How to Avoid Killing Your Passion for Writing

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at an excerpt from a previous post titled Putting Passion in the Pages.

I’d like to focus a little more on passion this week. I mentioned last week how some writers’ passion seeps through into their pages. It seems to be something tangible, electric, contagious. I believe that kind of passion comes through the best when we step aside and get out of our own way as we write.

What do I mean by that? Well, those things I mentioned that can trip us up—the need for success, validation, an audience—create roadblocks to passionate writing.

On one shoulder, glaring at us as we write, is that infernal internal critic. And on the other shoulder is the needy, worrying, insecure author thinking she’s just fooling herself and everyone else by assuming she can write well. We need to get out the duct tape and put a strip over each of those two annoying hecklers’ mouths. Really.

All That Tedious Stuff Can Kill Our Passion

Needless to say, a writer needs to hone her craft and become good at writing. That’s an entirely different topic and crucial, of course. But let’s just focus on the passion.

I believe many writers drift away from that first love of writing. Maybe you notice how some authors, with a killer first novel, seem to write worse and worse, or you could say less and less passionately, in their subsequent novels (for whatever reasons).

Oftentimes getting swallowed up in the maze and malaise of marketing and promotion takes all the spunk and fire out of an author’s writing. Writing a novel in itself is hard work and often exhausting, so when we add the huge pressure of marketing to the equation, the result can weigh hard on our spirits. And affect our passion.

But I don’t think that’s the main reason writers drift away from their passion. I imagine some highly successful authors are pressured to write more and more novels faster and faster, and few writers can write passionate stories under those constraints. That can be one of the pitfalls to being traditional published and having unreasonable deadlines that make us force our creativity.

But let’s say we either don’t have that problem or, if we do, we can push all that aside and really focus on the story we are going to write. This novel, right now.

How can we drum up passion for our words and ideas? How can that show in what we write?

Again, as I mentioned last week, just being excited about our plot or concept is not going to translate into passion. You may feel you have an exciting story, but when you give it to test readers, they aren’t impressed. You wonder, why didn’t they get as excited about this as I do?

No Magic Formula

That’s not to say there’s some magic formula that will ensure everyone who reads our novel is going to be wowed. However, great novels attract a lot of praise and readers, and books that ooze passion (and are well written!) will get readers passionate about the story. I like what Donald Maass talks about in his book The Fire in Fiction. He says, “Masterpiece novels look like singular events. . . . We may imagine that this corker was born from a one-time lightning flash of inspiration. I don’t buy that. . . . A masterpiece novel may be singularly inspired . . . but even so, it is not magic.”

He goes on to say what’s wrong with looking at inspiration (read: idea) that way is that magic is unpredictable and mysterious and can’t be deliberately repeated. He believes passion “is available to every author, every time she sits down to write.” And I agree.

Return to Your First Love

Instead of worrying over why we write or analyzing to death our writing, goals, story ideas, and market possibilities for our novels (that we may not have even written yet), I suggest we return back to that first love of storytelling. That’s why you started writing anyway, isn’t it?

We have to not only shut up the critic and other inner hecklers that get in our way, we also have to journey back to a simpler place, one that rediscovers the joy of creativity every time we sit down to write.

Sure, if we have a contractual deadline dangling over our heads like the Sword of Damocles hanging by a single horse’s hair, it can be a bit tricky to stop glancing up. But if we want to get to that place of passion, we have to.

Share some thoughts you have on how you get to that place where you’re passionate about storytelling. What do you think helps writers bring out the passion in their stories? Let’s kick some thoughts around in the comments.

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  1. While passion for writing is not my present hurdle (content editing is), I appreciate your point that the internal critic ALWAYS comes up. I’m currently editing and paring down a doorstop of a historical romance resurrected after 20 years in the trunk. During that time I’ve learned a lot and improved a lot, and yet I find amazing good stuff there. Talk about a fresh look, giving myself this second chance evokes my passion today to finish the rewrite and get it out to readers.

    Thanks especially for the quote from Donald Maass. I bought the book and refer to it constantly. Jewels in there.

    Speaking of gems, you and your associates share so many with us. My twenty-years-younger writer self could have used today’s post for inspiration. I’m sure it will prove invaluable to those going through the same self-doubt and angst. It’s a lonely road sometimes, but thank God and the muses we have a steady flow of generous advice from you and others like you.

    Be well.

  2. For me, passion oozes out of emotion so when I’m feeling something internally – whether it’s sadness, excitement or angst – that translates into passionate writing. Sometimes it’s easier to emote on my blog posts, but the more I include emotion in my writing – the easier it is to recognize and capitalize on the passion.

  3. I’m a character-driven writer, so when I start to feel down about a piece, I pull out older stuff and read it to remember what I lovd about these people to start with. That’s easier for me now because I’m working in a series with mostly the same characters. I imagine it will be harder in the future when I’m working with new ones, sigh.

  4. Great post! I usually lose my passion when things just don’t seem to be working out for me. Low book sales, marketing woes. Can’t count how many times I’ve considered giving up. But I always keep going and will bring out my trusted pen and notebook (instead of computer) when all else fails. I also read up on a lot of inspiration, such as this post!

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