20 Mar 2015
Don’t Put that Pencil Down Just Yet!
Several years ago I wrote a novel. My friends and family members read it, loved it, and urged me to get it off to publishers right away. I did. The rejection notices began to show up in my mailbox almost daily – all those self-addressed envelopes with the “canned” letter wishing me well. Undaunted, I sent out at least a hundred more queries – same results. One small nibble, however, excited me so much that I began the sequel immediately. The nibble turned to nothing, and I went back to focusing on my “day job” and said, “I’m done!”
When the Passion is Gone
It’s depressing to lose a passion for something. Rejection was the cause of mine; the cause for yours may be something else. Whatever it is, it can be overcome, and the passion can return if you are willing to take some or all of the steps I did, once I decided to give it another try.
- Take a short break from writing, but put a time frame on that break. Mark on your calendar the day that you will begin writing again.
- During your “break,” keep a notepad or your mobile device with you. When a thought or an idea pops up, make a note of it. Do nothing more.
- Begin a journal, just to write down your experiences of the day and any reactions you have had to those experiences. The nice thing about this activity is that you don’t have to worry about being creative; you aren’t writing for anyone’s approval; you’re not trying to meet a deadline; and your writing is in very short spurts. You will soon be rather surprised how that journal becomes a pleasure each night and how you naturally begin to get back your “voice” and style.
- Read a lot. Once I began to really read in earnest again, I began to say to myself, quite often, “My novel is better than what I am reading here,” or “I could have written this much better.” What happens is that you begin to get back the self-confidence that may have been shaken or hidden over the past few weeks or months.
- Find some short writing jobs for money. Money will not take the place of passion, to be sure, but it does put you “back in the game,” at least a little. I began by tutoring high schoolers who had to write essays for their English classes. I then took a few tasks writing some guest blog posts and articles. And a funny thing happened. One day, as I was waiting in the dentists’ office and writing up a blog post that was due that evening, it dawned on me that people did find my writing talent and skill valuable – after all, they were paying me for it! That ego boost was huge for me.
- If your passion was once fiction, look around you. How many people have you met or do you know who could be characters in a short story or novel? How may crazy and delicious scenes could you imagine? I began doing it in my neighborhood – the couple across the street who were getting a divorce; the single guy a few doors down who had an unending trail of female guests. When I went out to eat, I was an impossible “eavesdropper” on the conversations at neighboring tables. Even family members became fodder for my crazy mental excursions. It was such fun that I began to develop events and people into short stories.
- Start your own blog: It doesn’t have to be about writing. What other interests do you have? Mine happen to be gardening and music, so I started two. While they never generated any big following, I was forcing myself to write, and they served that purpose quite well.
- Allow yourself not to finish a piece of writing. Of course, if that writing is for someone else and a deadline approaches, you cannot stop. But if you are writing for your own ultimate publication, give yourself the luxury of putting something away, whether you ever get back to it or not. I have files of unfinished writing on my desktop to which I may or may not return. The point is, I am writing.
If you have noticed a common thread among all of these suggestions, you should – it is that you must just write. You cannot get your passion back by feeling sorry for yourself; you cannot get it back by avoiding it; and you can’t get it back if don’t pick up that pencil!
I can happily state that my novel eventually did get published, and I am now deep into its sequel. Had I not forced myself to “stay in the game,” however, that book would still be just a file on my desktop!