Giovanni Bellini – Naked Young Woman in Front of the Mirror (detail) – WGA1786 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We’ve all heard the saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I believe this is true. I like my job at the United States Post Office. The days and weeks fly by, I’m always learning, and I like the people I’ve met through this job. Does that mean I spring out of bed in the morning excited to commence my postal work? I said I like my job, not love it. Although I don’t mind going in to work each day, I’m not overflowing with anticipation either.
Writing’s different. When I wake up on a Sunday morning and I get to work on my latest project, the feeling in indescribable. I look forward to getting up early on my only day off and sitting in front of the computer sipping my coffee, enjoying the company of my dogs, and plugging out those words. When I succeed in meeting (or beating) my word count goal, the day is brighter. I’m singing songs I normally hate, I’m dancing, I’m on top of the world. Writing is so much fun.
Holly Lisle takes the “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” statement a little further for us writers. She teaches that not only do you need to have a love of writing to be successful, but that you should pick genres to work in that match your interests as well.
For example, it wouldn’t do for me to write a romance novel. Why? Because I hate reading romance novels. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good love story now and then, and love should be a part of any genre because it’s integral in being a human being. But I don’t like the focus to be on the love affair. There’s a lot of Twilight fans out there and I am not one of them. It would be soul sucking for me to try to duplicate Stephanie Meyers’ success by writing a similar story because it’s popular. First of all, I’d be ripping off her idea. Second, I would do a lousy job at it. Third, I would be unhappy.
I believe success comes out of your love of something, and that’s why the above statement is so important. If you’re excited about your story and falling in love with your characters, you’re more likely to create a rich backdrop for your setting and your characters will be three dimensional instead of two dimensional paper people like a horror movie crew. They can become real people: a confident man with problems of self-doubt; a morally sound woman with a tendency to be a hypocrite; a stupidly successful man with a complicated home life.
In lesson two of Holly Lisle’s How To Think Sideways Course, she teaches you to create what’s called a Sweet Spot Map. A Sweet Spot Map is designed for you to have your conscious mind take a nap for awhile and let your subconscious free. Filling these mind maps with things you love, fear, need, etc. is a great way to get to know yourself. Some of the words and phrases that come out of your head might not make sense now, but down the road when you’re struggling on a story idea and you look back on your map you might find just the answer you were looking for.
Your writing will become more honest the better you know yourself. You’ll learn to trust yourself. You will find surprises in your writing and start having fun again. You’ll be able to recognize when a story is right for you and can create worlds and characters you’re proud of. What’s more, your work will feel more like play and you’ll be astounded to see how far you can go with your writing.
When you write, how much of “you” are you putting into your work? In your opinion, has it helped or hindered the process?