I still get excited about my writing.
After seven years on the same set of books, that sounds crazy doesn’t it? Don’t the characters get stale? Doesn’t the world get boring?
Actually . . . they do.
I have days when I’m not excited about what I’m writing. We all do. In fact, I have weeks when I’m not excited about what I’m writing, especially when it comes to the last rounds of revisions and editing. Once I’ve written a chapter eight different times and it still isn’t right, I start to get a little irritated with it.
But for the most part, I love my stories. I think they’re worth all the frustration I’ve spent on them, all the years I’ve devoted to their creation. And . . . I honestly just like the story. I like the characters. I am endlessly enthusiastic about writing them because I want to read what happens. And that fuels my writing more than any dream of getting published I can come up with.
But I learned a long time ago that enthusiasm wouldn’t write the pages for me unless I paired it with discipline.
“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm . . . in the real world all rests on perseverance.”
~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe
It’s great to be enthusiastic about your stories. I highly recommend it, in fact. That love is going to shine through in your writing and eventually in your pitching. Your readers will be able to tell if you love a character, story, or even a setting. Or if you don’t care about them.
But sometimes I think we as writers—and as humans—don’t realize that enthusiasm doesn’t last without a little help. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a new idea—for about two weeks. Maybe even a month, if you’re determined. But to be enthusiastic about a story for seven years—that’s a little harder. But if you continue to foster that attitude of enthusiasm for a project long after everyone else would have given up on it, you may just find yourself far ahead of those authors who refuse to stick to one idea for more than a year or two.
Tips to Cultivate Enthusiasm.
1. Think of enthusiasm less as something you feel—and more as something you choose. Feelings fade. They are fickle, flighty things that pop up at the most inopportune times and vanish just when you need them most. If you are a writer who writes only when you feel like it, you will probably never finish a book. So choose to be enthusiastic. Choose to love your characters when you don’t like them, and appreciate your story when you would much rather hate it. Give it love when you don’t feel like it, and the feelings will follow.
2. Prioritize. Give your writing time precedence. Value it. Make it special with tea, a writing companion, or a well-worn ritual. Know when your best writing time is and take advantage of it. Start with a hundred words, or two hundred. Once you’ve started, it’s much easier to keep going—and to remember why you loved this story in the first place.
3. Spiral journal. I got this idea from one of the loveliest author/speakers in the industry. (Hi, Nancy!) Sit down with your journal, ask your character a question, and give them two minutes to answer while you scribble frantically to get down what they say. Then choose a sentence you’ve written that you want to dig deeper into, write it down, and set your timer again. Have your character talk a bit more about that. And so on and so forth. Believe me. It’s brilliant. Nancy taught us this technique at the last writing conference I went to, and it built my sixth book from the ground up. I was so very grateful.
4. In the end, worry less about being enthusiastic and more about being committed. I’m afraid this is what it comes down to, O writer. It’s lovely to be enthusiastic about your story. It helps a great deal and pours a lot of love onto the pages. But in the end, what really matters is that you are committed. That you are going to show up, even when you’d rather not, and write the next page when you’d rather trash the whole thing. A writer who can do that will conquer any story they touch.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.