Writing motivation: where it’s hiding
Today, I have a guest! We’ll take a quick break this week from writing with time (the timeline series) and before we get into more of it, a great friend of mine has a few tips to share. Michelle King has had a fair share of lost and found motivation in her writing career, and she has gladly provided a post for my blog so I could share it with you today! I won’t leave you with too much from me, because Michelle says it all. 🙂
There seems to be a great divide in writers in regard to motivation. For the most part, one half believes motivation is born from inspiration, a wily and magical creature that comes at the most unexpected and spontaneous moments, untamed and free to do as it wishes. The other half believes that motivation and inspiration are easily attained through a varying amount of effort.
Up until very recently, I counted myself as a believer of the former. It was easy to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t writing. The kids needed to be taken care of, homework and classwork needed to be done, work was tiring, clothes needed to be washed. On the rare moments, inspiration struck. So long as it was convenient, I would immediately sit down and turn out thousands of words. When it didn’t, I could just shrug my shoulders and dismiss any thoughts in the back of my head that I should be writing.
Around this time last year, maybe a few months over a year, I got back into writing and I dove in head first. I almost always waited until the kids went to bed and most nights would be up past midnight slaving away at this story and enjoying every moment of it. I joined an amazing writing group that only encouraged me and pushed me to keep writing. I even signed up for NaNoWriMo with an excitement that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I ended up agreeing to begin a collaborative project with my best friend and pledged 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. It was a lot harder than I imagined, but I surpassed my word count pledge, even if it was only by a hair. I took December off from writing to focus on the holidays and give myself a break.
Fast forward to July, and I had written a total of about 8,000 words, which includes a 5,000 short story that was included in an anthology. Recently, I was invited to submit a short story to an anthology and while the deadline isn’t until December, I started to think maybe I wouldn’t be able to do it. I had gone over six months with almost no inspiration. Maybe it wouldn’t come back. Maybe I had used it all up last year.
Just before giving in to my hopelessness, I decided to try a Google search for prompts in the slight chance that I may think of something. After about three hours of reading through lists and prompts, suddenly I had the spark of an idea that excited me. It was too late to think about at the moment, but happy with this spark, I messaged the basic idea to myself and went to sleep. The next day, after writing a bit toward the story, I sat back and thought about the situation.
While my idea had almost nothing to do with anything I had read, I never would have thought about it if I hadn’t been searching for an idea. Or maybe I would have, eventually, but who knows how long that would have taken? Thinking back to last year, I noticed how I wasn’t always in the mood to write, but I always sat down and did it and the words always flowed, even if I had to sit at the computer with my hands poised over the keys an hour beforehand. Maybe the words didn’t come out as I had expected, but they had come nonetheless. I quickly realized that I had subconsciously converted myself to a believer of the latter: All you need to do for inspiration is search for it.
So, you may be asking yourself what this has to do with you as a reader. You may be the type of writer that can sit down on a whim and type or write out five thousand words like it was nothing without having to search for anything. But let me suggest a possibility: Perhaps you have just trained your mind so well that you are in a constant state of searching for inspiration and you don’t even realize it?
If you happen to be a writer struggling with inspiration, either you have a story that is stuck in its tracks or you are looking for an idea to start a story, here are some suggestions that may help. First, read through your old writing. You never know what ideas or memories of ideas you may stir up from your previous words. Maybe you’ll find a way to improve that piece that’s been sitting on the back burner and make it your masterpiece! If that doesn’t work, try getting inspiration from real life. Read a book, watch a show or movie, go people watching, roleplay with a few friends. If none of those work either, there is also the option to search for writing prompts or other writing exercises online. Some people are inspired through challenges.
Whatever the case, there is no denying that the only way to keep inspiration flowing is through acknowledging it and using it. It’s not a resource you can store away for a rainy day, but it is a resource you can create on your own. All it takes is a little effort and a lot of faith.