When Passion Is Not Enough
Bad stories are like dead end relationships; You enter with high hopes, seeing a bright future ahead of you. It doesn’t take long for you to realize that you’ve walked into a hopeless situation. You try to downplay it, and continue pouring your heart and soul into the relationship, trying to give it life, while it lays limply at your feet. Bad stories, like bad relationships, are poisonous to the mind, body, and soul.
Recently, after two years of working on my second novel, I decided to scrap it and start over. Two hundreds pages, story maps, in depth character analysis, and research, down the drain. I cried for an hour before hitting the ‘delete’ button. I even left the house, hoping that fresh air would give me clarity. I had tried to make it work, I really did. But, there was nothing that could be done. The story was dead.
For the first time in my life, the creative process had completely, utterly failed me. I couldn’t bring myself to admit it, but I hated this book! I hated the characters, the storyline, all of it. I could tell by the way I dragged myself to the computer each morning to write that this was not what I was meant to be writing.
So, after deliberating with my husband, my editor, and talking to myself for hours on end, I finally decided to scrap the book, and begin again.
They say that when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. But, that’s not what it felt like to me. Writing felt like a prison sentence. The story was awful, and there was no way I could salvage it. This was not love. I could no longer remember what it felt like to love writing. But suddenly, with the entire manuscript gone, and with a blank page before me, the story came back to life. It was a reincarnation of the one I had tried so hard to produce. Similar characters, similar story line, and a similar goal, yet the two couldn’t be more different.
I found myself writing with vigour and high energy again. I was excited to write, which was something I hadn’t felt in months. There was passion pulsing through my fingertips; I was happy to be writing again.
So, what happened? How did I go from passionate writer to zombie writer, and back again?
I started writing my second book a week after Shattered Illusions went to print. I was on fire; I had a fresh, exciting new story to share. I couldn’t stop smiling. There was nothing that would stop me from bringing my next book to life, with as much joy, and commitment as I had my first.
But then, Shattered Illusions was released. I found myself busier than ever before, attending speaking engagements and readings, writing blog posts, doing whatever I could to get my first book out into the public eye. I forgot all about writing. How could I even think about writing a second book, when my first one still needed to run its course?
So, I put it on hold for six months….six months became a year…a year became almost two. Suddenly, I found myself struggling to get back into the game, wondering how and why I had decided to write this book to begin with. Where was that spark of excitement that had ignited this fire two years before? Well, quite frankly, it had died with the expectations of publication. It had died with the hopes and effort I had put into making the first book noticeable. I had spent so much time out in the world, that I had forgotten how to go leave the world behind, close the door, and write. I didn’t know how to be alone with the words anymore.
I realized that passion was not enough to keep the spark alive. The story I wanted to tell two years ago no longer resonated with me; it no longer felt like a story that I wanted to share. It felt like I had lost a part of myself. If this story couldn’t be told, then what made me think that I could or would tell any more stories?
Writing, like any other profession, takes time, dedication, and hard work. It can’t be about passion alone. As Mark Danielewski so poignantly wrote: “Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.”
I couldn’t allow whimsical passion to guide me anymore. I had to set the pen to paper, and drive the story out of my system, no matter how painful it would be. To quote Psalm 126: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Starting over was incredibly difficult. To say that I’ve been sowing in tears is an understatement. No matter the outcome, the reward has already been greater than I could have possibly imagined, because the story I’m telling now is the one I believe I was meant to share.
Sow in tears, reap with joy. Ten chapters in, twenty to go, and already, my field looks that much brighter.