Next week The Husband and I are going away to celebrate our four year wedding anniversary, and it’s got me thinking about relationships and what it takes to make them work.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself getting frustrated with the writing. I wrote in my last post about unrealistic expectations, and that’s part of what’s been troubling me, but it goes further than that. Writing is a lot like a relationship, and I hadn’t been treating it very well.
You guys know I’m a lover of lists, so you won’t be surprised the first thing I did was make a list of ways to mend my relationship with the pen. This is what I came up with:
- Take it slow. There can be a lot of external pressure when you’re in a relationship. Everyone has an opinion about when you should reach the major milestones. When you should get engaged, how long the engagement should be, and isn’t it time you start giving us grandkids? It’s when you internalise this pressure that things start going wrong. Whenever I read about someone submitting a query, getting an agent, publishing a book, I get impatient. I want to be there NOW. But what I need – what my writing needs – is to take thing slow.
- Personal space. When you’re in love – with a person, or with your story – you want to spend every last second together. This isn’t always a good thing, though. The Husband and I love spending time together, but we each have our own hobbies as well. We’ve found that spending time apart makes the moments we do spend together even more special. When I spend too much time in the world of my story I find myself going a little crazy. It becomes hard to see the big picture, where I’m heading, when I’m buried in a single scene, or paragraph. Sometimes the absolute best thing I can do for my writing is have a break, be it an hour, a day, or even a week. This past week my husband and I moved house and it was the perfect time for a break from my writing. In fact, in a week of not writing I’ve had more ideas for the story than I’ve had in months of slaving away over my keyboard. I’m able to come at things fresh, with a bit of perspective, and I’m so, so excited to jump back in.
- Celebrate milestones. I’ve mentioned this one before, but I think it’s really important. For our wedding anniversary, The Husband and I are going to a swanky hotel in the Blue Mountains and eating at our favourite restaurant of all time. It just so happens that the town we’re visiting is the one that inspired the town from my story, and the hotel we’re staying in plays a major role in the plot. This will be the third time I’ve visited the Blue Mountains since I came up with the idea for this story and it’s always such an inspiring time. It will do me and my story good to go back to where it all began, and celebrate the journey so far.
- Plan for the future. This one can be tricky, as dreaming and planning can turn into pressure if you’re not careful, but they’re still so important. The Husband and I love to talk about the future. About things we’d like to do, places we’d like to see. A lot of our plans aren’t in our control, but they’re important to think about. They give you things to aim for and they give you a gentle shove when you’re going through hard times. When I read those stories about other writers getting agents, I have to work at not letting myself feel pressured, but I also find them inspiring. It’s something to aim for, to dream about. Writing and I have a big future together and I need to keep being open and hopeful.
- Dating is important. When you’ve been married for a while you can find yourself getting in a rut of work and laundry and dishes. It’s important to remind yourself you’re not living with a housemate, you’re living with the love of your life. You need to take time to do special things together like go to the movies, eat out, or even window shop. For me, writing is the same. BICHOK, or Butt In Chair, Hands On Keys, is the serious writer’s mantra, but if that’s all you do, you can find yourself getting burnt out. Sometimes it’s good to write something just for fun. On Saturdays I like to have a writing date at a local cafe (I’ll have to find a new one now that I’m living in the ‘burbs), just me and my laptop, sipping tea and tapping on the keyboard. Not because I have to but because it’s fun.
- Choose wisely. Now, this one doesn’t quite apply to me at the moment, but it’s something I think about a lot when I’m starting a story. Writing a novel takes a really long time. Sure, you can always break up if it isn’t working, but it’s so much easier if you take time in the beginning to evaluate – is this the right story for you? Will you be happy with this story? Does it inspire you, challenge you, make you want to be a better writer? Luckily, the answers to those questions are all ‘yes’ for Restless. And now that I’ve chosen this story and I’m working hard to make my vision a reality, it’s important for me to reflect on what made me say ‘yes’ to begin with.
So now that I’ve given myself relationship counseling with my writing, it’s time for me to dive back in. I have my oreos. I have my coffee. I have my new only-partially-set-up office. I have the thunderstorm gathering outside my window. So I’m going to go write.
After a week off, here’s where the word count is up to:
35000 / 70000 words. 50% done!
Halfway there. I think that’s worth celebrating