At the weekend an artist friend was bemoaning the fact that, for various reasons, he hadn't been able to get into the studio to paint and was worried about what would happen when he finally did. "It's like a relationship," he said. 'If you don't nurture it, the magic goes."
At the beginning of a relationship, everything is exciting. You think about them all the time. You can't wait for the moment when you're together again. You speculate about what they're doing, what they're thinking when you're apart. And when you're together, the world seems brighter, the colours better. You don't have to make and effort to spend time together - all you can think about is meeting up, so any obstacles are brushed aside as easily as cobwebs.
A while later, and you've settled into your routine together. The magic is still there, your heart still beats faster at the thought of them, but it's no longer that sick, giddy sort of excitement. You talk to each other every day, they're No 1 in your head, but you don't think about them every waking moment.
A bit later on, the routine is in danger of becoming a bit...well, routine. You tell yourself the magic is still there, but sometimes you're so busy, you forget to contact each other. If there's a problem meeting up, you don't do everything you can to get there. Other things take priority in your life. A text goes unanswered, a bunch of flowers remains unbought.
There isn't anything wrong, as such, but this relationship is on a downward spiral.
Same with writing.
You've got to keep the relationship going by putting in the time. You've got to spend time writing, and when you can't make it to the keyboard to write, you need to be thinking about writing. Take your writing on dates e.g. writing conferences, subscribing to writing magazines, going to classes. Make time to write - it may not be possible to write every day, but don't let days pass before going back to writing. Nurture it.
And when you hit a rocky patch, stick with it. Don't bail at the first opportunity. Work hard to keep the relationship together, which usually means putting more time in.
Treat your writing like your lover and nurture a great relationship.