Many people are inspired to write stories, yet only a small percentage of them actually finish them. Why is this? Hint: It's also the reason many relationships end.
On the surface, writing a book may not seem like having a romantic relationship, but the two have one crucial thing in common - you have to keep going past the easy parts. As writers, we are taught by media that writing a book is all about inspiration. A writer is struck with an idea and writes a book fueled by it, making their way through the story on a high of enthsiasm. Sure, they may face writer's block, but if they wait around for some inspiration to strike it'll be resolved and they can continue happier than ever. Similarly, we are also taught by the media that romance is one glorious ride of passion. Two people meet and fall in love, and while there may be a few obstacles, their passion for each other will help them make it through.
Both of these stories are lies. "What inspired you?" is probably the most common question writers get asked, but inspiration has surprisingly little to do with writing the bulk of a story. Inspiration gives you your initial motivation. It's that spark in your brain, that sudden idea as you take a walk through nature, the thrill you get as your mind starts figuring out how to make it into a story. You pound out the beginning of your book in a fervor of excitement, sure that this one is going to be your perfect magnum opus.
Yet that inspiration fades. Writing a story is far more than its initial idea. When you hit a certain point in the book - for many it's the middle - you can start to get sick of the work. Rather than having fun, figuring out plotholes and slogging through what feels like filler can make you want to give up on your book. You wait for antoher spark of inspiration to save you, but it's not coming. After that inspiration fails to strike, you give up. You've found a new idea, and surely this time things will work out.
Sound familiar? Almost the exact same process works for a romantic relationship. There's that initial high where you fall madly in love with someone and can't wait for all the exciting things you'll get to do together in your future. This stage, nicknamed the honey-moon phase, often lasts about two years. Then the passion fades. You see your partner as they really are, and their flaws become apparent. This person is annoying, and you don't really want to be cuddling with them every moment. It seems that the love is gone. But that new person you met at the bar isn't like that. They give you the old butterfly feeling and make you excited. Maybe it's time to start a relationship with them instead; one that will work out and give you your happily ever after.
Of course, in both the book and romantic situation, these things are not true. You'll run into roadblocks and a lack of inspiration in your new project too, and the passion will fade no matter how hard you try in your new relationship. Even the brightest ideas or most passionate of lovers will run into problems. So how do people finish books or remain in happy relationships?
The answer lies in the fact that they don't wait for magic to strike. The person who never writes unless inspiration hits, or the person who expects love and passion to be easy, doesn't succeed. A person in a romantic relationship has to consciously choose to keep trying even when the feelings don't come naturally. They choose to keep at it, talking with their partner to find something that works for both of them, remembering to display affection even when life and routine get in the way. If both people make this effort, love can grow and deepen, and they can have a happy relationship even without the "can't keep my hands off you" feelings all the time.
This applies to writing a book as well. The reality is, if you're going to finish a book, you have to write even when there's no inspiration. You have to trek through hours of words that make you feel like you're getting nowhere, and keep going even when you look at your story and think that it's a pile of boring crap. Inspiration is rare and wonderful when it happens, but those moments of effortlessness will be relatively scarce. If you truly want the reward of having written a book, you're going to have to persevere anyway.
That's not to say you can't take a break, or that you should always keep with a story even when you hate it. Sometimes, if the words won't flow for weeks on end, you have to take a step back. Maybe work on a short story for a few days, or read or watch TV to get some storytelling ideas. And if your story truly isn't working out, and you're miserable for weeks on end while writing it, maybe it's time to put it aside for a while and work on something else. Just like not every romantic relationship can work no matter how hard people try, not every story is destined to be completed. Don't force yourself to write something when it makes you unhappy, but don't assume you're out of ideas because you don't feel that initial spark of inspiration every moment.
And yes, while the journey is long and punishing, you will get to the end. And when you do, be sure to celebrate. Even if you don't do much with the book you wrote, it's huge that you even finished it. You've taken a step that millions of people never will, and for that you deserve to appreciate what you've accomplished.
Have any of you worked through hard times while finishing your novel? Do you have advice of your own to share when dealing with the words that just won't come? Share in the comments!