It`s 20 years this month since I met my husband, deciding straight away that he was my number one choice for a marriage partner (never thinking for a second I would actually end up with him). At 18, my ideas about wedded bliss were a little naive.
At 38, it turns out my ideas about being a professional writer were too.
There are probably loads of reasons why writing is nothing like marriage, but for what it`s worth, here are 10 reasons why it sometimes is. Of course, I`m not necessarily talking about my own marriage, here…
1. When I first started, it was love at first sight.
I quickly became a woman obsessed – at the expense of all other commitments. I went from a person who rolled her own pasta to throwing a tray of chips in the oven because I couldn`t tear myself away from my laptop. During time away I grew listless and grumpy. Even when I was doing other things, like cooking, or driving, or walking my kids to school, I wasn`t really there. My head was working out plot twists, crafting imaginary conversations, getting to know my characters.
2. A few years on, however…the initial infatuation has somewhat faded.
People often comment that it must be hard to motivate myself. I don`t find it that hard, I still love writing. But I do get much more easily distracted. The internet, of course, being the biggest temptation. Yesterday when quickly googling bridal flowers for my book, I ended up reading a news story about a man who pushed his girlfriend out of the way to stop her catching the bouquet at a wedding. I have to be more proactive, deliberate and intentional about both finding the time to write, and making the most of that time.
3. Comparisons are never a good idea.
When I`m novel writing, I have to stay away from other fiction until I`ve finished for the day. Otherwise I find myself, however sub-consciously, trying to write like someone else. My books don`t need me to be someone else. The someone else is already doing an excellent job. The best thing I can do for my books is to be authentically me.
4. Honestly is (nearly) always the best policy.
Apart from those times when honesty means being overly rude, or crude, or unpleasant, or completely ridiculous. Thank goodness I have an editor to point those times out. If only someone did the same for my marriage…
5. There are no short cuts to creating something meaningful.I`ve learnt that any form of artistic endeavour needs time. Time to think, to plan, to dream, to wonder, to feel. Time to go deep, to get beyond whatever happens to be uppermost in my thoughts that day, which is probably drivel, almost definitely self-absorbed, and quite possibly thought-less.
6. It takes sacrifice.
When people say to me, “Ooh, I`d love to write a book,” I think, that`s great. Why not go for it? But I want to tell them: you have no idea how hard it is, how much effort it involves and how much work it is going to be. My journey to becoming an author felt like a trek up a huge mountain. One so thick with vegetation I couldn`t guess how long it was going to take, or if I`d ever reach the top. Like any adventure, there were times it felt difficult, exhausting, scary and painful and I didn`t know how I was going to make it.
7. You need quantity to achieve quality
After a few days away, I get nervous about how I`m going to reconnect with my story. If I will still enjoy it as much, if it will come as naturally to me. It can be easier to busy myself with something else than make the effort to sit back down. But every time I do, I remember how much I love it. And I remember why I`m so much better off keeping that connection strong.
8. Being open to change is essential.
Change, as in changing how I do things – how and what I read, write, plot, plan, edit. Weighing up criticism, learning from other people, deleting my favourite scene because, even though I love it, it doesn`t work with the rest of the book. And changing who I am – growing, stretching myself, building endurance. Dealing with old enemies like fear and self-consciousness and the need for approval.