevitable self-promotion, almost every writer will develop a dramatic loathing for some part of the process.
The key here isn't to magically love the things you hate, but to make sure that your time is dominated by the activities you enjoy. In general, your brain's anticipatory response will tell you an activity is enjoyable if you have roughly three times as many positive experiences as you have negative ones. This ratio forms what we call the Losada line.
Falling below the Losada line creates dread, which is not actually all that healthy in the writing process. If you're in the hated stage of one project, allow yourself to spend more time on the more enjoyable stages of another project. This will keep your brain wired to believe the activity is positive, which lets you stay wired for all elements of your writing.
5. Remember to play.
As a creative process, writing doesn't do well when you restrict it the binary concept of writing correctly. I discuss this further in my article 7 Ways to Outsmart Writer's Block and my series Write Brained: The Neuroscience of Writing, but the short version is that what we think of as creativity gets short-circuited by black-and-white thinking. To solve the problem, I strongly recommend you play.
Just write whatever you feel like writing. Write without the intention of publishing, getting audience approval, or coming back to proof your work. If you find something worth making into an official project, great! But for now, drop your guilt, discard your ego, and let yourself write for the sake of enjoying it.
6. Define the relationship.
Why do you write? What is it you love about writing? Is this just something you're doing casually, when you have time and can get away from your "real" profession? Or is writing the one you want to stick with?
You can't juggle identities forever. It's not that any specific sort of writing is wrong, but each must be handled differently. If you're at the point where you no longer love writing the way you used to, it might be that you're trying to force it into a role that it simply can't fill in your life. Figure out what the ideal form of writing would look like for you, then strive to write in that way and for that purpose.
I learned to love writing when I was nine years old. When I started writing as a full-time profession, I learned to hate it. Luckily, I was able to re-approach the process in ways that ignited my passion. Hopefully my experience is of some help to you—but I'd also love to hear your ideas. How do you ensure that your relationship to writing remains healthy and full of sexy-times? Leave your thoughts in the comments, below.
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