Do you have problems with commitment? I mean, to your WIP? Does your mind ever stray to other, more glamorous seeming projects? After years, months, or even days after spending time with your project, do you find yourself daydreaming about more alluring and exciting projects?
DO YOU CHEAT ON YOUR WIP???
No one is going to judge you. Perhaps, like me, you suffer from a short attention span and get antsy after spending more than a week working on the same story. Then, one day, you stray, and perhaps come back sheepishly to your novel in progress, with a proverbial lipstick stain on your collar.
If you are in a comitted, long-term relationship, you will have a hard time juggling other girls or boys on the side.
If straying becomes a habit, you will become prone to short-term relationships with worthwhile projects that require your time, your attention, your passion, and your commitment. You may end up with three or four unfinished works you hide away in the recesses of your closet- and while you think of them occasionally, wistfully, wishing things could have worked out- you know the next project IS THE ONE. The one you want to take out and show your friends. The one that is going to make you look good.
My friends, this is not healthy behavior. Sustaining a relationship with a WIP means committing to it even after the passion dies. And trust me, the passion may very well fizzle out. Here are some tips to see the relationship through the good times and the bad times- and some tips to reignite that passion you and your WIP had when you were first in love.
1) Take a break. Spending too much time together can lead to irritation and resentment. Choose a day to come back to your WIP and then put it away until then. Use the time to read something that inspires you, spend time outdoors, or to work on a short project that can be completed within your allotted timeframe. Find a way to come back to your WIP refreshed and renewed.
2) Surprise your WIP with something out of the ordinary– even if you believe you have the entire storyline planned out. If you’re getting bored with your WIP, chances are your readers will become bored, too. Add a charismatic character, have your protagonist act completely out of character, let natural disaster strike- do something crazy together. Reignite the passion with a passionate act.
3) Stop controlling your WIP. Nothing kills a relationship like a controlling partner. Sometimes we have to stop manipulating every scene, every word that comes out of our character’s mouths, and take an organic approach. Let the WIP speak for itself. Release control can be difficult, but eventually it is just that- a release. You will love your WIP more if it’s not simply a copy of YOU, but its own, living, breathing creation.
First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
– Ray Bradbury
4) Experience new things together. Write in different locations. Take your laptop to the porch, to a coffee shop, to a college library, anywhere out of the ordinary. Predictability breeds stagnancy, after all.
5) Remember why you started the relationship in the first place. Think back to the very first time you met. What was it you liked about your WIP? Write these things down. Reconnecting with those early emotions will help you see your relationship through to the end.
If all of these tips fail, it may be time to say goodbye. This is hard- especially if you’ve put a lot of time and energy into the relationship. No one likes to admit defeat. However, it could be your WIP just isn’t good enough for you. Sometimes, when the love is gone, there’s nothing you can do to get it back. And you know you can do better. You deserve better.
Part amicably. Don’t tear your manuscript up or delete it from your computer. Nicely file it away without committing any egregious or violent acts. You don’t want to feel weird if you ever happen to run into it again. You don’t want to feel ashamed when friends and family ask what happened to it. End the relationship with dignity.
And don’t forget to remember what you learned from the relationship. Every relationship in life, real and (ahem) figurative, irrevocably changes us in some way. Even if there is no tangible outcome of your previous devotion, you carry that piece of writing with you for the rest of your life. Never think of failed writing attempts as wastes of time. They are stepping stones, learning processes, the chisels that shape the writer we are to become. When we recognize this and think of our losses not as failures, but as inevitable life-changes, we can move on.
And we try again.