Since it was Valentine's Day this week, I was getting ready to write a post on engaging couples in fiction, or top tips for conflict when it comes to your hero and heroine, or the great debate: do you need a HEA (happily ever after) to truly make a love story.
Instead, I've decided to write you a letter. Yes, you. You may not need it now. I hope you don't.
But there are lots of fabulous authors out there who I think could use this at the moment, and if you're one of them, I hope this helps.
Please love yourself.
I know you've been finding it hard lately. Time is getting on; there's simply not enough of it in the day. Your life feels like that meme, the one that says 'This has been the longest five months of the year, and it's only February.' Time is flying, and you've never been this busy.
Your to-do list is a mile long, and that's just the writing-related one. You don't even want to think about the things that need fixing around the home, or the admin you need to catch up on. As for family and social time, sometimes you feel like adding them to the to-do list too, because you're juggling, always juggling, and it feels like you're doing everything all the time, but nothing well.
When you finally do sit down and have time to write, you stare at the screen, and you want the words to come, but they just don't. Or they do, but instead of flowing like a waterfall they trickle like a leaking tap, only you're the one who's broken.
Then you read something - something beautiful, something strong - but instead of making you feel good, it just reminds you that you'll never be as good a writer as Person X or Person Z.
You've thought about quitting at least twice, and that's not even this year - that's just this month, and we're only halfway through.
But here's the thing, beautiful writer: you've got this.
Things are hard - they're so darn hard. But you want to write so very much, that you're going to pull through. You're going to accept that not everything can be perfect all the time, but writing is a part of you, and you will not quit.
Writing is your release. It's what you love doing. You lose yourself and find yourself on the page, and sure, sometimes it makes you sad, but it makes you so happy and fulfilled, too.
You fell in love with books and the world of make-believe, and it won't let you go. What's more, you don't want it to. This world is magical. It's special, and it's an escape, always there, waiting for you when you need it.
Right now, you might feel like you don't have the time, or the skillset, or the muse, but these things will come. You'll find ways, systems to be more efficient. You'll remember that fifteen minutes of writing is better than fifteen minutes of sleep, even if that's the only writing time you have in the day. You won't count your achievements in hard facts and figures, but emotional achievements. Celebrate every moment. Revel in every word.
You'll learn. You'll get better by doing courses, reading books and, most importantly, by putting words on the page. You'll keep on going when others are quitting because this is your dream. You aren't going to quit just because someone else is doing it better; you're going to keep on going because the world doesn't even know how damn fine you can be yet.
And the muse, she may not be there now, but she'll come back too. In the meantime, you will keep showing up, because if you don't show up, if you don't put words on the page, she'll never be inspired to arrive. Don't force it; don't labour for hours and hours, but reconnect with your craft. Take a walk; visit an art gallery; refill your creative well. And when the time is right, she will be back.
Dear writer, please love yourself. Things are hard right now, but you're amazing. You've been through a lot of hard things in this lifetime, and this too shall pass.
Take a moment today to read something you've written that you love.
Tell someone you're an author (because you are).
Write a letter to yourself in five years' time, reminding yourself why you started writing in the first place and setting your intentions for the future.
Do something completely indulgent, whether it's booking in for a manicure or simply opening a nice bottle of wine with your dinner (you don't even need to share).
Write yourself some encouraging notes and stick them to your desk or your laptop cover. Notes like I am not my word count. Notes like Writing is within me. Notes like I control my destiny.
And most importantly, reach out. Reach out to another author. Reach out to a loved one. Reach out to me - but reach. Because when you're in the thick of the hardships of writing it can be hard to remember but you are not alone, my lovely writer friend.
We're all in this together.