Let’s be honest, we can’t all be William Faulkner, or any other writer who writes classic novels within just a few weeks (possibly) or months. Sometimes creating a cohesive, well-written body of work takes years, even decades. It’s a huge undertaking, and it requires a lot of time, effort, writing techniques you’ve learned and practiced, and skill to put together. The brainpower alone needed to make a great story can sometimes take a lot out of you. But you persevere. You keep going despite having to write at odd hours, despite knowing you need to edit later, despite the blank page that stares back at you.
So what happens when you start to lose your passion for your work? I would go so far as to say that passion is one of the most important puzzle pieces to a great story, but sometimes it’s just not there. It’s fizzled out. What do you do when your interest and drive in your book just seems to die? Here are few things to keep in mind.
Take a Step Back
This is one of the most common things other writers will tell you, and for good reason. Sometimes you need to clear your head of all your doubts and fears and frustrations with the story currently in front of you. Even if you’re still driven by your subject matter, all these negative feelings weigh down on you. If you don’t get rid of what ties you down, those thoughts only get louder and you get more frustrated, which keeps you from getting any work done on it at all, and it can be hard to stay passionate about something you’re constantly frustrated with. If you take a step back, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to sort out those thoughts and evaluate just what exactly it is that’s made it hard to keep going.
“But Emma,” I hear you say, “If I do step back, the passion will fade forever!” Not necessarily. You’ll give yourself time to calm down and organize, and when you get back into the swing of things, your passion for your work will only be renewed. You’ll end up preserving your passion and interest now that you’ve gotten the unnecessary and negative mindsets out of the way and you’ve now rediscovered what makes you excited about your work in the first place. Take the time to reinforce positive ideas if self-doubt and frustration makes you lose your passion. Plan new ideas and directions or further outline your story if the story itself isn’t where you want it to be. Just be sure you’re working and moving forward. It can be hard to keep going and cultivate the passion you believe you lost, but there’s always a chance of getting it back, no matter how long it takes.
Evaluate What’s Not Working for You
After taking a step back, it’s time for the next big step. Figure out what you’re doing that needs to change. Is the idea just not working? Is it the way you write? Is it where the story is going? Because sometimes if your work isn’t going the way you want it to you lose your passion for it. You start to think that you’re too far in to go back and fix EVERYTHING and that maybe this idea isn’t as good as you thought it would be. Maybe you should shelve this idea and move on to something more practical.
But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! If passion is what you’re missing and the story itself makes you more wary to move forward, simply discovering what’s really been bothering you about it can do wonders. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been tired of working on a work in progress but then got excited about it again after one little thing clicked into place. Maybe I spent hours pacing my office until I FINALLY figure out how to fill in that plot hole (it happens a lot). Maybe I finally figured out how to write that one scene. All I know is that once things clicked into place, I was excited to keep writing again. As for the idea, sometimes it requires major reconstruction or even recycling some elements in a new way. That doesn’t mean that your idea was bad. Sometimes you need to be proactive . The passion and excitement about your subject matter doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of the story when you lose your excitement for it. The wheels will start moving again eventually.
Don’t Confuse It with Self-Doubt
Trust me, you can confuse the two. It can be difficult to separate “There’s something wrong with this” and “There’s something wrong with me.” Self-doubt kills excitement for a project. You believe that you aren’t good enough to execute this idea you have in mind, so why bother? But we all know about when that first idea hits. It’s like your brain is on fire and you can’t do anything else but write everything down before it all slips away. A good idea will keep burning when you settle down and start chipping away at it. If your passion for it dies, it’s not because you’re not good enough to keep going or that the idea itself is bad. Know that everyone hits a rut sometimes. There’s always a way to keep going in the long run. Don’t let your negative mindsets keep you from writing.
Keep Learning in the Meantime
Passion for your work and passion for writing as a craft go hand in hand. You should want to keep learning no matter what you do or where you are on your project. Sure, you should have an interest in the subject matter, the characters, etc., but if you aren’t actively trying to get better with your writing, then you’re not really improving as a writer and you’re in danger of letting your writing get complacent. There’s always something you can learn about writing or about crafting a good story. Here are a few links and classes to help out if you’re feeling stuck!
Also, if you’re having second thoughts about your work and it doesn’t seem to do anything for you anymore, take the time to pass it around to others. A second, third, fourth opinion allows you to look at your work from different perspectives, pointing out plot holes and mistakes or looking deeper and asking if this was the tone or the emotion you were going for. Sometimes that kicks things into gear and sets you on the path to writing again.
Remember that writers can easily get stuck. There’s no telling when you passion for a work will come back. Just don’t be so quick to give up on it. When you start working on a full-length, long-form piece, you have to put all of yourself into it, and when you feel like you have nothing to give anymore, wait and see how your own idea might surprise you. And trust me, we’ve all been at a point where we feel like we can’t go on. You’re not alone in this.
Want to know more? My portfolio is now COMPLETE, and you can find it here! You can find me in Ariel Chart, The Cedarville Review, Nailpolish Stories, Bluepepper, 50 Word Stories, The Aurora Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, The Drabble, Anti-heroin Chic, Art of Autism, Your Daily Poem, Sanctuary Magazine, Six Sentences, Paragraph Planet, and Sledgehammer Lit. You can now also find my FREE microchap at Origami Poems Project, which I am also offering here.
I am also a writer for Coffee House Writers! You can find my work under “Emma Foster” on their website.