My friend Jared’s blog post on running, For the love of it, inspired me to write this post today. I don’t like to run. I don’t understand why so many people do it. But Jared’s blog helped me understand why he does it. He does it because he loves it. That made sense to me.
You see, I’ve read many articles about writing where the author says you must love it in order to keep doing it. They also say that to write mainly because you think it will make you money is foolish and unrealistic. For a long time, I disagreed with these authors. I thought, I’m not just doing this for my health! Of course, I want to make money. But now, after being a full-time writer for almost a year and a half, I have to agree with them. After writing regularly day after day, week after week, I now understand what they mean.
It’s hard to keep doing something that you receive no feedback on, and no income from. To keep doing it, day in and day out, you have to derive some pleasure or joy or satisfaction from it. If you love it, even better.
There are many days when I don’t “love” writing. I dread it. I avoid it. I do anything else except sit down and do it. But I know that all of that comes from fear. It’s not because I don’t love to write. It’s because I so want to communicate my stories well that fear envelops me and makes me worry that I won’t be able to do it. It’s the fear of not being good enough skill-wise that makes me procrastinate. Happens all the time. And from what I read, it happens to all writers.
But love draws me back. And keeps me at it.
It’s the feeling I get when I’m so engrossed with writing that times flies. I don’t drink. I don’t eat. I don’t even get up to use the bathroom. I think that it’s only been an hour, but it’s actually been three. When I come out of that time, I feel good tired. I feel like I gave it my all. There’s nothing like it.
Now, many days, writing is not like that. Most days, it’s just work. Some days, it feels like a slog. But I live for those days when writing is like diving into an ocean of perfectly warm water that wraps around me like a liquid blanket of love.
I’m realizing more and more that love is the key to creating a life and career that’s fulfilling. For example, I’ve put on two writing events this year: a Writers Wellness Retreat (thanks, Jeanie, for your awesome post about the retreat!) and a Poetry Makerspace Workshop, and I LOVED both of them. I loved coming up with the idea, creating the agenda, buying the materials, finding a space for the event, writing notes for my presentation, welcoming the participants, and teaching on the actual day. I loved every step of the process.
This hasn’t been true of events in the past. I’ve realized it’s because 97% of past events were ones that I was instructed to do (like at a job), or ones I felt that I had to do (like for my business). It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy these events or get value from them–I did–but they didn’t fill me with love and joy.
Some of you may be thinking, that’s really woo-woo, Peg. Some of us have no choice but to put on the events that are assigned to us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. Yes, I understand that, and yes, it may be woo-woo, but until you feel it, really feel what it’s like to actually LOVE every step of a process, I don’t know if you can truly understand what I mean. When you feel that love, you will do whatever it takes to keep that feeling going. When you’re in the flow, you know it, and you know that you have to repeat it again. It can lead to negotiating with your boss a way to keep putting on events that really matter to you. It can lead to you finding a different job where you can do more of what you love to do. It can lead to you not getting a new job, but dropping activities on the weekend that don’t matter as much to you so you can do more of the one that does.
Love keeps me going, not the money.
Truth be told, I made some money at my retreat, and none on my poetry workshop. I’m okay with that. Like my writing, I put on these events because I want to, because I love it, and because, yes, someday, I think they will be a decent source of income. But in the meantime, I’m gaining skills, learning my craft, helping people, helping myself, and feeling the love.
So, all those writers that wrote those “you have to love it” articles, that I scoffed at in the past, were right. Like I said earlier, I used to think, “I’m not just writing for my health, I want to make money on this!” But now I know, I am writing for my health. Over the years, I’ve discovered that if you don’t do the things you love, you start to deteriorate on the inside. And invariably, your health starts to suffer. But when you do what you love on a regular basis, your health improves. In fact, everything improves.
I started this blog to share my writing journey and to build my writing career. I try to be as honest as possible.
So, hear me out. Let me be brutally honest right now.
If you’re thinking of going into writing mainly for the money, please don’t. We don’t need any more sad writers who had to “give up their dream” because they didn’t make money on it.
