Have Fun and Persevere

By Jeri-Tallee Dawson
2005,
Jeri-Tallee Dawson

 

So you're a new writer. You've built your world and created your characters. You're full of zeal and goodwill, and you really want to write that book. And then, after the initial excitement wears off, your enthusiasm begins to peter out. Writing is suddenly a chore, not a privilege. The writing time you set out for yourself gets rolled over by necessities more often than not. Your muse glares at you when you try to talk to her and you catch yourself doing the dishes or the laundry, or sharpening your pencils when you finally do sit down to write. You want your writing to be fun, but you can't seem to hit that switch anymore that once made it so. 

The bad news is: you aren't the first writer this has happened to. The good news is; there are ways out of your predicament. Let me suggest a few.

 

1. Draw up a schedule

If you can't seem to make the time for writing but fall into bed every night frustrated that you haven't been able to write again, drawing up a writing schedule might be the thing for you. Take an old-fashioned timetable and block out the times that can't be used for writing, like work, sports, getting the kids, grocery shopping, preparing meals, and walking the dog. Plan some quality time for yourself, as well. Relaxing and enjoying are good for the spirit (and the muse). Then block out the times you want to use for writing. When you draw up that schedule once a week, and stick to it (it gets easier as you go and have more experience with what works and what doesn't), you don't have to make decisions about how to use your day every morning. You simply follow the schedule. Sometimes, that may mean that other things take precedence, but you'll feel good about taking your writing time when you do, as well.

 

2. Acknowledge your achievements

It's easy to downplay your achievements in light of what you aim to accomplish. In order to keep writing fun, it helps to give yourself credit for what you've done that week. If you're a follower of the school of word and page counts, you may get really depressed if you only credit yourself with the final novel pages you put on paper. Instead, start marking down the time you spend with research, world building, digging for new character names, jotting down a few pages on book 3 in a series you're just starting, reading articles and books on writing, rewriting a story, and so on. Put into your weekly schedule exactly what you did, for how long, and you may well begin to marvel at the end of the week just how much time you spent immersed in something writing-related! Actually putting the words on the page is just the tip of the iceberg of an incredible amount of work that precedes it. 

And when you've finished one really great story, chapter, page or line, go reward yourself.

 

3. Figure out your hang-ups

I think we all agree that we love to do things that are fun; you go back to them just because you enjoy them so much. Your love of writing started the same way. And there is nothing like a day when the words just flow, characters talk back to you, plot points that drove you crazy for weeks suddenly come together, or you jot down a marvelously poetic piece of writing that makes your heart constrict with awe.

The reason you shy away from writing right now may be that there's something in the plot that you don't want to decide just yet. That you really don't like one of the characters you're supposed to write three books about. That you haven't fully thought through a character's cultural trait just yet and don't want to be bothered with yet another bout of world building right now. There could be a hundred reasons why writing this particular book is no fun at the moment, and it stifles your joy of writing and keeps you away from it like a cat from water. My best suggestion is: stop pushing against the invisible wall; sit down and figure it out. There are many ways to do this, from timed writing to simply going back twenty pages and finding out where it last worked. What works well for me is to just write down the next really pivotal scene that I'm excited about. It gives me a good goal to strive for, I get to know my characters better and I often figure out a much shorter and better way to write what didn't want to be written before.

 

4. Set yourself manageable goals

If you sit down and tell yourself, "I need to be incredibly enthusiastic about this novel right now, I have to brim with ideas and I will finish 20 pages today," that won't work. While that famous author you're trying to emulate is writing ten pages a day, the right amount of work for you may be just one page a day at this point. Or five every two or three days. Sitting down on your desk with high expectations but no inspiration will probably not work. Finishing a whole novel will look like a huge hill, and you'll be absolutely sure there is no way you'll ever scale it. Find out the right amount of work for you that will challenge you but won't tire you out. And then sit down and write.

Writing -- and finishing! -- a whole novel requires much more than just a good idea and a bit of idealism. It can become a grueling task at times for both beginning and accomplished writers, but it is worth taking on because the rewards can be so very satisfying. Only you can tell your story. Drawing up a writing schedule, acknowledging your achievements, figuring out your hang-ups, and setting yourself manageable goals are some of many ways to smooth out the bumps in the road and make the ride enjoyable.