It’s easy to fall in love with writing, but can you take it to the next level?
A lot of people love the idea of writing, and hold it in their heart for years as ‘a one day when I’ve got time’ dream. And when they engage, perhaps in workshops or inspired by a book such as Writing down the Bones by Nathalie Goldberg or Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, writing does not disappoint.
Because it really is exhilarating to discover that all you have to do is open the door, and ideas will come pouring through. Characters, settings, stories… it’s astonishing and wonderful what you find inside that you never even knew was there.
This is the honeymoon period. It’s bright, fun and exciting, but it doesn’t last forever. You can abandon it for a while and then start all over again, with another course, another book, loving the romance but not committing, or you can surrender to it fully, and fall properly in love.
Love is not easy. As Khalil Gibran says in The Prophet, ‘Even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.’
When you fall in love with writing, just as when you fall in love with another person, your centre of gravity changes. You are not the only important thing. You are willing to learn, to strive and to make sacrifices in the service of your love.
Loving your writing means making yourself the best possible writer that you can be. It means studying and practising all the skills of writing, so that you can properly honour the wonderful flow of ideas you have found.
Sometimes it might mean giving up things you really liked – ‘killing your darlings’ – if a clever image you were pleased with doesn’t sit well in the larger piece, for example, or if a descriptive passage you’ve worked really hard on has got in the way of the action.
It means curbing your annoying habits, such as using too many abstract nouns or adverbs, or peppering your text with a few favourite words. What you like is not important; you want to do what the writing needs.
Writing is a labour of love – labour and love, both. When you have setbacks, as every writer does – a book idea that doesn’t work after months and months of trying, a rejection from a publisher or agent, an e-book that’s barely sold a copy – it’s only your love for the art and craft of writing that stops you walking away and giving up completely.
I’ve had times when I’ve felt like packing it in, but writing always brings me back. It’s part of who I am now, not just a thing I do. As Khalil Gibran says, ‘think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.’
What is your relationship with writing? Would you like to commit yourself more fully? Would you like to be able to walk away?