Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Uncurbing Enthusiasm

Fellow blogger, Hanny, sent me an email some time ago asking a question that stumped me. Like a hewed tree.

"I come home from work, sit at the computer, and type a word quota and leave it—no passion or enthusiasm at all . . . Should I just box it and start on something that really excites me, or keep at it and hope that it gets exciting or can be edited into something interesting?"

I honestly didn't know how to answer that. So I sat and thought. I drank some water from my glass and noticed it was half full. Or was it half empty? I couldn't answer that question, either! Then, like a fish, it came to me.

What happens if you write and you're not excited about it? If you have no passion or enthusiasm in what you're writing, is that going to reflect in your writing?

"I'd say that's a big 'yes.'"

Doctor Venkman--you stole the words from my mouth!

We don't typically do things that we're not passionate about. We don't fill our rental cues with movies we don't like, or read books that don't interest us. It doesn't make sense to write something if you have absolutely no enthusiasm for it. But you did, when you started.

You've invested time in this project. Thousands of words typed. You can either finish it or move on to something that you are passionate about. Does this mean you're a quitter? Does this mean what you've done is a lost cause? I don't think so. Not at all!

I'm a huge fan of Science Fiction. Why am I writing Fantasy, then? My enthusiasm for writing sci-fi did not match my watching, reading, or playing sci-fi related mediums. Do I want to write sci-fi, maybe even rewrite my first trilogy? Sure! The timing just isn't right for now. The problem is I don't have the right elements to make the story work like it should. I'm still waiting for the right reception. Until then, magic and undead are speaking to me. Go with your gut. There is no concrete answer.

If you find yourself disinterested in your current WiP, now is a good time to ask yourself a few questions:

Where did I lose interest for this story?
What's the best use of my precious time?
Do I simply need a break to think about it?
Is the story the problem, or is it just me?

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. If you're writing and plan to keep writing, then you obviously have a passion for writing. The best way to uncurb your enthusiasm is to explore the craft. There's much to learn. Even now, I've come to embrace flash fiction, and there's even a zombie novel in the mix now.

Don't panic. Just write. Enthusiasm will find you.

I'm David, and the calender is falling!

If you want to know more about writing, or want some advice on writing, feel free to contact me with questions.


  1. Love this post, David. You're right about pushing through the lull of enthusiasm. Your words made me think of Field of Dreams. You know the quote, "If you build it, they will come." This works for writing, too.

  2. I will find myself less than enthusiastic when I am in the exact middle of a project. That's when I usually want to take a long break, but if I force myself to move forward I"ll regain my love for the story.

  3. David, the line between fantasy and sci-fi is really really thin. Saying you like sci-fi but write fantasy is to me like saying you like apples but prefer Fuji apples.

  4. Well said, David. Moving on to something that really has your passion at the moment is the way to go. It doesn't mean that other project won't call to you again and in the meantime you may cotton on to whatever it is that went missing on that other project.

  5. Excellent post, David. I agree with you. If you are not passionate about what you're writing, your reader will not be either. And I think the questions you posed about where a WIP may have gone astray are great.
    On a side note, I love how much you're working on. You appear as busy and multi-tasting as me :-)

  6. I always liken writing to being a pitcher in baseball. Sometimes you throw a no-hitter and sometimes you get touched for five runs in the first inning. The important thing is not to let it get you down too much on the bad days. Unless every day is a bad day and then you need to rethink some things.

  7. I really like this post.

    There are some things we kind of have to push through, like that hard day at work where nothing seemed to go right. But when you get the paycheck or notice the direct deposit in your account, you feel okay because you have the immediate result, or at least every two weeks or 15 days.

    But with writing, the immediate result isn't there unless you're a writer as your paying gig already. I can honestly say that should I get home from work and I get the feeling that my writing has also turned into "work", stepping away for a moment or starting on something else that excites me will be a really good way to handle it.

  8. I think you hit the nail on the head. Just because you love one genre doesn't mean you have the skill yet to write that genre. Cheating is fun when it comes to writing.

  9. I would say that I concur. Yes! It will definitely show in our writing if we aren't excited about what we're doing. I think that will get us NOWHERE. It's important to have that enthusiasm and be aware of our own talents as well. :)

  10. Thank you for commenting, guys. You've all brought awesome perspectives to the topic.

    E.R. - I have a soft spot for that movie. :)

    Michael - Good point. With fantasy, I don't have to back up stuff with theory that could lead to science fact. That's the only real difference to me. And I favor the gala. :)

    Donna - Exactly! I could pick up where I left off with my epic fantasy project, but it's not calling to me like these other two are.

