David Alexander Robertson

When it Feels Like Work…

I don’t do a lot of writing tips stuff. But, here we go.

As much as we love to write, and in this instance by “we” I mean “I” (but this goes for any writer), sometimes writing feels like work. I think this is true of any passion that we have. It’s because if we’re passionate about something, we want to work really hard for it, and when we work really hard for something, we inevitably want to quit or it simply feels like a job. And when we hit moments like that, it feels like the passion is gone. What do we do?

 Honestly, I’m still trying to figure that out. This year has already been a busy year for me, from a writing standpoint. Initially I hoped that I’d have four books out this year. It’s looking like three, and I’ll tell you why in a second. But then my publisher and I got this job to do a kind of “spin-off” for Tales from Big Spirit for Newfoundland/Labrador. I can’t say much about it because it’s not totally completely official yet, but suffice to say, it added having to write five more graphic novel scripts this year.

Update: one down, four to go.

So, all of this in one calendar year. Either writing for books that are coming out next year, or writing for books that are coming out this year. And recently I just threw my hands up in the air and said, “Screw it.” And I still kind of feel like that, but I didn’t actually “screw it” to the whole writing thing.

The main culprit is this novel for young adults that I just can’t get. I wrote one draft, re-wrote the entire book (pretty much), and thought, “nailed it,” and didn’t. So, I’m going to have to write it again. For a third time. So this book will have three different versions, two of which you will never see. And all of this feels like so much work.

So why do I do it, especially when it feels like the fun is drained out of it. Well, when you feel that way, sometimes you have to just step away for a moment. From that project. You might just need to give yourself a break, and let it go, and come back to it when you feel fresh again. That’s a tough decision, but it’s a good one, depending on deadlines, etc. Working on these other graphic novel scripts has allowed me to pretty much do that for my novel. And the deadline’s been pushed back because I SUCK AT YOUNG ADULT NOVEL WRITING (okay got that out of my system). So, what that will do is allow me to: a) step away from the book, and b) read some young adult novels so I can learn more about the genre. Studying, if you will. And then maybe I’ll get it.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing. You have to keep writing. Luckily, for me, I have lots of other projects. But for you, if you don’t, and you need to step away, to give yourself a break before you break your keyboard in half, or throw it in the trash (don’t do it!), pick up something else and start working at it. If you’re having trouble with your novel, maybe just try some poetry for a bit, or a short story. If you’re a writer, especially an emerging writer, the two most important things you can do is 1) read, and 2) write. So, you have a time to do it every day, you have a schedule (my colleague Jon Ball has a great piece about this right here), you’ve got your writing mood all keyed in, then get to it. Try some poetry, try something, but keep on writing.

You’ll eventually find the fun and passion start to come back. And when you have that all going again, however long that takes, and you feel like you’ve distanced yourself enough from it, get back to that stupid book again. Because it’s worth it.

Admittedly, some of this is just me trying to pump myself back up about writing, but hopefully you can get something out of it. Because even if your passion feels like work, it’s still your passion. As Bagger Vance would say, you just have to go out and find your swing again. (Totally random movie quote that really doesn’t apply all that much. I don’t even like that movie. But I do like golf?)

Okay, I’m out.


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