In June, I took my son to a Switchfoot concert. In the middle of their show, the lead singer talked about leaving their record company, building their own record studio, and dedicating time to falling in love with music again. The band decided to write and sing songs about hope.
As a writer, I got what he was saying. We live in a time when publishing is going the way of the music industry. In the past, when writers went with traditional publishing they gave up a lot of control, but they received a lot, too: attentive editing, market credibility, marketing support, and essential distribution channels. Today, that’s not necessarily the case. Often writers give up a lot with traditional publishing and get little back. Of course, there’s always indie publishing, which comes with its own set of challenges: an overwhelming amount of decisions to make and coming up with the publishing costs up front.
All of these changes can leave a writer feeling disgusted with the whole writing and publishing business. What happens when the thing we love more than anything—writing—becomes more frustrating than fun?
I have some ideas. (Of course I do!)
1. Recognize that frustration is simply part of the territory, like steep climbs in the mountains. You are in good company. Writers have been frustrated by the publishing industry for years. Here’s what George Bernard Shaw had to say about it:
I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later; publishers would publish anything that had my name on it.
2. For now or for at least part of each day, let go of what you do not control and fall in love with writing all over again. When we let go of the drama and cling to the passion, we are able to write something worth publishing.
How do you fall in love with writing? Try this:
+Get curious about new ideas and stories. Pretend you’re four years old for a day and ask questions about everything: Why does that lady walk like that? What if I could fly to the lake and back alone? Why did you paint your nails purple?
+Write just for fun. For you. For the love of telling a story or exploring an idea. Keep the door shut. Play with words. I mean it. Don’t post it on social media or show it to your critique group. Keep it your little secret.
+Take a writing class in another genre. Approach the class like a newbie.
+Teach a writing class for children or teens. Create something silly together—perhaps something like consequences, an old parlor game which invites members of a group to write a story together.
+Go to a yard sale or second-hand book store with the intent to find one or two books that bring you joy. Go home and read them. All day.
Your turn: How do you keep falling in love with writing? How does being passionate about writing improve your work? Share your ideas below.