Being a Better Writer: A Long-Term Relationship – Part Two

Welcome back writers. We’re back with another Being a Better Writer post on exactly that topic, and aside from a small news blurb to stick in front of it, we’re going to get right down to things!

So, what’s the news? Two smaller items. First: I have a sore throat and a bit of a head cold. So this post might have a few more typos that slip by than normal, and for that I apologize. A chance of small typos is better than no post, I think.

Second, those of you who have replied or posted regarding the Starforge Beta Call may have noticed that there have not been e-mails sent out in response with the Beta Chapter List. This is because polishing of the last few chapters took a little more time than I anticipated. That said, everything I saw over the weekend says that the additional smoothing has been well worth the effort, and I can do the final checks and start putting out the Beta chapters now. Apologies for the delay, but with a finale like this, getting everything to land just right is important.

Which, in a way, does feed into today’s Being a Better Writer post. I said last week that most probably would be surprised by the topic, and expect something a bit more in the vein of today’s post, and noted that we would indeed get to that. Well, here we are. We have arrived at that point. Where last week we talked about writing a long-term relationship and showing it to the reader, this week we’re going to be discussing your long-term relationship with writing, as a hobby or as a career, and what that means for, well, everything.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk writing.

Okay, so how to start such a discussion? I think the best place to begin is with out groundwork. Some of you might be questioning “Why call it a long-term relationship in the first place?” After all some would argue it’s just a hobby. A dalliance. What could be long-term about that?

Well, for some, nothing. Which is where we’re going to start today.

Look, writing something is a commitment, no matter how you put it. If you don’t sit down and put in the time and the effort, a story will never appear. For example, some time ago a study was done that found over 50% of those surveyed in the United States “planned” on writing a book. However, only 15% ever even started, and less than 6% got halfway through that planned project. Other studies have reported numbers as high as 81% of Americans surveyed saying they were going to write a book one day.

Do you know what the percentage is of people that actually finish, nevermind publish? Less than a percent. When you add in publication, that number crawls downward to a fraction of percent.

Point being, writing is a work of effort. As has been stated many times before on the site, there is no “magic bullet.” No one sits down, cracks their knuckles, and then ten minutes later walks away from a completed manuscript with little thought given. Writing out a story takes a lot of work for each aspect of the story, from character to plot. It’s a commitment.

In a way, writing any book or story is like being in a relationship. Not a romantic one, mind, but the kind where a part of your day and life is always going to be tethered to that work, a portion of your mind set aside for it.

In other words, those that may question how writing anything could be a relationship are those same people that are part of the 81% … Though they’re they portion of it that will never become the 1% that finish anything, not without changing their mind. Because to do that, they’ll have to discover what writing is: Effort and hard work. As an artist doesn’t just sit down and “will” the pen to create the image in their head without years of practice and study, so it is the same with writing. No writer sits down and paints a portrait of a sun-kissed valley bathed in reds and purples as a injured hunter limps through it without study, practice, and above all else, effort.

So then this begs the question of “Does writing have to be a long-term commitment?” There at least the answer is simple: not unless you want something from it.

See, you can dip your toes in the writing water, splash around for a little bit, maybe make a small short, and then decide it’s not going to be for you. You can even choose to stay in the “kiddie pool,” so to speak, and never make much of a relationship while still churning out small works here and there.

So yes, writing doesn’t have to be a long-term relationship. You can choose not to make it a relationship at all, refusing to learn the tools and skills of the craft and just pummeling words into submission. Or you can make it a short-term relationship—something many students do—learning and gaining just enough skill to produce a paper or a story for some required project but then dropping the skills and tools acquired like a weekend fling.

But what if you want it to be a long-term relationship? What if you’re looking at writing as something that you want to spend a great amount of time doing? What if you’re one of the people that not only wants to write the next “Great American Novel, trademark pending,” but has a desire enough that you actually are willing to put forth the effort to enter that fraction of a percent?

What should you be ready for? What mindset should you have? What should you be prepared to do?

One of the reasons I chose the term “relationship” to describe this process is because it will share many of the same traits as a serious relationship you might have with another individual. Have you ever heard the adage concerning relationships that you get out of it what you put into it? Well, it’s true of relationships with people, but it’s also true of a relationship with writing.

Say you do want to write that next “Great American Novel.” What sort of relationship is that going to be?

Well, let us extend our comparison and say that it’s similar to desiring a relationship with a well-to-do blueblood member of society, one with old money (and if you’ve read some “Great American Novels,” you likely understand the comparison immediately). What would you have to do if that the was the relationship you desired to make?

