Although I primarily describe myself as a “plotter” kind of writer, I’m not a huge fan of writing rules or any sort of template. While the Hero’s Journey is tried and true for many stories, I feel like if I think about it too much while writing, I’ll be limiting what I can write. I also feel the same way about using character types. I’ll use them if they help me, but I’m probably not going to use them all the time.
However, there is one writing rule that I think every writer, including myself, should abide by, and that is to get excited.
Maybe not as excited the guy up in the top of this post, but…
Something like that.
Why Should I Get Excited?
To quote the late great Dwight V. Swain in his Techniques of the Selling Writer, a story is “like a car that runs on emotion. The author’s feeling is the gasoline in its engine. Take away its fuel, and even the shiniest, chrome-plated literary power plant is reduced to so much scrap iron. Feeling first takes form within you. If you haven’t got a feeling, you can’t write about it, let alone arouse it in somebody else.”
If you, as a writer, get excited about male figure skaters in romantic relationships, write about that. If you get excited about witches and fairies and dragons playing Yahtzee, write about that. If you feel something overtake you — something that makes you happy, sad, disgusted, angry, fearful, or dejected to the point of great intensity — write about that along with the feelings you get about it.
Of course, easier said than done, am I right?
What if you get excited in the beginning and that excitement fizzles out in the middle? Where does it go? How do you get it back? Do you even want it back, knowing it might disappear again.
The Human Thing Called “Change”
I’ve been getting to know myself over the past few weeks both as an artist and as a human being, and one of the things that I’ve noticed about myself — which might be common for many other people — is that I quickly turn the other direction when things get challenging or boring.
For example, I haven’t been as consistent with my daily kanji practice software, because the moment I start the final quiz, I’m confronted with kanji I don’t remember how to write, which makes me immediately stop the quiz in frustration.
In addition to that, I cracked open a book about drawing fantasy maps a few weeks ago and started drawing after a long time away from my tablet. But then I stopped when I discovered that the trees that I’m supposed to draw on my map wouldn’t fit in the in-progress map that I created.
And as for writing my novel…
Things have gotten to the point where I questioned whether or not I should be a composer/musician instead of a writer.
In the current draft of my novel, I decided to try something new that I hadn’t done in any story I’d ever written before: four alternating POVs. But then, I started having trouble finding the story with some of the POVs, which made writing grind to a halt and as boring as an introductory college lecture.
In response to that, though, I’m writing more music these days. Which is a plus, but…
Something is wrong. I can feel it. The things that used to excite me aren’t exciting me anymore, and some of the things that use to give me pain are bringing me pleasure.
Blaaagh, what gives?! >_<
Well… things change. The ideas that I had for stories when I was ten might not excite me at twenty. New TV shows and music get my attention and inspire me in different ways. Getting excited about new things and getting frustrated about old things is normal. I know that from experience; being human means being open to change.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes, what feels like change is really just you going around in an orbit.
Finding Your Orbits
Like Earth’s rotation and orbit around the sun, humans orbit and rotate around certain interests that they eventually come back to. And because Earth is always rotating and not always facing the sun, certain interests feel like they are shrouded under the cover of boring, dark night rather than exciting, bright day.
As a young ten-year-old, I took my dad’s Stevie Wonder and Dave Grusin CDs and played them through the boombox in my room. At that point in my life, you couldn’t pry me away from jazz and RnB.
Then I turned fourteen, discovered music made with VOCALOID, solidifying my love of Japan and Japanese culture.
Then around freshman year of college, I discovered Pogo and tracks made entirely of sound samples. And I was on that kick for awhile.
Wanna guess where am I now?
Yup. Back at jazz again. Specifically jazz arrangements of songs I already know, and Yoko Kanno’s jazz in the anime “Cowboy Bebop,” but still, I’m back to loving jazz again. I mean, that’s not to say I ever hated it. It’s just taken me sometime to get back to it.
And that’s because human beings never really lose interest in the things we enjoy. Rather, it’s because the things that we enjoy usually come back to greet us in another form or delight us in a different way — or even the same way, just with new perspective.
Give Up or Get Dirty?
No artist should ever give up what they once loved just because they don’t love it right that second. If something excited them in the past, chances are they’ll be excited again and get that spark to create.
The most successful artists, I believe, are the ones that don’t let these momentary lapses of boredom and frustration force them to quit. They keep going. They keep reading. They keep digesting new information and going back to old stomping grounds to reconnect with old interests as if they were old friends.
They don’t give up at the sight of mud; they get wild and keep playing in it.
And if something isn’t working in their art, they find out why, and so should you, dear reader. Step back and reassess why you’re having trouble writing a certain character. Figure out which chord doesn’t work in your song, and find out which chord does. Try a different shade of red for your painting instead of the same shade you used in a different one. Find out why you like a certain TV show over another.
You know, in your heart, what you love and what you hate. You know how excited you’ve felt in the past about your art, and just because you might not feel as excited about it as you did in the past doesn’t mean you will never feel that way again.
And stay there.
I have absolute faith that we can.