by Jenny Hansen
This week is Valentine's Day and, all over America, hearts and flowers are on many people's minds. Perhaps you are worrying about your secret (or not so secret) love: your writing love. Have you lost that loving feeling? Do you find excuses to avoid your manuscript?
You are not alone.
Cosmopolitan magazine is known for their articles on keeping love alive, right? So I looked up what they have to say.
Crazy Cosmo offers advice like "Flash Him," "Do the dishes together," and "Outlaw Grunge Wear."
This is not helpful, even if we're talking about a human. However, this gem made me smile:
Share a Secret Code
Pick a word that's likely to come up occasionally in conversation (heat, midnight, bedroom, whipped cream...) and agree that every time someone uses it, you have to touch—anything from a kiss to a lingering thigh stroke under the table.
The Real Advice
Cosmo love expert, Esther Perel, had some real advice that can work for writers:
Forever used to mean “till death do us part.” These days, though, it seems many people interpret it as “until love dies.” It just takes work, self-awareness, and communication.
Here’s what long-haul couples [like you and your glorious manuscript] know:
1. They’re practical about what matters.
In other words, see your schedule as it is. Don't try to shoehorn writing in without a plan. If there is literally not a single hour in your schedule, then don't write that day...and plan for that. Or wake up an hour early. Give up your lunch break at work. But making a plan is better than feeling guilty over missing a vague goal.
2. They check in with each other...often.
Even if you don't have an hour to sit down at your computer, do SOMETHING related to your manuscript every day.
- Look up photos of your main characters and bookmark them.
- Write down a description for something in your scene.
- Do some research.
- Write a snippet of conversation.
3. They take responsibility.
This is your dream. It is your responsibility to achieve it. To take the time and do the work. It's hard. Some days it is wonderful and some days it sucks. But a dream is still important, and it is up to you to achieve it.
You can do this.
Ms. Perel made a point in her article that hit home with me. She recomends you work toward self-awareness to ensure that your relationship (in this case with your book) is successful.
In her book Loving Bravely, Alexandra H. Solomon writes about “relational self-awareness,” or recognizing how you act within your relationship. You know your vulnerabilities, strengths, and fears. If you want a long-term bond with the person you’re with, you’ll want to see evidence that they have self-awareness too.
4. They’re direct communicators.
I took a class once by Susan Squires where she talked about how to successfully talk back to your own brain. That you must ask yourself and your characters short, direct questions.
Not "so why does the hero fall in love with the heroine over coffee at her mother's soda fountain?" Rather, you'd ask, "What most attracted the hero to the heroine in the first place?"
You can ask yourself a simple question, and your brain will actually work on it. Let your brain do the work it can do, instead of demanding a bunch of details. That's how you get your characters to talk to you. Complaints and complexity never made anyone want to communicate better.
Perel says, "To get their needs met, lasting duos ask for what they want. They make requests instead of complaints. "
5. They try not to feel entitled.
Relationships are not always easy, and if you think yours will be, then you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and resentful of your partner. You don't want to resent your writing. You love your writing.
The article says, "You need to deal with your insecurities and find ways to feel good." (Duh.)
6. They reinvent their relationships.
Instead of thinking of forever as being rooted in the same partnership until death, think of it as having two or three relationships with the same person throughout your lives.
This one is awesome. What I hear them saying here is:
It's okay to change a process that isn't working for you. Don't cling to your old ways that aren't working and do the whole "break up and get back together" dance.
Take the time to find out what work for you, so you can enjoy your writing time.
No article on writing love is complete without quotes, right?
Keep your writing passion (quotes)
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” — Louis L’Amour
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov
“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.” — Stephen King
"Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any." - Orson Scott Card
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou
“If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” — Wally Lamb
"I think all writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” — William Carlos Williams
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” — Anne Frank
and last but not least…
“I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” — Chinua Achebe
So, I'll leave you with that Achebe quote. The best way to keep your writing love alive is to NOT QUIT. Keep going, learning, doing, striving. At the end of that, you will have a book that you love.
How do you keep your writing love alive? Do you have rituals or practices? Times of day when you write the best? Share them with us down in the comments!
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By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 20+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.