The calendar says Fall arrives tomorrow, September 23rd. Soon the leaves on the trees will turn from bright green to vivid gold, red, yellow and orange. Beautiful, warm colors that speak of cooler weather, hot soups, hot cocoa, thick wool sweaters and snuggly afghans. Anticipation of shorter days and evenings when darkness falls much earlier remind me of holidays and food, family gatherings and food, Thanksgiving and food, Christmas and food...do you see a pattern here?
So many happy memories are centered around good times and fun, but the things that bring us the most joy involve work, too. Dishes from those holiday cooking marathons need washing, kitchens need cleaning, those darn leaves that looked so pretty need raking...the pattern is there, but the task isn’t so much fun anymore.
Writing a book is a lot like that. The fun starts with anticipation when the germ of an idea grabs your attention and you can’t wait to begin a new book, the excitement of meeting your new characters, introducing them to each other, plotting the what, where and why of their lives...and what an awesome day when your imagination takes off and you leave the mundane everyday tasks to create a world where everything happens just the way you want it to.
The hard part of writing is developing the characters your way when they stubbornly refuse to cooperate, when the plot doesn’t follow your original idea, when the research leads you down a dead-end path, when time runs out and you haven’t finished your pages for the day...and deadlines. That’s when writing becomes a job. Real work, people. Not much fun some days, just like any job. But you don’t quit a job just because it’s hard, do you?
So what do you do? You start by giving the characters a chance to bring their own voice to the story, you try a different path and maybe even a different plot. You may even have to give your characters different roles. You keep writing. You begin to find joy in new research and you realize writing is fun again. You remember that day when you wrote more than your daily page goal, the day when everything you wrote didn’t need revising, the day you wrote a special scene that made you cry. When the task of writing is no longer work, but shout-out-loud joy, you’ve discovered the real reason a writer keeps writing.