You’d need to engage with that level of society. You’d need to understand it. Yes, you might want to bring “you” to the equation, but you’d need to understand what levels of “you” were allowed or accepted in those social circles. You’d want to know what sort of language was appropriate, both for the social circle and the individual you wanted to woo. You’d need to pay close attention to your dress and appearance, perhaps model it based after the society you wanted to insert yourself into.

In other words, you’d need to learn about, understand, and then embrace aspects of that relationship. It would be work and effort. There would likely be misunderstandings along the way. There would be rocky moments where everything would grind to a halt and you’d have to decide if you really wanted this, and if you’d continue forward or call it quits, maybe find someone else.

Or maybe another genre. Or another hobby. Starting to see how it can be a long-term relationship yet?

See, like the relationship above, learning to write, write well, and make that writing part of our life carries all the same stigmas, efforts, and difficulties, but also some of the same rewards. We can enter into a long-term relationship because we love it, willing to suffer through the downsides, or we can enter into a long-term relationship for the money, willing to put up with the harsh hours and changes in our life in hopes of the dollar signs that might come.

Or we can enter into it as a side, a sort of “something to keep me busy on weekends, but not a strong commitment.” A “friends with” hobby that likely won’t go anywhere, but also isn’t beholden to a lot of the pressures of making it a committed relationship.

And just like in each of these comparisons, committing to writing in that fashion is going to take effort. It’s going to require learning about what you want to write about. Understanding of genre, character, prose, and a massive list of hundreds of other aspects of writing.

It will require a commitment to improve, to further one’s own skill and talent. Just as a relationship in which one side works at improvement while the other stagnates will inevitably result in someone either being carried or the relationship tearing apart, so will our relationship with writing if we refuse to improve or grow.

But outside of improvement, there are other aspects of this long-term relationship to consider. One is that like in any other relationship, we need self-care in order to be the best we can be for our relationship. We need health, mental and physical, and we need the proper amount of mental “destressing” and sometimes time away from the relationship to recharge.

But there’s something else I want to talk about as well, something that I think does deserve its own section: the understanding that a relationship with writing, like any other relationship, will interact with and perhaps even change those other relationships. Time becomes a large one, as writing is a time commitment that many find difficult to sacrifice for.

But it can break into other spheres as well. Friends or family members may feel that they have “rights” to make demands of your new relationship, much as they would if you started dating someone that had connections they desired, or even may express distaste for your new relationship much as they would a person for being from certain social class or race. In some extreme cases, you may even have to choose which relationship you value more, as others demand more time or even offer shallow ultimatum’s of “that relationship or this one.”

I give this section it’s own spotlight because many often don’t expect or even begin to predict that such frictions between relationships can arise. Often it’s not until we’re in the relationship that another speaks up and says “Now hold on …”

Sometimes that doesn’t happen at all. Sometimes our other relationships are fine with our new relationship. Sometimes not. There’s not often an easy way to tell until the two collide.

Okay, so at this point some of you might be thinking “This is an interesting post, but it’s quite non-specific.” That’s by design. Because your writing journey will be just as unique and individual as your relationship with a significant other, both of which would and will be distinct from my own.

Hence I have to speak in broad terms here, as the shape your relationship with writing takes will be different depending on genre, style, what you have to learn, who your audience is … All that jazz. Every writer’s long-term relationship with writing is going to share commonality, but also with a degree of individuality that means I can’t simply sit down and say “Here was my writing journey, it will be yours too.” Some of you will want to write for a traditional publisher, while some will want to remain indie, and even others will want to write fanfiction or webcomics.

Each of those will be a slightly different relationship. But recognizing it as such in advance, realizing that it will be a relationship of a kind will bring with it a more prepared mindset. Writing out what each and every possible requirement might be would be, well, the work of every Being a Better Writer post so far, and many more to come, because writing, like the people it depicts, is complicated, varied, and deep.

So … where does that leave us as writers? What’s the takeaway from this post?

Well, if you’re already a writer, perhaps this post has aided you in seeing your relationship to writing in a new light, with how you schedule your time, how you present it, what you’re working toward, or even what you’re doing for self-care so that your relationship with writing it getting the “best you.”

Or perhaps you’re not a writer yet—props for reading all this in that case—and are considering it as a hobby or path to embark on, and this post has, ideally, given you more to think about concerning what sort of effort and challenges you may face, or even debate how “deep” a relationship you want it to be.

Regardless of where you are on your writing journey, may today’s post have helped you consider your writing relationship and what it means to you, as well as what you want to get out of it.

So as always, good luck. And get writing.

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