We’ve all been there…you walk past your laptop and avert your gaze, hoping to avoid eye contact. All of a sudden, the ceiling is very interesting. You wonder if you should give your grandmother a call since you two haven’t spoken in a while. Also, there’s that weird scuff on the floor that you’ve been meaning to buff out…
Sound familiar? While everyones avoidance maneuvers are a little different, they all stem from the same experience: a lapse in motivation.
Don’t get too discouraged. Whether you’ve been writing for years or you’ve just started to pursue the craft, there will most likely come a time when you find yourself in a wordless funk. The good news is that you don’t have to stay there.
The first thing you should ask yourself is, “Why am I feeling this way?” Is it because you’re stuck on a particular scene? Don’t have a clue what your character should say? Can’t seem to find an accurate account of how long it would take to sail the length of the Mekong river in a basket boat, therefore you can’t continue for fear of being called a fraud? Maybe you’re just feeling plain overwhelmed, or you’ve strayed from people/places/things that make you feel inspired. Maybe the cause is more serious, and you’re questioning why you ever decided to pursue a stupid career in this stupid industry in the first place.
Before you decide to shave your whole head and move to Siberia to live a simple, nomadic existence, consider these words:
1. It’s not a stupid career in a stupid industry and you know it
That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard to get it off the ground, though. The sluggish, meandering timeline that often accompanies a career in writing can be incredibly frustrating, but oh, to be paid for being creative! What a wondrous thing it would be. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Remember that.
2. Get on a schedule
My favorite excuse that I often hear and used to frequently use myself is, “But I don’t always have the time to write!” Oh, you haven’t heard? No one does. Especially not people who work a job outside of writing so that they can still eat, or people who have children, or people who are in school, or people who want to have friends, or…well, you get the picture. You’ve gotta make time, babe. “But I need those three hours every Saturday morning to make eggs Benedict and tend to my begonias!” Well guess what Susan, maybe you should settle for a bowl of cereal and hire a gardner so you can actually get some writing done. Come on, you can carve out an hour after you get home from work before you have your glass of wine. There has to be some time in each week that you can dedicate to writing on the regular. Not only will this help you avoid making excuses, but getting on a schedule is a great way to train yourself to feel more motivated. Oh, alright, carve out an hour to write with a glass of wine. You deserve it, champ, and if that’s what’s going to inspire you, then go for it. Speaking of which…
3. You must go forth and seek your muse!
It shouldn’t always be wine, though I must say I am partial to writing with a red. Inspiration and motivation almost always go hand in hand. When you can feel it slipping away even though you still believe in what you’re writing, you must find a way to get it back. If you’re writing a cookbook, make up a new recipe for dinner tonight. Something interesting and delicious. Writing a fantasy with rich, natural landscapes? Head to your local forest and walk around for a while. Whatever is going to help immerse you in your story as much as possible is a good place to start. I would also recommend visiting http://www.ambient-mixer.com. It’s a fabulous website that allows you to create custom soundscapes that make you feel like you’re standing there with your character, wherever they are. And if none of that inspires you…
4. Remember why you started
Oftentimes, the best inspiration to draw on is the one that made you start writing in the first place. What made you want to write? What was so compelling that you felt it was worth it to do this and make your life more difficult? When you pull from the original source, you call upon your greatest power as a writer. In my experience, it’s the one thing that remains a constant driving factor no matter the genre or subject. Hold it close and motivation will come.
5. Give yourself a break
I mean that in an emotional sense as much as I do a temporal one. Writers are not known for their self-love and overflowing confidence. That’s just how it is for many creative types. We often feel compelled to compare our work to someone else’s, and somehow it always seems better than ours, but know this: you have something original to say. Give yourself the chance to figure out how to say it well, and don’t beat yourself up in the meantime. Also, if you’ve been at it for an hour and truly nothing is happening, it’s ok to get up and take a fifteen minute break.
6. Like Westley once said to Inigo Montoya, get used to disappointment
If you’re going to let every single rejection letter break your heart and kill your drive, then you’re not the person I thought you were. Everybody gets rejected from jobs, and even more so by agents and publishers. You need to learn to pick yourself back up and use every rejection as fuel instead of letting them burn you alive. Put on a Nomex suit or you will not survive.
7. Come at it from a different angle
You know how you always seem to look better in photos when you tilt your chin down and turn your hips to the side and put your hair over your left shoulder? The same can be said for stories. Every story has both good angles and bad angles. If you’re writing your story from a bad angle, you’re making things harder for yourself. We’re talking voice, point of view, even setting. When it starts to get ugly and you don’t want to look at it anymore, maybe it’s time to consider things from a different angle.
8. Don’t let yourself off the hook so easily
This one might seem obvious, but if you routinely lose focus after two minutes of trying to figure out what to write, you should stop doing that. I know I said you should allow yourself to take a break, but come on, man, you’ve gotta earn it. Having a reward/punishment system in place can help keep you on track. For instance, every fifteen minutes you go without scrolling through Tumblr or Pinterest is another glass of wine that you get to have tonight. You know the difference between struggling with a passage and an honest to goodness block. Every time you treat the former like you would the latter, you lose momentum and motivation. Just stop it.
9. Write, but make it COMFY
Ever heard Tyra Banks say, “Hoe, but make it FASHION”? If you haven’t, take a minute to look up the gif. Wise words from a wise woman. If you break that phrase down to its bare essential you’re left with the notion that there are ways to make something uncomfortable suddenly seem groovy and cool with just a few simple tweaks. This brings us back to the wine thing. (No, I don’t have a problem, you have a problem. We’re focusing on you right now). Ehem. Anyway, do you like fuzzy blankets? How about music? Candy? Those candles that crackle and pop as they burn? Me too! Incorporate as many of those into your writing time as you can. By cultivating a space that is inviting, I’d be willing to bet a whole case of wine that you’ll feel more motivated to write. And that’s saying something.
10. Stop feeling sorry for yourself
Here’s the bottom line. The ugly, stinky truth. The eyelash in your eye, the twist in your knickers, the hair in your pasta was, is, and always will be that you chose this torture. No one made you do it, and if you truly don’t think it will make you happy anymore, then maybe you should consider pursuing something else. However, since you googled “motivation for writers” and not “how to give up on your dreams”, I’m guessing that’s not the case. Look, your family, friends, and significant other aren’t always going to get it. There will be times when all the sage wisdom of the internet fails you and you’re going to have to find a way to pull motivation out of thin air. By the way, if you figure out how to do that, please message me and let me know—asking for a friend. My point is, you need to practice showing up for yourself every day. That’s the only way you’ll make it work, and when you make it a habit, lack of motivation will become a thing of the past.
If nothing else, know that you have a friend in me who believes in you and is rooting for you. It will be worth the effort. You deserve this. You can do this. Now go.
Gif from: tenor.com