At the weekend I had a look around Nottingham University – and got talking to a group of physicists. Now, physics was my worst subject at school. I think I got around 45% for the exam. So, I wasn’t expected to feel inspired by wandering around a room of research projects. But wow… just wow. I never knew the subject was so diverse. They were running high-falutin projects to do with mechanics, astronomy, medical imagery, nanascopic physics and much more. One of the physicists spoke to us with such passion, I left the conversation wishing I could apply for the course. He brimmed over with a real love of his subject and enthusiasm that will undoubtedly lead him to discover a new galaxy or way of mapping atoms. And it made me think – it must be hard running long-term experiments that don’t show results for months or years, or might end with disappointment… a bit like writing a novel.
So here are my tips for keeping that passion alive, because you can become jaded whether you are published or not. It’s like a marriage, dedicating your life the written word and sometimes that relationship needs spicing up!
Try writing something different. When I’m feeling stale with my latest first draft, I take a break from the long form and write a short story or a blog post. That means I’m not wasting professional hours by procrastinating because I’ve reached a dawdling point in the novel-writing process. And I’m sure many of you know exactly what I mean! Rather than force myself through the writer’s block, I’ll hop over to Twitter or Facebook. So, this way I am still being productive and not losing too much valuable writing time on on social media. Or you can just jump forwards into your project. Currently stuck on a love scene? Try writing that argument that takes place later on. And usually, when I come back to my novel project, I’ve got new ideas and a sense of excitement to crack on.
Take a break. Many of us writers, pursuing our dream, work at home. And that means we can often end up dedicating too many hours to our passion. Finishing the day at five in the afternoon ends up being seven in the evening. Take me. Probably I should start at nine am, after my cycle ride, a bath and decent breakfast. But no, once I’ve taken off my cycling gear I’m usually at my desk by seven to seven thirty am and grab a quick bath and something to eat at around ten thirty. It’s no wonder the our passion for crafting every word and doing detailed research can wane.
So take a break. Do something completely different – like, dare I say it, housework. Or meet a friend for a coffee. Or go for a lovely walk. Find some me time that allows your brain to switch off. This is equally important if you don’t write full-time and perhaps have another job. This last year I’ve had many other priorities and less writing time, so there is even more of a temptation to burn the candles at both ends. DON’T DO IT.
Manage expectations. As I’ve blogged about often on here, jealousy of other authors, self-doubt, rejection… this are all things that can wear an author down. Just try to be kind to yourself. This isn’t a race. You will fulfil your own potential in good time. Don’t set yourself up to be the most successful author ever. That is a surefire recipe for disappointment. Just aim to be the very best writer you can be.
It’s a bit like, say, a dating couple, thinking it’s really time they settled down, and hoping this is the right person to commit to. If they are still at the stage of finding out about each other, then this way of thinking, these expectations are only going to result in detrimental pressure. Whereas if they have no expectations at all, they will relax, just enjoy the current status quo and see where it goes. Don’t expect that your current project should be a bestseller or adapted for the screen. Just finish it. Rewrite it. Submit it. Learn from anything you feel goes wrong and move on to your next novel.
Read books by authors you admire. I tell you, there is nothing like this for making you fire on all engines and strive to raise your game. This prevents that real passion-killer, complacency. And the more and wider you read, you’ll realise just how experimental authors are and that will might encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, which is soooo important to keep that passion alive.
Try mindfulness. I took a course in it, last year. It’s all about noticing the detail of life, whether that is the sight of things or their appearance. This gave me a new perspective when writing and, hopefully, spiced up my prose. To find out exactly what I mean, take a look at this post.
My recently released novel, The New Beginnings Coffee Club, is my eighth published book. My first came out in 2013 and since then, I’ve stopped writing short stories (the year before that debut I sold 50 short to women’s magazines.) And whilst I am now keenly starting my ninth book, I’ve decide to spice my up my art by starting to work on shorts again. And it’s been great -writing about all sorts of subjects, from all sorts of points of view! The diversity of writing in the short form has really spiced up my overall passion for my vocation and job.
So go on – why not try one of my tips for yourself? 🙂