Beyond Categorization, My Thoughts, The Writer's Life

All Novels Are Love Stories (But This Post Isn’t)

I think it’s Monday. Is it? I had these great plans to write a clever post about how every novel is essentially a love story in disguise, but those plans got derailed by Real Life. So instead, I’m just going to offer this bit of writing advice (I’ll get to the “love story” post another day): Sometimes you just don’t have anything to say.

I don’t mean “sometimes you don’t have anything of value to say.” I mean sometimes you just don’t have anything at all to say. When these times come, it’s not about writer’s block – it’s about being empty. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which are related to the Real Life we live apart from putting words on paper. Maybe your cousins showed up unexpectedly and in the midst of the noise and chaos your muse not only ran away with all those brilliant ideas, she took your laptop, too. Maybe you’re over-tired because your child has been sick or the dog keeps puking in the middle of the night or your spouse suddenly decided it was a good time to take up snoring. Maybe your One True Love left you, and while there are a thousand broken-heart stories lining up in the queue and preparing to spit and spill onto the page, in this moment you are simply stunned to silence.

Whatever the reason, you’ve just got nuthin’.

If you have a deadline and that deadline is today, you’ll have to find a way to put words on paper. Even if they suck. (Unless you can buy another day – but you know my feelings about deadlines, right?) What if you don’t have a deadline? Or if the deadline is self-imposed (like the one for this blog)? Then it’s perfectly okay to say nothing at all. Don’t beat yourself up for not meeting your word count.

It’s just a season.

Meanwhile, deal with the Real Life stuff in front of you. Catch fireflies with the cousins. Take a long nap. Or curl up in the fetal position and cry. Whatever the Real Life stuff calls for.

When the time comes, you’ll have plenty to say again. Probably more than ever before.

And remember: Just because you aren’t writing right now doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

You are.

And so am I. And maybe tomorrow I’ll write that post about Love Stories.

Or not.


7 thoughts on “All Novels Are Love Stories (But This Post Isn’t)

  1. As writers I guess we need a healthy mix of real-life interaction and real-life muse. I’ve had a little too much of the muse lately. (I always know this when I go from writing humor to death poetry.)

  2. This is so encouraging – I just went through an article that started out as a good idea and never really came to fruition because of Real Life and months of morning sickness. I hate it, but I had a deadline, and it had to get written.

    I’m such an artist sometimes, I castigate myself for not having anything to write, not disciplining myself to do it. Really, though, you have to fill up so you have something to pour out.

    Terrific post! I am loving this blog!

  3. I have been pondering your love story statement. I have been tempted to write several times, but was concerned that I might deconstruct my statements if I wrote it to quickly. I still might deconstruct them, or perhaps you or your readers will. That would be okay.

    I don’t know that I agree that all novels are love stories. Can’t an author delicately and intentionally pick words that convey a story that he does not love, but that he is compelled to tell? I think that your post, although admittedly not a love story and though much truer than a novel, is a good example. Sometimes, a writer must write certain stories/emotions. There is a compulsion that is bigger than you that requires you to write–even if it means hanging it all out there (or at least a good chuch of it).

    And can’t that translate to a novel? Isn’t there a compulsion that feels beyond your control when you are writing certain characters or situations? I think that well constructed characters seem to write themselves and I hope that they can chose to move in a way that is beyond the author’s discretion? If so, can a characters lack love? Can a situation, or entire string of them, be constructed without love being found within either central or peripheral proximity? Don’t characters and scenes move, from time to time, with hatred, violence–or worse, ambivalence–sometimes without redemption? And if that happens, a novel can be birthed devoid of love.

    And if a novelist’s story is birthed from a love for language or love for story telling, isn’t that, at least in some way, betraying the characters ability to tell their side of the situation?

    My point is this: sometimes a story should be allowed to write itself, much like life. If that removes love from the equation, so be it. If that requires love, so be it. Perhaps love is the most identifiable of the universal themes. After all, love gives us new life. But I think that there are other universal themes that deserve exploration.

    I ain’t really disagree’n. Just trying to work an alternative view.

  4. Oh, I completely get this. Life keeps shoving my sense of humor in a corner – and for me that is where my writing comes from. I loved hearing your take on it. I tried to explain it to someone in this way:

    Yeah, somebody stole my funny. They thought they were just going about their life – doing what they wanted to. But in the mean time, they robbed me of something I hold dear. I really don’t appreciate what they did, and I would like my funny back. I could call the police department to fill out a report. But I’m not quite sure they would see the humor in the situation. Actually, I am not seeing the humor in most situations – that is the problem!!!

    So for now, I am surviving. Life isn’t as much fun. And while I would like to kick and scream and prosecute to fullest extent of the law, I am not sure that would get me anywhere – other than the loony bin! And I don’t want to go there. So I will just wait to see if my quirky sense of humor comes back on its own. Maybe it will get homesick.

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