How to Spark the Romance When You Write

There she was, sitting in her ratty, old bathrobe. She brought the coffee cup to her lips, her face unwashed, her teeth unbrushed, her hair a wild mess.

She grunted as her hands reached out to caress its keyboard. If it could, her computer would have shaken its monitor.

“Where has all the romance gone?” it thought.

On the cusp of Valentine’s Day, we’re reminded that, as writers, we often have performance issues.

“What am I supposed to blog about today?” we think, casting around for something new but falling back on the same old routine.

Just as in a romantic relationship, once we have a long-term commitment, we tend to take it for granted.

“He (she, it) will always be there,” we think, so we just stop making the extra effort.

How do we put the romance — the spark — back into our writing process? Here are some of my ideas.

Procrastination is bad!

We all know those people (some of us are those people) who wait until the last minute to buy that Valentine’s Day card or present. What are they left with? Sappy, ugly cards and half-dead flowers.

When we write, we need to allow ourselves time to give our full attention to our writing. If we don’t, well, it ends up being, “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am.” It gets done, but it’s not pretty.

Don’t limit it to one “day.”

How many people do you know buy their loves all kinds of wonderful, expensive presents on Valentine’s Day but bring nothing home the rest of the year? News flash: doing little things throughout the year means a heck of a lot more.

The same goes for our writing. Don’t save your best for that one, “big” work. When we think about our audience all the time, we’ll pick up things here and there that we want to share. We’ll say, “Oh! That’s good! I’ll have to blog about that.”

It’s never about me.

Writers fall into this trap all the time, and it’s tough getting out. We write what we want to say and forget about what our reader needs or wants. It’s, “Me! Me! Me!”

If I had a lover like that, I’d slap him silly. Since our readers can’t slap us, they’ll just ignore us. That’s worse.

It takes a continuous effort.

Relationships and writing require a constant effort to keep them vibrant. When we set things aside to do them later, we end up with a mess. I call this “The Dishwashing Principle.”

Listen, I hate washing dishes, but the more I put it off, the bigger the pile gets. The bigger the pile gets, the less I want to wash them.

The same goes for writing. If you are faced with having a pile of things to write, you get overwhelmed. That’s why writing every day (something, anything) is important. It may not be the final product, but you’ll be amazed how many ideas for a final product you can get that way.

Spontaneity is good!

Sometimes we just have to do something completely off the wall to push our lovers or readers out of the humdrum. We remember the things that are special, not the everyday things.

The good news is that we don’t have to be spontaneous all the time. (Then it wouldn’t be spontaneity, would it?) But we do have to remember to throw that curve ball once in a while to keep things interesting.

Like any good relationship, we need to take the time and make the effort to “romance” our readers. The result can be amazing.

Hmmm. Maybe tomorrow I ought to get dressed before I sit down to write.

Numbers, My Lifelong Nemeses

slugNumbers and I don’t get along. In fact, I hate math!

Okay, “hate” may be a strong word, but I have the same reaction when presented with a math problem that I would if a slug was plopped before me: “Eew! Yuck! Run away!”

Put words and letters in front of me, and I can play all day. For some reason, numbers just don’t register well in my brain. I’ve had people blame it on the educational system (which is not fair) and tell me I’m numerically dyslexic (is that a real thing?). Whatever it may be, it has meant that numbers have always been an effort for me.

I admire people who do well in math. In high school, I had a friend who did calculus problems for fun! I even read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Didn’t understand much of it, but what I did was intriguing.

I’ve tried Sudoku, the really easy ones, and been stymied. Yet I love doing crossword puzzles, especially the New York Times’s Sunday ones. (Sure, it takes me several days and a dictionary, and I never do it in pen.)

“We get the message,” you’re thinking, “but this is supposed to be a blog about writing.”

Well, it’s also a blog about learning. The point is that, when I hear someone say, “I hate writing,” I can emphasize. But that’s not an excuse to avoid honing writing skills.

I worked hard (really, really hard) to pass algebra, geometry, and (gag) trigonometry in high school. Physics also presented a challenge. I confess that most of that stuff I forgot very quickly, mostly because I don’t use it.

On the other hand, ask me a percentage or how to adjust a recipe, and I can pretty much do that in my head. The mathematical functions that I need have stuck with me.

For instance, if the news reports that my property tax rate has increased five percent per thousand, you bet I can quickly calculate how much more that is going to add to my tax bill. I even calculated (after going through about a ream of paper) how much gravel I would need for a patio I’m planning to put in. When I’m driving long distances, I try to do calculations in my head to keep me awake.

Sure, I can find a calculator online just as people can find paragraphs online they (illegally and unethically) copy and paste. But just like an athlete, my brain needs the exercise. Math helps me with organization and logic, so I force myself to do something that is useful but that I don’t like at all.

Do I get it right all the time? Heck, no! The last time my checkbook was balanced was in college when my accounting major roommate (now my dearest friend) decided to do it. Three hours later, completely mystified by my “system,” she succeeded but vowed never to try it again.

When it needs to be correct, I seek out a professional. I have an accountant do my income tax, but I try to organize my information as best I can before I hand it over.

The moral of this blog post is that, even though we feel frustrated and mystified by something, like writing, it is still valuable to make the effort to practice and improve it.