Valentine's Day can bring about mixed reactions. It often divides us into two groups- those in love and those who aren't. But what happens when you're a writer who's fallen out of love with writing? You may start feeling resentful, isolated, nostalgic, and jealous of others who still love the craft. You may have dozens of ideas piled uselessly in a notebook that you're now trying not to think about, yet you can't help but let it sneak back in. It may be something that you think about with regret, like the ex who got away. Or it could be the cause of your frustrated tears as you sit down in front of yet another empty page wondering why you can't put down one decent sentence. If you're despairing over whether you'll ever be able to write again, you can! Here are 7 strategies that are sure to make you swoon.
1. Rekindle the spark
Problem: Sometimes the reason we stop writing is because of the lack of a spark. When we first sit down to write, our stomachs are full of butterflies. The possibilities are endless, the creativity intoxicating. We can't wait to see where our story and characters will take us. We rush into it without planning, without reservations, and sure enough we find ourselves caught up in the excitement of it all, making bad choices and loving every minute of it. But when the spark goes away and the inevitable routine sets in, so does the excitement that motivates us.
Solution: If this sounds like you, you're not alone! Even I'm guilty of it. Usually it takes me the first few chapters before I figure out that I need to stop what I'm doing and do some real planning, even if I don't want to. Sometimes it's not even about a lack of organization. It may be that the idea itself needs more brainstorming and I'm drawing a big blank. Usually when this happens I go back to the roots of where my inspiration comes from- other books, films, fresh air, yoga, and new experiences.
2. Ignite the passion
Problem: Back before bills needed paying and kids needed feeding, you lived and breathed writing. You dove into late-night writing sessions with the same passion that made you jump into bed with your partner after a steamy dinner date. Things changed. You grew up. You're still writing, but now it's for others and not yourself. You have no motivation to write creatively even though you want to. That passion has cooled, just like the sheets. Sleep seems more important than penning your personal project. When you're writing for the money, you're much more motivated. When there's no immediate benefit or you're burnt out from a long day of typing, it's much harder to sit down when you get home and write for yourself.
Solution: This one is harder to solve. While there's no "easy" fix for a lack of passion, what is necessary is to take a moment to ask yourself the hard questions. Do you even want to write anymore? Or is your lack of passion purely situational? If the answer is that you hate writing, then perhaps a career change in general is in order. After all, it makes no sense to pursue something you're no longer interested in! If you answered that it was situational, it may simply be the type of writing you're currently doing that is dissatisfying. Choose to write for topics that are more in your range of interest. For example, if you are freelancing for advertising companies, but have always dreamed of writing for a wedding magazine, it's probably time to follow that instinct. If you're struggling to work on a personal project but can't seem to ever find the time, try a stricter writing routine. It may require you to prioritize better, but once you make it a habit it'll become easier.
3. Define the relationship
Problem: You love writing. You've been doing it in secret for a while, and find you're not bad at it. In fact, you're really good and you think it's time to start pursuing things seriously. It's time. Your palms are sweaty, your nerves are shot, and you're praying that things work out. It's time to have "the talk" and define the relationship. Whether you've been writing on the side as a way to de-stress after your "real" job, or you're just starting out and aren't sure how to move forward, this is a defining moment. It's time to ask yourself what your ideal writing situation looks like and make it a real part of your every day life. The problem is, you aren't sure it's the right time. You keep making excuses like: you don't have the resources, people you know won't approve, or you have to make sacrifices in order to make it work.
Solution: While putting it all on the line and declaring to the world that you love something or someone may be difficult, it can also be freeing. Sure, it's scary and daunting when you first start but that is only part of the journey. If you're serious enough to be contemplating a career in writing and are holding yourself back, it's time to stop! Trust your gut and take the leap. Committing is the first step to a new fulfilling lifestyle. It's like being in a relationship. If you love it, you'll make it work.
4. Make the most of the honeymoon phase
Problem: You have so many ideas sashaying through your mind that you're getting whiplash trying to chase them all. Each one of them is attractive, valuable, and interesting. The potential is endless. They never stay for long, dissipating shortly after they arrive. You try to catch them while you can, abandoning your main project for tidbits of inspiration. The honeymoon phase of a relationship works this way as well. The sweet newness of it all draws you in, but it doesn't last forever, and it certainly doesn't help your bottom line.
Solution: Chasing after new ideas is all in good fun, but not at the expense of your main project. I find that using an "idea" notebook helps. I can write down whatever tidbits come without feeling like I'm missing out or that I need to develop them further right away. It's on paper so I can return to it later, yet it's out of my head so I can refocus on my current task without setting myself behind schedule.
5. Create a romantic ritual
Problem: You've figured out that you're a writer and are committed to a certain project, be it a book or screenplay. The trouble comes when you keep making daily excuses of why you can't write. Your "real" job makes you tired. Chores or kids tie up your time. There's always something on Netflix that you have to see, or somewhere trendy you have to be. You know how it works. You tell yourself you'll get to it in an hour, and then next thing you know you run out of time. Then you promise yourself that you'll get to it the next day, but the same thing happens over and over.
Solution: It's not that you're not interested in spending time with your project, it's that you aren't taking the time to romance it properly. Without the necessary effort, your writing either doesn't occur or doesn't get very far (much like a date without the romance factor!). What you need is to establish a writing routine that keeps you focused and "in the mood" to write. Similar to how couples create weekly date nights to keep the romance alive throughout the years, so should you when it comes to keeping your writing spark alive. My own routine consists of cozying up with my favorite blanket, lighting a candle, and making a hot cup of tea or coffee. In the background I put on classical music. I try to do this consistently at the same time each day. Now my brain switches over into writing naturally whenever I do the ritual.
6. Balance work and play
Problem: You've been writing a lot, but now it's beginning to feel like work. When you first started your book, it was because you wanted to. It was fun and captivating. The words flew out of your pen before you had a chance to really think about it. Now you've put in days, months, years. The creative inkwell is more empty than full these days, and you find your attention being diverted away from your book more and more. You're afraid you'll lose interest altogether and that all that time and effort will be for nothing.
Solution: It sounds like you need a break, my friend! Taking a breather to handle some other aspects of your life, or to take a vacation away from the manuscript in general. A little breather can make all the difference. Relax, give yourself some time to recharge your muse. When you come back to it again you'll be able to see it with fresh eyes and appreciate it for what it is. You can also give writing it's zeal back! Write because you can, without writing for a specific purpose. Give yourself the chance to explore an idea you've got on the back-burner, or something you'd never use for anything other than your own amusement. Enter a literary contest, try out a writing prompt challenge, join a yoga class! Anything to break up the monotony of the work.
7. Remember your vows
Problem: Writing consistently brings about some wonderful things, but once you've gotten used to the magic of it and have found your routine, the excitement turns to reflex, and what was once done for passion is now done because you have to. Even the crazy, wonderful rush of new ideas isn't giving it's usual allure. Everything is fine because nothing is wrong, but it's not great either. It's certainly not what you remember from when you first started writing seriously.
Solution: It's time to reflect back and remember why you started. Why do you love to write? What motivates you to create? What goals do you have that you've been working towards or neglecting? Reconnecting with why you love what you do and the reason why you are doing it can bring back the warm, fuzzy feelings. Remembering the good times balances out the bad ones, and can go a long way towards alleviating any frustrations or apathy.
As writers we all go through periods where we feel in love, and times where we want to break-up with, writing. Finding what works for you is the key to your success. Hopefully these tips will help you rekindle your spark and remember why you're writing in the first place!