Question: I look at the progress I’ve undergone in recent years, and I can definitely say I’ve improved as a writer – in plots, language skills, work discipline (as in, starting a novel and sticking with it until it’s done). But… something of the joy, spontaneity, creativity and freedom of writing was lost along the way, and I miss it. I used to finish up everything else as quickly as I can, so I could get to writing. Now I finish up writing so I can do other things. I don’t want writing to become a chore. I want the joy and pleasure of it back. How do I accomplish that? Any thoughts?
I came across this question a week ago and have left it to let the full implications of it sink in. Now, as I come to write this blog post, I have come to the conclusion that it boils down to one quite major question:
Are you writing for fun or are you working towards writing as a career?
Let me make myself completely clear from the off. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches to writing and each is just as valuable as the other.
People write for fun in so many ways, not just in the crafting of stories: people read articles and comment about them on social media, they write in their daily diaries they write silly and seemingly pointless letters or emails to their friends. Writing stories for fun is just an extension of that mindset.
As with all hobbies that we want to get better at, a huge amount of practice goes into it. Despite the fact that it is only something we want to do in our spare time, writing takes a huge amount of energy to do properly and therefore requires a huge amount of discipline. Unfortunately, sooner or later, that desire to keep to rigid writing times will lead us into the hell that is boredom. You resent having to sit down and start writing when you really want to do something else and, for a while at least, what was once a fun hobby begins to smell suspiciously like a job or chore.
At this point, as with all hobbies, you have two choices: put your shoulder to it and hope you get past the boredom aspect or walk away.
Even as I am writing this, I can hear the collective sigh as everyone snarls at the very idea of walking away from writing, but consider this… If your only motivation is to write as a hobby and the hobby becomes dull and unfulfilling, is it really worth your time to pursue it?
This brings me quite nicely round to the second scenario from my question. Likewise there is nothing wrong with someone only wanting to write as a career. Many writers who started writing because they love it might say that the career-driven writers don’t deserve it but ultimately if you are good at what you do why shouldn’t you try to make a living off it? Obviously there are some massive drawbacks about only wanting to write because it seems like a good career, but I won’t delve into those right now.
If you are one of those people who are writing in the expectation of gaining a career from it, then you need to start with a very simple thought in your mind. Regardless of whether you jumped into writing knowing that you would pursue it for work, or if you came to the conclusion after years as a hobby writer, the thought should be the same…
Writing is a job.
Not many people like this idea of reducing writing to such dull and bland terms but unfortunately it is very much the case. If your writing starts feeling like a chore it is because you stripped away the fascinating aspects of writing and begun to unearth the upsettingly tedious processes that create a story. It’s like watching your favourite CGI film and then, when watching the extras, realising that it was all done with green screen. Some of the magic gets sucked away when that happens but, regrettably, it is an important part of the process if you want to improve as a writer.
Writing, like any job, has its downsides and if you want to pursue it as a career you have to accept that there will be times when you’re not enjoying what you are doing. There will be times when you want to write an original story but your fans are crying out for yet another sequel to your already growing collection of similar stories. There will be times when you can’t wait to finish that chapter so you can go back to having fun in your life. It happens, there is nothing you can do to stop it. What is important is that you embrace it when it does.
So, back to the question in hand, how do you put the joy and passion back in to your writing when you hit that boredom zone?
The answer is surprisingly simple and yet terrifying at the same time.
That’s right, you heard me, walk away.
Treat your writing like hunger. You’ve been working solidly on it, keeping to the same routine over and over again, and now you’ve lost the taste. So walk away. Allow your hunger for writing to build up again, give your mind space to breathe, put down your pen and go out and experience the world outside.
It seems like a daunting task. What if I never come back to writing? What if that is the end? Certainly, it is a risk that you will be taking but allow me to put it to you in completely brutal terms. If you end up coming back to your writing, invigorated and brimming with that passion and imagination you had before, then you will be back on track and you can say to yourself that it is meant to be. If you don’t come back at all, it is probably because you have had enough of writing and that phase in your life has passed by for the time being…
Better yet, if you don’t come back, the chances are that you’ve found something better…
And that is where I will leave it today. As always, I will be browsing the internet for more writers’ questions but if you have anything specific you would like me to answer, please ask in the comments section and I will address it in a future post.