I’ve left it a long time to get round to writing something else for the Writing Advice Series! As you can tell from the past few posts on my blog, I’ve been struggling a lot with motivation and trying very hard to rekindle that spark that got me writing in the first place. A lot of the things I know about motivation might seem like common sense, but they are things that writers often need to remind themselves of. Then again, a lot of the time, the only cure for lack of motivation is to just write – anything, anything at all, even if it takes a lot out of you, doesn’t make much sense and is all about how you don’t have any motivation! The act of actually typing or putting pen to paper is a way to train your mind and body to remember how to write and not just spend the time worrying and stressing about not having the motivation. After all, writing is making the effort to show up and that is half the battle. Once you’ve shown up at a certain time or a certain day, you’re telling yourself that this is worth the effort.
Sometimes I think that part of writing is about battling creative resistance – that resistance that tells us any number of things – that what we’re writing isn’t good enough (good enough for who?), that we’re going to fail (failing means we can try again), that there are more important things to get on with (is tidying the house more important than your passion?). Getting up each day and pushing past all these mental blocks and criticisms thrown up by our mental critic is part of any creative endeavour. Yes, its really hard and sometimes it feels impossible, but a lot of the time, it is about replacing those thoughts with sitting yourself at a table (or in your favourite armchair, or on the floor – wherever feels most comfortable…) and writing anything. It’s about the commitment – that maybe you’re having a hard day but you’ve made the time and the effort to write something, even if it’s just a paragraph.
I’ve learnt the hard way that just giving up writing, that stressing over it just means that I lose sight of the most important thing, the writing. It isn’t grand flights of fantasy (although that’s important too), its the work you put into it. Its a plain truth, but it should also make you excited that its as simple as that – showing up, making the effort, and writing a little something. Big things can be broken up into little chunks, and eventually they will get completed.
Motivation isn’t just about wanting to do something, its also about reminding yourself why you’re doing something every day. For me, it is about sometimes going back to the start, to simple things – to writing haikus and playing around with new words from the dictionary. Reading poetry helps sometimes – because reading something different to prose can help to motivate you. Maybe it means writing down why you love writing and reading so much, and what it was that made you want to write in the first place.
When I jumped into NaNoWriMo last year, I wasn’t expecting to feel as determined as I did to actually finish it and reach 50,000 words. I think going into something so intense and creative brings out the motivation – knowing I had to get it done and finished by 30th November gives you a real boost of motivation. It’s definitely to do with a mixture of deadlines, taking part in an international event, and having people motivating each other. The community around NaNoWriMo is one of the special things about it – a community of novel writers coming together once a year to take part in an intense burst of creation. As writing is often a lonely and solitary thing – maybe finding a way to meet up with other writers is another helpful motivator. Doing timed writing, or just sitting in companionable silence and writing, or chatting about writing – it is one of those things that keeps things fresh. You can’t expect to always find an understanding ear or advice from people who are not writing or creating – people doing the same thing may have hit similar problems and have a solution.
Reading writing blogs and articles is something that I do as much as possible, to keep me focused on the writing mindset. I find that if I’m worried about not getting things done, then reading what other people are doing to keep writing helps a lot. It doesn’t always help, but if you’re just sort of having a bit of a boring day, it can give you a kick in the right direction. Then again, I have to remind myself not to ‘procrastinate’ – obviously a bit of a problem if you’re refusing to get started because you’re reading yet another motivational article! Maybe its a good idea to sort of limit yourself to two to three articles. I’ve been building a writing advice bookmarks folder and bookmarking anything that really helps to get me writing or thinking differently.
It just depends what works for you – whether you thrive in creative chaos or like to have a schedule every single day. For me, my resolution is to ‘write first’ – part of my happiness project. Rather than choosing to clean the bathroom all day (?!?), I’m going to prioritise writing. Nothing gets done in a day – but taking small steps adds up to bigger ones.
I hope this has helped to motivate you, even just a little. If you have any motivational tips – let me know in the comments!
It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop. ~ Vita Sackville-West