Is Writing Like Love?

Are you all over the place with lots of ideas, with notebooks and folders full of starts? Are you so in love with a story that you eat, sleep, and breathe it? Or are you on task, committed to your writing project(s), working through thick and thin?

Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, describes three stages of love: lust, attraction, and attachment. I suggest the same stages could be applied to writing.

Stage 1: Lust

Dr. Fisher describes the first stage of love as lust: “The sex drive or libido…evolved to encourage you to seek a wide range of partners.” On the prowl. Playing the field. Love the one you’re with.

In writing, this is when we have no idea where to start or maybe we have writer’s block and we’re all over the place, searching for any idea that will light a spark, get us going. We are going a million miles an hour, looking for that next great idea. Maybe it’s why some of us have a notebook with us all the time or the started-but-not-finished stories/books/articles/queries on our computer. Maybe it’s why some of us dabble in lots of writing styles and ideas. Or blog.

Stage 2: Romantic Attraction

You’re in love! Lovestruck. Lovesick. You can’t think about anyone or anything else. You feel great! Feel good chemicals like adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin pump through your brain—dopamine triggers an intense rush of pleasure, the same chemical that is released in the brain by using addictive drugs.

In writing? You have the greatest idea you’ve ever had! Maybe the next great American Novel. Why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this?! If you’re like me, you get up early, go to bed late, let the housework go, and think about the story and its characters all day long. Maybe your family and friends are sick of hearing you talk about it.

Stage 3: Attachment

As described by Fisher, this is “deep feelings of attachment to a long term partner.” It’s what keeps relationships going. Settle down. Get hitched. Through thick and thin. Like the old song: “Love, love will keep us together,” it’s for keeps. You’re way past official on Facebook. Even your grandmother knows.

In writing, it’s butt in the chair time. You’re there, every day. Not just saying you’re a writer. But you’re putting in your 1000 words or five pages or six hours, whatever goal you’ve set for yourself. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good, but you’re sticking with it.

What stage(s) of writing are you in? Which stage do you like best and why? Tune in tomorrow for “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” about how sometimes—just like in a love—it’s time to give up on a writing project, too.

Postscript: While I was reading about Dr. Helen Fisher, I found the very cool relationship test that she (read more about Dr. Helen Fisher here) developed called Why Him? Why Her? It was interesting and a lot of fun, too. Check it out! Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!




  1. Chris Fries says:

    Wow — you were right, Julia. This IS an interesting post! I totally see the parallels between writing and love.

    With my main WIP — the pathetic wanna-be writer’s First Novel — I’m definitely in the Attatchment stage, and frequently in the frustrated, “Why Did I Marry YOU!?!?” stage. But like a real marriage, I calm down and come to my senses, and see the good in what I’ve done, and what I want to do in the story, and I re-fall in love with it. Then its back to the daily grind of trying to churn it out.

    I also try to do some other short-story stuff, and take part in the Creative Copy Challenge, to keep s spark of ‘new-love’ lust and attraction going with new sotries and ideas. But not so many that I get overwhelmed, and only short things, so I can still keep trudging through my novel.

    … and NOW you’ve got a comment here!

  2. Chris!! Thanks a million for commenting on this post! I’m so interested in reading how other writers address their writing and how they perceive the progress! Thanks again!