Today the Sir Writesalot blog is honored to welcome a guest post from a young author, Rachelle O’Neil!
Relationships take work, whether they be with a parent, sibling, friend, or spouse. It is universally acknowledged that, in order to have a successful relationship that goes beyond the barest superficiality, you’re going to need to invest some hard work into it. And that requires a commitment to the relationship. Writers have another type of relationship that they cultivate: the relationship with their stories. And our stories are like some of our deepest relationships with people: they depend upon an intense commitment. So the question then is this: Do You Love Your Story Enough to Commit to It?
Commitment, though an easy enough word to say, is a difficult concept to truly understand. According to dictionary.com, “commitment” is a “a promise or pledge; an obligation.” So how does it apply to our stories?
Commitment is being faithful:
In a successful romantic relationship, each member is faithful to the other. As marriage vows go, “forsaking all others…” I’ve heard many writing friends describe the way they jump around from story to story, and I’m no stranger to the tendency, either. When we get slightly bored with our current story, we tend to work on something else and let the current work slide. Now, understand that I’m not saying you can’t work on multiple projects at once. I do urge caution, though, since you can only spread yourself so far. But the important part is that you’re actually seeing each of these projects through to completion, not just playing with different ones until you get bored. In human relationships, that’s called cheating or playing the field. Don’t get sucked into the trap of being unfaithful to your story. “The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love.” – Anne Morriss
Commitment is sticking out the messy and hard times:
Sometimes, you get stuck in a rut. And that rut isn’t always pleasant. In a marriage, it may be the daily grind of diapers and 3am feedings. In writing, it might be times your characters aren’t behaving or the plot gets stuck about halfway through the draft. It can also be research and editing; I find myself slipping away from my story now that I’m ready to edit. And I can’t let myself give up on all the work I’ve done. Besides, I still love this story; it’s just hard. It’s so tempting to give up on your story when nothing seems to be going right. But that’s when your commitment (or lack thereof) shows through. Anyone can want to write a book; you must prove that you WILL write that book. Besides, if writing was easy, everyone would do it, and where would the fun be in that? In addition, the trials you go through to write will make your story unique. As the grandmother in the movie Letters to Juliet says, “Life is the messy bits.”
Commitment is reminding yourself why you fell in love:
At the beginning of a relationship, everything is fun and exciting. Those moments when you first get the inkling of this story idea, figure out your main character’s backstory, and come up with a brilliant title. Those are the beginnings of your story, and they are incredibly fun. They’re when you fall in love with your story and decide to make this a long-term thing. But as the actual writing and editing processes go on, you forget what made you so excited. You get frustrated and confused and maybe even bored. When those times come, you’ve got to remind yourself what was so neat about this idea. Why did you light up when it came time to work on this story? Why did it make your creativity bounce all over the realms of possibility? Why did it fill your heart? Look back; rediscover your character sketches and drawings; delve into an aspect of the story that always fascinated you. I love designing outfits on Doll Divine, and, though I tend to get distracted on there, the time spent usually does get me excited about my story again. Create Pinterest boards for your story; do freewriting exercises; deepen backstory. There are many things you can do to remind yourself why you love it. Take advantage of them. “When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible.” – attributed to either FranĀois de la Rochefoucauld or Nancy Coey
Commitment is choosing your relationships wisely:
Not every person you’re attracted to will make your perfect mate. In the same way, not every story idea that pops into your head is meant to be. I have story ideas overflowing from my mind, but not every one of them can support its own story. And, honestly, I’m not really in love with some of them. Writing a book is a long-term commitment; you can’t just choose any story idea that pops into your head. Single out the ideas that make you glow with excitement, the ones that have the potential for depth, and the ones that can stand the fires of writing. And then commit yourself to those ideas. “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” – Unknown
So, are you committed to your story? How hard has it been to work on it through good times and bad? How do you cope with the struggles inherent in the writing and editing processes? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to hear your thoughts!