I thought I might take a moment and talk about a great piece of writing advice I heard recently on the OtherPPL podcast.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the OtherPPL podcast is an author interview show hosted by Brad Listi and it is not to be missed. Maybe it’s Listi’s dry sense of humor, maybe it’s the way he balances ideological tangents with a solid exploration of each author’s day-to-day experience of writing. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes it so great, but really, if you’re interested in authors and or books, you should check it out.
Anyway, I was recently listening to Listi’s interview with J. Ryan Stradal (Episode 591) and they were talking about a particular bit of writing advice that Listi put out into the world a while back. Stradal said it stuck with him and the more I think about it, the more it resonates with my own experiences as a writer. It’s this:
Follow the enthusiasm.
It works on the creative end without a doubt. My favorite projects are when I’m writing about something I’m super enthusiastic about. In fact, writing only feels like work when I’m not enthusiastic about what I’m writing.
And before I even heard this little nugget of wisdom, I had already written and or outlined three books, simply because the topics were so interesting to me that I was compelled to write about them.
I tried to write an outline for a book that I wasn’t excited about. The idea was interesting, and I did a ton of research hoping something would spark, but nothing did. I just couldn’t find the thing about it that would keep me going for years. Because, no joke, a novel takes years, and if you’re not feeling enthusiastic about it from the start, best toss that idea back out to the universe and let someone else have it.
After querying agents, there were two who read the manuscript in a week (good sign of enthusiasm there) and wanted to talk on the phone about representing me.
I had a nice conversation with one, a woman in New York, but it was the second I ended up going with. You know why? He was so effing psyched about my book. He loved it. He couldn’t wait to start sending it out to editors. His enthusiasm was unmistakable and it felt good to have a partner who was just as excited about my book as I was.
And to take this idea one step further, enthusiasm is a great guide for how to spend your time in general.
My neighbor is the head of the PTA of our school and just watching her volunteer so much of her time tires me out. I volunteer in the library (because books), and the book fair (same) and that’s about it, because that’s where my passion is.
I’ve also stopped hanging out with friends that lack enthusiasm. It’s draining, and life is too short. I want to spend time with people who are excited about things because it gets me excited about things too and that’s a fun place to be.
I’ve also stopped reading books I’m not enthusiastic about. I wrote a post about it a while back, but the basic idea is this: it’s not my fault if I don’t care to finish a book. It’s not my job to like it. It’s not even the writer’s job to try and write something I will like. It’s their job to write what they love to write. And it’s my privilege to read what I love to read.