Because if you don’t, why should anyone else? Stop beating your chest already, Mom doesn’t count. You must love your work, really love it.
You know what it’s like to be in love. It keeps you up at night, makes you sleepy during the day, and distracts you constantly with saccharine quotes you think you made up all by yourself. It’s all you think about. You write his or her name on every paper that drifts before your hands and press it into your peanut butter sandwich. You whisper a name in the quiet stacks at the library, if you still go, but it isn’t John or Suzanne – it’s the secret name that only you know: the title of your tome. You drag your finger in X’s and O’s down the damp window glass and peer through the tinsel marks, seeking your lover, your work in progress, on the other side. You answer the phone in high anticipation and then drop to a disappointed tone when it’s someone else who speaks. Want to buy a vacuum? Want to order a subscription? Nooooo – You want something but not what they’re offering. Your heart pines – all you can think about is writing.
And that ought to be the relationship you have with your writing. If your WIP doesn’t keep you up late at night, drafting, revamping, working to make it perfect, how can you expect it to keep anyone else away from their sweet dreams? (And just to let you know how serious I am about this: it’s now 12:42 – AM, baby. I should be in bed, with my other love.)
What you write must excite you. You must feel passionate about your story, inspired, obsessed. The characters should make you cry and laugh and punch holes in their pictures you have taped around your computer. It’s their names you whisper before you sleep and as you wake because if you can’t remember them, if you don’t care about them, then choose others. In fact, if your story bores you or hides from you, then dump it and start another. There is no excuse for not keeping beat with the daily activities of your life to the rhythm of your story. It should consume you, too much suspenseful sugar in daylight, (Oh my gawd, what’s gonna happen next, huh?) too much reflective caffeine at night, (Hmm, wonder if she would cringe at that or pick up a chair and smash it over his head?) and too much protein for all the wild adventures (Yes, this is the way the hero races in the chase scene, finds the buried treasure, and solves the crime.)
A brief momentary lapse of writer’s block might seize your muse and stop you from writing, brief as in, once in a while, a blue moon or a red sea. If you find yourself reverting to writer’s block as a default on the daily schedule, you might not be a writer. Because writers write. Regularly, as in all the time. With or without their computers or other devices. In Moleskin journals, on matchbooks, on the flyouts from magazines. On the bark of trees, on the tails of shrieking cats, on your kid’s lunchbox. Write because you are so enamored of your story that you can’t stop writing. Even when you get to the end of the story, you still write because you can’t let go.
If this is not what occupies your thoughts, all the time, everywhere, then rethink this whole ambition. Writing is not about a selfie in front of a poster stating, “Writer Here.” It’s about the actual act of writing. Not doing it? You aren’t a writer. Get a day job and go out and party at night. It’s OK. This low paying job isn’t for everyone.
But you know if it’s for you. Because you are obsessed with writing, because you are addicted to storytelling, because you love the work. Now, admire your effort. It’s lonely out here, with the huzzahs of just one. Someday your work will be in print, virtual or real soy ink, gripped in the hands of a stranger who can’t bear to put it down, and, engaged with reading your book, has just walked off the curb in front of a speeding bus …and oh, how you’ll love that day.
Besides, your story protected that distracted reader from the impact of the bus. It shielded her. She doesn’t know how lucky she is, that your book saved her life. All she knows is, she is still reading it. She just lo-o-oves the way you write.
Now, go inspire yourself.