    Susan - Multi-taskers, unite! :)

    Rogue - Another baseball reference. Awesome!

    Angela - Agreed. If your writing doesn't feel like "work," then you're in a great place.

    Steph - Yep. Sometimes you just have to build up to it. With writing, nothing is finite.

    Abby - Like two peas in a pod. Awesome! :)

  11. WOW! I should email you a question! Then you could answer me in a brilliant, inspiring post like this one! Boy, your mind just works all sorts of wonders!

    I'm thinking if someone were excited enough about an idea to start writing it, then the underlying passion is there. But maybe their trouble is in plot tangents or characters - perhaps the quest or stakes are turning out to be not as meaningful as they should be or the character isn't resonating with them, etc. They could try brainstorming and researching ideas to strengthen the story or twist the knife in the reader's heart, and see if they come up with an exciting new focus before putting it aside.

    Thanks, David!

  12. I love this post. I too have a greater love for flash fiction since joining the Campaign. I think a lot of people would benefit from reigniting their passion with a new project every once in a while. It doesn't mean you're a just means you're learning, and growing as a writer. :)

  13. It's like being mired in mud in your car -- sometimes you have to go backwards before you can go forward again. Go back a chapter or two or three and start reading, getting into the flow of the story. Usually you find your groove again after doing that, Roland

  14. I agree! Also, if you keep running into the problem at the same stage of the same story, likely you need to back up. If the writer is bored, the reader is definitely going to be!

  15. I know I have Writer's ADHD.

    I love werewolf stories. I'm not embarrassed (much) to admit it.

    And I have a drawer full of half written werewolf books. Blah.

    What I learned was I like writing action and comedy.

    I like reading werewolves.

    Writing werewolves...not so much.
    Just because I like reading doesn't mean I necessarily want to write it.

    I mean most people like sex but not everyone is writing erotica.


  16. Writing is a lot of work, yes, but it's gotta FEEL like love, not a chore. Sometimes a new idea, story or characters - or even just reading a good book - can help us find that passion again.

  17. Great post! I agree, you need to do what you love - even if that means shelving some work for a while.

  18. I think if you aren't excited about something, it will definitely show. Even through that part of the book that is toughest for you. Sometimes it's the book, and sometimes it's not and you have to remind yourself WHY you love the book you're working on so much. Forgetting can happen.

  19. Congrats, David. You won.

  20. Great post. I think sometimes you have to just write, but having passion for it, makes it come alive. ;)

  21. That's thought provoking. I guess all writing is good practice and experience and when the epiphany comes that you realise your writing should take another path, that is all part of the maturing process too.

  22. This is exact reason why I switched projects. Great post David!

  23. Wow! Big points for the Dr. Venkman reference:) I wanted to be a Ghostbuster as a kid (and I kinda still do). All that aside...I think the answer to your questions is that anything you write should live in your head. So if you "box" or delete or burn part of a story and you try to rewrite it later, only the good parts will come through. The Beatles applied the same thinking when collaborating on songs. They'd try and rewrite it again later and found that only the best parts stayed with them. Just a thought:)

  24. Thanks for this pep talk, coach! I'm in the middle of revising my WIP and sometimes I just want to quit and write one of my new story ideas, but I don't want to let myself "give up." Hopefully enthusiasm will find me soon, but if it doesn't, I'll switch projects and go back when the time is right!

  25. This is a great post, David. I fit perfectly into your example too: I love high fantasy. Love to read it, love to watch it, love to play it. But I *hate* writing it. And I've tried. I have one super bad novel to prove it! I can't say NEVER, but I definitely have zero enthusiasm for it.

    For me, when I lose enthusiasm for a project, I need to spend some time "book dreaming" or brainstorming. If I still can't drum up a great twist or something-something to liven it up, then it's time to put it away. Maybe for a little while, maybe for a long while, maybe forever.

    Some stories just aren't meant to be BOOKS.

    Thanks for the great topic!

  26. I have to agree. If the enthusiasm is gone, either find a way to rekindle it, or find something that excites you more.

    It's funny, I feel the same way about sci-fi. I love reading it and watching it, but it's not what gets me writing right now. Will that change? Maybe, but it's not something I have a control over.