How does one discipline themselves to continue to write after the “thrill is gone”?
The “thrill” is not a natural state, and you will only get it back every once in a while. Like when you get a great idea and write it down, or when you finally publish, or when you see someone else read your work. This is true for any hobby, job, career, or anything, really.
Just like falling in love, the “passion” of the first few weeks is not a long-lasting state. It slowly gives way to a deeper, more profound, less exciting form of love.
This is just as true for writing. You may churn out chapter after chapter in a hot frenzy of thrilling writing when you first begin, but unless you actually knuckle down to learning about writing, reading, practicing, and making it the focus of your life, when the fire of that passion burns out, you won’t have that deeper love for it to fall back on.
As with everything else, there are highs and lows to writing. If you want to get those “highs” more often, the key is to get through the “lows” faster. The temptation is to stop writing when we get writer’s block, get discouraged, or simply don’t like to write anymore. That does not resolve the problem. It simply prolongs it. And sometimes writers simply never come back, they give it up and work on something else. The key is to write anyways, because you understand that by writing you will get those great ideas, you will live in that world you are creating which will bring back the thrill eventually, or at least bring back the joy of writing which will carry you through the next slump.
You are writing because you love writing, because you feel you have something amazing to share with the world.
If you’re simply writing because of the “thrill” that won’t be enough. If you’re writing because being a writer is “cool” that won’t be enough. If you’re writing because you want to see your name on the cover of a book, that won’t be enough. Sorry to say, but it’s true. I’ve heard too many times people say that they would like to be a published author, but they don’t like writing. And I know they’ll never achieve their goal.
Don’t focus on the thrill, focus on your work, why you’re writing, and you’ll notice it gets much easier when you’re writing for a greater purpose than the “thrill.”
What makes quality writing?
I think some people get confused between what makes great writing, and what makes a great writer.
We all know great writers are able to produce good, even great works over and over, they have a professional handle on techniques, methods, visuals, etc etc.
But what makes something great writing, is a bit more difficult to understand. We’ve all read books that, for one reason or another, just didn’t “grab” us, or draw us into its world. There might not have been anything we could point out particularly, the character development might have been done well, the grammar and everything else might have been perfect, but we just couldn’t get into it.
On the other hand, we’ve read some books that might have seemed rough and amateurish, but we really enjoyed, or we might describe as “great.” (And not in the academic sense of great, but in the actual bury-yourself-in-a-good-book great)
It’s because of their voice.
Some authors just have a great way of telling stories, and when they channel that talent effectively into their work, what comes out the other end is great writing.
Think of a very effective, and very polarizing, example: Harry Potter. Whatever your opinion of the writer or her work (I would tend to side with some of the detractors regarding the actual writing) you cannot argue that the books are engaging, “great” even, and have engaged millions of people around the world. Why? Because she was able to tell her story with passion, and with her unique voice that drew us into her world, into her imagination, like nobody else could. That is something nobody can argue with, regardless of your opinion of the actual writing. They are “great” books, in that sense.
Real readers don’t care about what specific words you use, or the structure of your sentences, or if you write at a third grade level, they care about being lifted away from their world into another.
If you can tell a story that is infused with passion, people will notice. That’s why some of the best books ever written were created while the author was traveling, in the midst of financial ruin, or after some great or traumatic experience, because they were able to turn that passion, wonder, or heartbreak into a voice that draws you in. Not, on the other hand, while sitting at a desk in college or learning the “Five best tricks successful authors use.”
You can choose to be a successful writer, and there are plenty, whose books are not well-known, who never won awards, and whose works are forgettable.
Or you can choose to lend your voice to your writing, pour your passion in it, forget about the grammar and just tell a story. Then you will get some “great” writing.
We can’t point it out, and there’s nothing obvious about it, but we know it when we read it.
Do you find it easier or harder to write when there are constraints?
It is infinitely easier to write when there are constraints, rules, or boundaries to what you want to write.
I think about it like playing ping-pong, or flying a kite. They’re probably not the best analogies, but they convey my idea effectively I think.
In ping-pong (table tennis, etc), it is fun because you have an opponent who will hit your serves back to you. You must adjust and adapt based on how they play, and because each opponent will be different, every game will be different.
When you fly a kite, young kids might want to cut the string to let the kite fly higher, but in fact it is the tension between the string and the wind that causes the kite to fly at all, and allows a talented flier to perform all sorts of tricks.
It’s the same thing with writing. If there were a writing competition that didn’t have a word limit, or a topic, or other constraints, they would get submissions that just went on and one about any random topic. Writers are able to put every thought they have into the submission, so they do, because it’s painful to cut things away.
When there are constraints to how much you can include, or what exactly you can include, you are forced to think through all your ideas, focus on the best ones, and build on those, instead of all of them at the same time.
Boundaries force us to be creative. Constraints on your writing, especially fictional ones within the story, force you to think differently about how a character might approach an otherwise mundane task.
Why do you think most characters in any story are flawed in some way? I can name a number of books just off the top of my head whose characters are either asthmatic, alcoholics, poor, disabled, oppressed, enslaved, weak, etc etc etc. That makes the characters interesting because even a simple task can be a challenge to write about. Nobody wants to read about some dude who already has everything he wants and rules the world. They must have some constraint in what they can do.
Whether you have real-life boundaries (time limits, word count, resources, or topic), or fictional ones (literally a castle wall, the ocean, magic, disability, etc.) being able to play a creative game of ping-pong with yourself or your characters is what creates engaging content. Otherwise you would just write and write and write and never stop, after all, if there are no constraints, why stop?