Give yourself a chance to write regularly without money being a factor. Write a blog post a week (go, Edgy!), write the chapters of your memoir on the weekend (go, Karen!), write as many pages as you can during those moments of time snatched from your busy life (go, Jeanie!).
Write regularly. That’s key.
Then, years later, even if you don’t make money on it, or even if you do, you will still have what was most important to begin with: that you wrote for the love of it. You can’t replace that feeling with all the money in the world.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also a writing coach giving help, encouragement, and feedback to writers from all walks of life.
Art by Natsuki Otani.
Jeanie Boawn says
Peg, so glad I finally got a chance to read this! We’re at Cannon Beach and I left my computer at home (had such plans for doing some blog posts, oops) – but just managed to kick Doug off of his for a few minutes. This is such a great post. It is so helpful to have your perspective as a full-time writer, since you are living it, not just dreaming about it. Having a relationship with writing is a fraught one, but one that is worth it, I think. Those times when I have breathing room to write are incredibly precious to me, and I know they help my health, physically and emotionally. The struggles and insights you share also help me immensely. Most especially the encouragement you give to other writers like me is so amazingly generous. Thank you!
Peg Cheng says
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Jeanie, and that my perspective helps you. That means a lot to me. I write these posts and send them out and I never know who will read them. It warms my heart to know that someone gets something helpful from them. Thank you for writing in to tell me and thank you for your very kind words.
Thanks for your post, Peg. I aspire to write just because “love makes it all worth it”. I’ve felt that way before. In the past, when I’ve written short stories, it was because I loved it. When I’ve contributed to a local A & E newspaper, it was because I loved it. When I’ve made up stories for an audience of young children, it was because I loved it. When I’ve written songs, it was because I loved it. Okay, so when I wrote in college, it was for a decent grade, but I still wrote with LOVE. Anything I’ve written, before this memoir, is because I love writing. I never sought to be paid; and when it did happen, it was so nominal, receipt of payment was hardly a reason to do it. So, on that level I wholeheartedly agree with you and other authors who’ve expressed the importance of writing for the love of writing. So glad you came around.
I think what’s different for me this time is I feel like I’m writing for a reason birthed by a promise. I don’t want it to feel like an obligation, but sometimes it does. As a consequence, some of the love of writing has withered. I feel like the story chose me and I did not choose it; therefore, my feelings have been Platonic, to a certain extent.
What also resonates with me, from your post, is what you’ve written about fear. I want to communicate my story so well that fear does envelop me sometimes and creates doubt that I can do it–exactly as you’ve written. I’ve put Simon on the highest pedestal I’ve ever conceived. I want what’s written about him to do him justice. And when I think I can’t do it well enough, it reflects negatively in my writing and in my relationship to writing. But as I’ve begun to recognize the reluctance may be fear, my writing is progressing and the love for writing “this” story is developing.
I appreciate your post and all of the guidance you’ve given.
Peg Cheng says
Thank you for writing in, K, and sharing your experiences with writing. That’s wonderful that you’ve already experienced love while writing in the past. It makes my heart sing to know you’ve been feeling the love for quite some time. I can understand why you feel that your WIP is more of a response to a promise rather than something springing from your own heart, but from all that you’ve told me so far about Simon, I think he would cheer you on to write what’s in your heart and soul, rather than what you think would live up to his memory and/or legacy. It’s hard to write a novel when it feels like an obligation. Sometimes I wonder if it might be better as a novel based on a real life situation rather than a memoir. Something to percolate on. I’m sure we’ll talk about it more in the near future. Til then, write on!
So true. When I started writing blog posts regularly, I remembered how much fun writing is. Taking the wet red clay of thought, memory, and feeling, and sculpting it into words, paragraphs, a poem, or a post. It’s that feeling of “this must be why I’m here.”
The mystery is how I can keep forgetting that, time after time (forehead slap).
Not woo-woo. It’s “whoo-hoo!”
Peg Cheng says
Whoo hoo instead of woo-woo! Yes! That’s the spirit, Edgy! Keep sculpting that wet clay and giving us a chance to see your creations. I look forward to reading your new blog for many years to come. Once you have a comments box up, and a way for people to subscribe, please let me know. I want to plug your blog in a future post.