For the Love of It

Imagine this scenario, if you will . . .

You are out taking a walk, a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood on a sunny, mellow evening in spring.  The flowers are in full bloom, and the whine of the occasional lawn mower can be heard as some of the residents finish their yard work ahead of the sunset.  You pass by a couple of fellow pedestrians:  a young couple walking their poodle; a middle-aged, silver-haired guy speed-walking with a purpose; a teenager with her face plastered in her smartphone, not paying attention to her surroundings.


As you walk, you relax.  Your mind rests.  You take in the scents and sounds and scene.  The smell of spring, of freshness, of new growth, is a balm to the soul.  You are at peace.

And then it happens.  An idea strikes!  Out of nowhere, supercharged, as if tethered to a bolt of lightning.  A scene visualizes, characters emerge, and, remarkably, the genesis of a new novel is there–just like that.  Gift-wrapped from the muse.  You quicken your pace, eager to get home and jot down the essentials of the story lest you forget them.  An idea like this–fully formed, riveting, interesting–doesn’t strike every day.  You don’t want to lose it.


Once home, you do indeed write out the details of your idea.  Old school, you use pencil and paper, the ideas coming so fast and furious, it is difficult for your hand and the pencil to keep pace with your whirling mind.  But finally, after several minutes of speed-writing, you have it all down on paper.  Reading through it, you are amazed at the level of detail, the depth, the three-dimensional characters.  Where an hour ago there was nothing, there is now the makings of a novel.


Emotionally spent from this unexpected burst of creation, you head to bed early, content to sleep on it.  You will see how you feel about it in the morning.

And, to no one’s surprise, you feel good about it the next day!  And the day after that.  But when, a few days later, you sit down to write chapter one, something feels off, missing, like a widget with a missing screw.  The piece is there . . . but it’s not fully alive.  It is not vibrant.  Like a department store mannequin, it looks back at you, unblinking, an emptiness to the eyes.  This surprises you.  When the idea struck, it felt like a winner.  What’s happened?


You take a breath, step back (literally!), and examine the story anew.  Interesting idea.  Solid characters.  Multi-layered themes.  You are puzzled.  What’s the problem?

Then you see it.  While, technically, everything is in place–it is all there, made to order, as it were–you don’t love it.  Sure, you like it.  The characters have depth.  The plot twists and turns like a mountain highway at dusk.  The drama and intrigue are knife’s-edge sharp.  But . . . you don’t love the idea.  Maybe it’s the genre.  Maybe it’s too dark.  Maybe something about just doesn’t quite hit the spot.  Maybe the chemistry is missing, like a blind date that your friend assures you will go well but that falls flatter than day-old soda.  It’s not the tangible aspects of the story that are the issue.  It’s the intangible.  When it’s all said and done, you cannot imagine spending weeks, months, perhaps years writing this novel.


So, what do you do?  Good ideas don’t exactly litter the roadside, awaiting anyone and everyone to gather them up.  Do you still write the novel, even if you don’t love it?

I wouldn’t.  In fact, I couldn’t.  Even if I wanted to, the lack of love, the lack of emotional investment, would make the task impossible.  If it were a short story idea, it wouldn’t be a problem.  While it’s always better to love your stories, even the short ones . . . the fact is, a short story is, well, short.  Even if you don’t love the characters or the genre, if the idea is complete and solid and powerful, the story can still work.  (Though, even then, it likely will not be your best.)  After all, you’ll only be investing three or four thousand words–you might be able to pump it out in a single afternoon.  But a novel?  A hundred thousand words?  Not a chance.

“Love,” Ray Bradbury once wrote.  “Fall in love and stay in love.  Write only what you love, and love what you write.  The key word is love.”


Thanks so much for reading!



10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sally Bosco
    Mar 31, 2023 @ 15:27:07

    Great post! Thanks for the inspiration!


  2. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner
    Mar 31, 2023 @ 17:43:35



  3. joannerambling
    Mar 31, 2023 @ 19:43:09

    A bloody good post


  4. selizabryangmailcom
    Apr 04, 2023 @ 17:53:27

    What a great Bradbury quote. He was instrumental in affecting my yet unformed writing in my formative years. Yeah. Love. I know when I’ve got a winner when I feel exactly that–love. It’s a great feeling. Like a mix of relief, satisfaction, joy. 🙂


  5. Carol Balawyder
    Apr 05, 2023 @ 15:52:00

    Great advice!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: