by Alissa Lukara
As writers, we need to fall in love with our art. With ideas, words, rhythms, inspiration, a sense of what’s possible, a passion to convey a message or life story.
I’ve been writing for over 30 years and married to the same partner for nearly that long. And if I take a deep look, I see how this love affair with words has had strong parallels to my “real life” love as well.
The flush of romance
As in life, falling in love with writing can be easy during the early stages, the proverbial first heady flush of romance. Here, inspiration abounds and the words flow. You welcome the writing, the dreams of a life together, grateful to receive this partner who seems to know and reflect your deep heart and soul. You make a commitment to write a book — and beyond.
The honeymoon ends
But as in life, when you have to work at your craft, when the so-called “honeymoon” period is over, writing a memoir, novel or nonfiction book may get harder. You have to get real, get down, expose your shortcomings and failings as well as your strengths and uniqueness and genius. And claim it all, own it even as you toss pages in the garbage, refine it, want it to change.
You wonder at times why you ever got involved in the first place, even though you know deep down it’s a great thing that you have done, to allow this love, as challenging as it has become.
You have a choice. Dive deeper or leave. And leave you know you can’t without also breaking off a piece of your soul.
Intimacy with your writing
You have to move to the stage of intimacy with your writing. And that means falling in love not only with the romantic parts of writing, the inspired parts, but with the whole process that involves including rewriting, revision and the writing craft. The grunt work. Working out the kinks. Opening communication.
This takes a whole new level of commitment to write and surrender to your artistic relationship with your book.
Sure the romance of inspiration was grand. Fun. When you let yourself fall into its grace and the words and wisdom flow flow flow. It’s a cruise on the clear blue of the Caribbean.
And as in life, commitment does not mean that the romance is gone forever. But so many people who say they want to write a novel, memoir or nonfiction books get stuck in this phase.
Many would-be writers don’t finish their books (or start them) because they only want to write, they only sit down to write, when they feel inspired.
They only want to write when it feels good.
They only want to write when it’s easy, when they feel strong and seeming in command of their creative expression.
In life, these would be the individuals who are scared to commit, who avoid true intimacy. If they are in a relationship, they hold back a piece of their hearts.
In writing, even if these writers do manage to spill out a rough draft of a book, maybe rewrite it a tad, that’s where the relationship stalls. Not fully realized.
Because they are not willing to take the risk to get intimate with their writing.
In writing, some of those rough hulls of a book turn into the self-published tomes that sink fast when set adrift in the Amazon marketplace. They might have turned into seaworthy vessels if only the authors had allowed themselves to create a true intimate relationship with their writing, with their books (and if they had hired an editor).
No judgment. Each step or misstep offers learning.
Intimacy comes with rewriting
True intimacy comes when you move past the “honeymoon” and enter the committed relationship with your book.
That happened most for me when I fell in love with and embraced rewriting.
“But rewriting is boring,” many of my clients and class participants grouse.
“No. No it’s not. It’s what you make it,” I respond.
“I only like the inspired pieces that come out beautiful to begin with. That’s the only writing that counts.”
No. In my experience, you have to shimmy through the bad writing. The spew-it-out-any-way-you-can writing. The cough-it-up-like-a-hairball-caught-in-your-throat writing. It’s like those days when you’re in a difficult patch in your relationship and you still love your partner, but you don’t like him or her very much in that moment.
You have to be willing to fail and flail about, to be imperfect and not good enough and still dive in again and again. Each time, you polish more, add, subtract, find new textures and layers and rhythms, hang in even when you think all is lost.
Until you’re there. You’ve nailed it.
And then you show it to your writer’s group or an editor and realize, “Oops, not quite there yet.”
And you do it all again.
When I fell in love with rewriting while I was writing my memoir, everything changed. I gained greater writing mastery. My voice and expressiveness deepened.
I delighted in cutting out every unnecessary word and deleting those precious passages that might have been great writing, but were not essential to the story.
The messages I wanted to convey went beyond my original intention for them. My imagination and inspiration opened up to a whole new level in the rewriting. What I learned from my own experience opened, too, and the personal healing deepened.
Yes, like every writer, I embrace the passion of inspiration, welcome it with gratitude when it appears.
But in my 30 plus years of writing (and soon-to-be 30 years of marriage), I also learned in my cells that relying on inspiration alone is overrated. I no longer call that my fun writing and the rest not. No. Rewriting has become a blast, too, the more I have peeled open its potential.
Many, most of my transcendent writing moments come in the rewriting, in the filling out, the slowing down and opening a scene to show rather than tell, the willingness to be imperfect. The getting it so wrong the first time, I have to start over. The witnessing of a near dead scene come to life in the rewriting, revision, polishing. In the metaphors that pop out as I add sensory details, setting, body language.
So why don’t more people embrace this intimacy of rewriting?
One reason: Because as in love, when you truly commit to the work of the intimate relationship, you also risk getting your heart broken. You lay it all out and bam, the scene does not work. Your favorite inspired piece needs to get cut for the good of the whole piece. Or you write it and the whole book does not work.
Or, no one wants your book, or everyone wants it and it’s out of your control. Some people don’t get it. Or, they get it in a way you never intended.
When I set out to write my memoir, I fell in love with an idea, felt a calling, wrote a rough draft. But in the intimacy of rewriting, I found true love, an intimate relationship with art that went way beyond authoring a book.
Yes, that relationship has been tested. At times, it has broken my heart apart, broken it wide open.
The heart survived. The relationship grew.
And we go on, writing and me, beating out the rhythm of our particular path of putting words to paper – then rewriting those words again and again – to create books.
My gift to you for commenting and sharing. I love to hear from you. Have you fallen in love with your own writing? Please post any thoughts or comments about this article here and if you like this article, please “like it” and share it on FB and Twitter. Each time you comment below or share this article on FB (or any other in the memoir series), you will be entered in a drawing to win a valuable prize. The drawing will be held at the end of this series.
What you can win: The winner can send me up to 10 double spaced pages of writing for feedback via email (Offer good for 60 days after winning it).
Want to read more of this memoir series? Click on Memoir Writing in the category section in the sidebar to access all the articles.
Alissa Lukara is as passionate about supporting you to write and share your stories as she is to write her own. Want support to begin — and complete — your memoir or novel? Register here for a free teleseminar on memoir writing or here for a complimentary writing ecourse. Alissa Lukara, the author of the poetic memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports you to write, publish and market your memoir, novel or creative nonfiction book through online writing workshops and retreats, writing coaching, developmental editing and speaking.
The lead photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.