What was the first story you fell in love with? The one that you insisted grown-ups read for you again and again and again? Or the book that you stayed up with late into the night, snuggled under your bedcovers with a torch?
What book gave you a lightbulb moment of understanding about yourself or the world around you - helped you understand something new about humanity?
And when was the moment you realised you wanted to ‘be’ a writer? When did you start filling a notebook with scribbled thoughts, crazy and wild?
When was the first time you finished writing something, and felt that excited heart-pound because it might actually be quite good?
Do you still have that?
When did it become about daily word counts? When could you more easily retell your latest submission letter than the story itself? All those brown-envelopes...
Where did the romance go?
Let's remember to love the process! You don’t have to write (other than in that compulsive sense of yes I do, I absolutely HAVE to do write!) What I mean is, you do it because you choose to. Because you love it. Remember?
Don’t take your love for writing for granted. Don’t let it slip into drudgery and mechanics.
I met someone completely embittered that he’d never found a publisher. I’d never met anyone so angry about it before. It left me wondering whether that in itself might mean he never does, because where was the love? It wasn’t about the story anymore, it was about those evil publishers who couldn’t recognise his brilliance. The story had shrivelled into a darkened corner, too shy to emerge.
What do you do to keep the romance alive?
For me there are two things. Both, I understand are recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, although I'm pretty confident they're not patented! I haven’t actually followed her book myself, but I’ve heard good things about it!
The first is free writing - preferably in the morning, first thing when the day is only just stirring and you still have one foot in the world of dreams. Writing about whatever comes to mind with no pressure for the words to be good or to build to anything. Sometimes material surfaces that can be used, but it doesn't have to. It's just for fun, maybe to clear out the dross, but you don't have to over-think the reasons.
The second way to stoke the love is a writer’s date. A concentrated time to remind you that creativity is a joy.
Why not book a date with yourself sometime this week? It only need be for half an hour... Go and buy yourself a new notebook. It doesn’t have be expensive. Yes, we all love Moleskins, but you could buy something bog standard. Heck, go crazy and buy a pen, too.
Then stop somewhere.
A bench in a park. Find a river. Sit under a tree. Or wait for the good seat in the coffee shop.
If you have children, you’ll probably have to wait until they’re in bed! Pour a glass of wine and sit somewhere different in your house. Or dig out a sleeping bag and sit in the garden.
Just stop. Stop.
Smell the air.
Relax a moment.
And then open up your brand new notebook and write about why you love to write. What have you been you trying to do all this time?
Never forget why you love it. Let yourself fall for writing all over again.