As writers, sometimes we don’t feel like writing. Often it seems our creativity has crawled off, our inspiration has gone on vacation and our brains just don’t want to bother. Our ‘mojo’ has done a runner. Some days, we just don’t want to write.
This is completely normal.
Writing isn’t just a hobby for some, it’s a disciplined form of art and it takes a great deal of commitment, time and hard work to do it, so it is no surprise that some of that discipline and commitment wavers and wobbles from time to time for various reasons.
The thing to remember is that we writers are not robots, and sometimes, after a long day at work, writing is the last thing on our minds, especially if we have to sort the kids out, tidy up, do the dinner and feed the cat. Sometimes the mind and body are too tired. The motivation just isn’t there.
Life in general gets in the way sometimes. There is just so much going on that you don’t have the time to dedicate to writing, or it seems that way, whether it’s a full workload in the office causing you stress or running around looking after the family – the school run, shopping, errands, appointments etc. Motivation tends to vanish when we’re busy with other things and other people.
Distractions are another cause of lack of motivation to write. Social media soaks up motivation – and creativity – and drains your willpower. It’s easier to procrastinate than write meaningful narrative. We all do it.
Other times, we just can’t be bothered. The pub, the football match or the movie seems a better option. Any excuse for not sitting down and getting some writing done, or even finishing off what we started.
So how can writers find the motivation to write? How do writers stop the motivation from vanishing completely?
There are plenty of things that we can do to spur ourselves on and not fall into a laissez-fair attitude.
1. Tiredness can crush creativity and motivation. Writing doesn’t work when the brain needs to shut down. Get some much needed sleep and come back motivated and energised for writing. You’ll find it works.
2. Make some time for just you and your writing. Even if it’s just for an hour to jot down ideas or observations or do a little planning. Whether it’s early in the morning, during the day when you have the house to yourself, or whether you’re a night owl type, there is always a time to write, so don’t make excuses. Make it a habit.
3. Switch off all electronic communications such as phones or emails. Don’t go anywhere near the internet. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by social media.
4. Make to do lists. Use it as a motivational push, whether it’s a word count list, an ideas list, a planning list, a chapter list etc. They are visual reminders and help us to stay focused and disciplined and to stay on track.
5. Allow yourself plenty of breaks. It’s proven fact that rest increases productivity. Not just longer rest periods, but little rest breaks throughout your writing sessions. Allow your mind to breathe and reflect. Go take five minutes in the garden. Walk the dog. Go stare at the stars for a little and let your mind wander. Go take a short walk in the park.
If you think your motivation is on the wane, it’s a sure fire signal to take a rest and refocus.
5. Do some reading. Reading your favourite authors has this magical quality of igniting your enthusiasm and making you want to write – it motivates us to want to be like our favourite authors, to be the best we can, it spurs us to get on with the job of writing.
6. Imagine someone, somewhere, is writing the same book as you, but they beat you to publication with it, leaving you in the starting line. So, what are you waiting for?
7. If you like to set yourself goals or targets, then do so. Set yourself a word count target per day, or a chapter, or whatever you feel you can realistically achieve. And stick to it.
NB - Don’t set yourself goals or targets if they cause you unnecessary stress. It’s counterproductive.
8. Set yourself a writing/reward system. It works in the same way as setting goals and targets, but by getting things done, you can reward yourself at the end. You have to do the work, however, to appreciate the reward. If you cheat by bypassing the work and going straight for the reward you will simply disappoint yourself and accomplish nothing.
I use this when my motivation feels depleted. If I write something – it might be 500 words or 1000 words of a story, or it might be an article – then I reward myself with some time playing computer games. That way I’ve accomplished something and I get to relax afterward.
For you it might be feet up, a drink of your favourite wine and a movie. Or it could be dinner out somewhere. The reward is whatever you make it, but you have to earn it first.
9. Enter a writing competition. This helps you concentrate on something different, away from the usual projects and it gives you a deadline to work to. Plus, there is always the prospect you might win something.
10. If you haven’t joined one, try joining a writing group or an online writing forum. There will always be somebody willing to help motivate and spur you on with advice and encouragement.
11. Music is known to help plenty of writers who use it to inspire and motivate them. I use this method all the time, because the right music can help create mood and atmosphere, it sets the scene to write, it creates the right frame of mind.
12. Have friends read your work and provide feedback. Whether it’s positive or negative, you’ll find yourself wanting to improve even further, it will make you want to write, because they are discussing your work.
Motivation isn’t something that materialises the moment we start writing and stays with us for the duration. It’s like sunlight; it comes and goes, it fades, comes back, but it never truly vanishes. It’s always there, but sometimes we just have to find it.
Remember that somewhere, somebody will be working on an idea similar to yours. They might become successful at it than you, they might not, but as writers we have to acknowledge that we’re the only ones that can make it happen.
And whether sometimes we don’t want to, we can only make it happen if we simply get on with what we love to do - writing.
Next week: Everything you ever wanted to know about subplots