A look at the writing life through the lens of romantic love
I fell in love with my husband when I was fifteen years old. We were high school freshmen, and I noticed this cute boy on the first day of school. He was in my A-Period Spanish, Algebra 1, and P.E. classes.
But he did not, it seemed, notice me.
So, even though I was a shy, quiet person, I had to devise a plan to get face-to-face with him. Enter my best guy friend, Kent, who was in the same math class.
One day, our teacher was mixing up the table groups, forcing us to break free from our comfortable (and far too social) groups and sit with new people. When we walked in the door, she had us pick an index card with the name of a Disney character.
I don't remember which one I got, but I managed to peek at the cute guy's card, and noticed he had the same one as Kent--the Eeyore table.
"Kent," I elbowed him. "Switch with me."
Kent looked at me like I was crazy, but thankfully didn't ask too many questions about why I wanted to switch tables with him. He just shrugged and took my card.
I sat down, face-to-face, with my future husband and the trajectory of my life changed forever.
BUT, of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing from there. It WAS a high school relationship, after all, full of plenty of "drama" and teenage angst. We stayed together for 2.5 years and broke up just before I went away to college.
Two and a half years after that, after some maturation and self-reflection, we found ourselves back in each other's orbits.
Why am I telling you all of this? Well because, like relationships, writing takes a lot of work, and learning, and growing and respect, and courage. Think about it like this:
In order for writing (and romantic relationships) to work you must:
Whole-heartedly devote time and energy into it: There's no way around it...writing takes time and energy. It is work. Fun, beautiful, playful work. But work none-the-less. And there are good days and bad days. The difference is showing up.
Be committed: Beautiful novels don't come about willy-nilly, because someone half-asses their commitment to the project. They sit and commit to writing their heart out.
Have the courage to go deep: If you don't share what's in your heart and soul with your partner, how will they ever feel connected to you? Same with your writing. There must be something deep, straight from the heart, that you want to say to the world. And you have to be unafraid to make your message heard, even if it's terrifying. Otherwise, no one will connect with the work.
Troubleshoot and learn from mistakes: Listen, we all make mistakes in relationships. We accidentally hurt our partner's feelings or do things repeatedly that drive them crazy, but in order for our relationships not to crumble, we have to learn from the mistakes we make. We have to do better. Same comes with writing. How can we grow and improve if we refuse to try to fix issues that inevitably come up?
Communicate effectively: Communication is everything in relationships and, obviously, in writing. We must be clear, conscientious, and empathetic with how we use our words.
Remember your "why": When things get tough, we have to remember our why. Why did we fall in love with this person to begin with? What do we love about them? With our writing, our "why"--why we are writing this story, what is on our heart that is propelling us forward--can anchor us when things get tough.
Know when to cut it loose or fight for it: Sometimes, let's face it, relationships just aren't meant for the long-haul. And some writing projects aren't either. Wisdom is knowing when to say goodbye. For both writing and relationships you have to know when to leave it and return to it (as my husband and I did!); cut it loose for good; work your ass off to save it; chalk it up to inexperience and move on; and consider it a learning experience that will improve your next relationship (or writing project).
Like with love, and the cliche of "it's better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all"...well, it's better to have written and failed then to have never written at all. So get out there and love and write.