The Benefits of Anticipation (A Love Letter)

In ten days I’ll board a plane to Paris (well, I’ve got to get to L.A. first). And I’m excited. Through some great, amazing stroke of good luck, this will be my second trip to France this year. (The first one was for a writing retreat, and this time is to teach.) I think, because it’s been only five months since I was last there, I’m anticipating my return trip with even more excitement.

But I’m also madly scrambling around, trying to get things done. As one does. But even the mad scrambling is tinged with excitement and anticipation. And that has me thinking about anticipation—and its usefulness. Because anticipating something you’re looking forward to can be as pleasurable as the event itself.

“Anticipation alerts all of the pleasure centers in the body and says wake up, which can create happy feelings,” says Stacy Kaiser, Editor-at-Large of Live Happy magazine, and a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles. “A lot of times people are afraid to anticipate because they don’t want to be disappointed, but I think they’re missing out on learning and moments of joy. (I snitched this quote from an article in Spirituality and Health Magazine.)

So that’s cool but think also how this applies to our writing. First reading (which is an integral part of writing). Think how you anticipate when you read. What’s going to happen next? Will the main character accomplish her goal? How will he overcome the obstacles in front of him? Doesn’t it all give you a pleasurable thrill? In a really good book, the anticipation is so exciting you can barely turn the pages fast enough.

And you can use this very human trait in your writing. As a matter of fact, you should. Anticipating in writing is sometimes called suspense and even if you are not writing a mystery or a thriller, you should have it in your novel. You want your reader to be desperate to find out what happens next.

Easy for me to spout off about, but how do you accomplish this? One word: conflict. The more the better. I know you know this. So do I. But it is one thing to know it and another to make sure your writing has enough of it. We fall in love with our characters and don’t want to make them suffer. But do it! The more conflict you heap on them, the better—you’ll make your readers so full of anticipation they won’t be able to put your book down.

Leave a comment and tell me what you are anticipating!

Also:

And, speaking of France, we had a last-minute cancellation for the workshop in Collioure, so there’s an open spot! C’mon, live adventurously and join us!  A week in France, devoted to camaraderie, hiking, sitting by the Mediterranean, eating delicious fish and bread and cheese and drinking wine? Plus a transformational writing experience? Yes, please.

And don’t forget to join the Facebook group.  Participating in groups is the only way I like to be on Facebook and this one is good. It goes quiet periodically, but then it perks up again. I try to post something of interest every day (or at least every few days). Do join us!

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DerekDerek
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I have found that commenting has been a problem with the Firefox browser, so I am trying this out with IE. I’ve enjoyed reading your post. I also tend to feel that we shouldn’t avoid anticipation. Yes there are times when we may feel disappointment, but surely that ‘risk’ is at the very essence of all achievement… And I would say that it drives evolution. Recently I have been realising about my own hidden barriers regarding writing. It was nothing that I could put my finger on, but there was this tendency to procrastinate lurking in the back of my… Read more »

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Oh what!? Sorry, but two comments have been posted – fully unintentional. Different browsers for each.. 😀