I wrote a novel a long time back. After numerous rewrites, edits, and critiques, I felt it was finally finished. Then, I asked a few someones to read it. Well, after listening to these people... people whose stories I admired and people whom I respected, I set off to make the suggested changes. I ended up rewriting the whole thing, and pretty soon it was no longer the story that I had started with. Nothing made sense anymore. The plot wasn't the same. The characters weren't the same. It's not that those peoples suggestions were wrong, on the contrary, but it wasn't what the story was about. My story ended up sounding like a million others. My voice sounded like a million others. I found myself disappointed and disillusioned; to the point where it became a chore to write. The fun of writing had vanished. I talked with my dear friend Staci Stallings and told her what I was feeling. She told me she had just written an article that explained what I was going through. With her permission, I have posted it below. I hope this helps and blesses those that read it, as much as it has me.
Thanks, Staci, for restoring my love for writing. And for reminding me to write the stories on my heart.
And the Greatest of These is Love
All writers know about faith. They know what an act of faith it is to put words on a paper the first time. They know the faith it takes to search for the right word, the right phrase, the right nugget of truth that will set off their work as top-notch. Ultimately, they know the gut-wrenching faith it takes to turn their written babies over to someone who * gasp * might not like it.
Hope? There’s always hope. Even after you’ve been kicked to the curb by an agent who probably didn’t even read the first sentence of your query, hope prevails. After a few days of chocolate and Kleenexes, hope surges again. Maybe the next editor will love it, buy it, publish it, send it to be included next to John Grisham’s on the front table of every bookstore in the country. Then it will hit the New York Times Bestsellers list for 97 weeks and make you a millionaire. Don’t deny it. You know that hope is real.
One element, however, sometimes gets lost when faith and hope begin to emerge in our writing journey. That element is love. Sure, we love it, or we wouldn’t be stressing ourselves out to learn how to do it better, to find someone to publish it, and to put ourselves on the chopping block of rejection time and again. It’s almost a given that we love it. The problem is that we forget that we love it.
As a character who loves music in one of my books says, “You know me, I’d play for the squirrels if they’d listen.”
Too often the longer we write, the less we remember what we love about it. Why? Because our focus shifts from writing for love to writing so others will love what we’ve written. Let me explain.
When we write for the love of it, every frustratingly magnificent moment is a challenge like none other. Being able to shape the ephemerally picturesque stories in our mind into something coherent and fluid is like no other experience. The very act of putting that last piece into our word puzzle has no peer for a peak experience. You know what I’m talking about, or at least you used to.
Remember the journals you kept, the poems you wrote, the short stories that are still tucked away in some old notebook. You wrote those not to gain love but because they were burning a hole in your soul to be put on paper. What happened to that?
What happened is you began writing not for love but to gain love. Others—those you believe are much more knowledgeable—began to convince you to twist your writing to meet what they believe is marketable or publishable. And so you let your love for writing morph into wanting your writing to be loved… sometimes at all costs. You twisted yourself into a pretzel, learning perfect grammar, point of view, the “correct” way to write a marketable manuscript.
Learning and growing in your writing is one thing, but when that gets so tangled in the rules, that you forget why you started in the first place, that is something altogether different. Love is the key to everything in this life. As the Bible says so eloquently:
In the end three things shall last, faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13
It’s a lesson every writer should take to heart.
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2005
Want something great to read? Check out the previews for Staci’s latest two novels “Cowboy” and “Lucky.” You can read the first three chapters of each for free at: http://www.stacistallings.com/Previews.htm You’ll feel better for the experience!