I will be attempting to blog regularly about writing advice and different musings I have pertaining to writing and creativity in general. This week I will be blogging about motivation!
The thing I hear the most from other writers (by far) is “I don’t have any motivation.” As in, they don’t feel motivated to write. They sit down in front of their computers, well-intentioned with a cup of coffee and a favorite playlist, and no less than a million ideas running through their head. They set their fingers to the keyboard, and look at the blinking cursor.
And nothing happens.
Why? I’ve thought about this for a long time. And I want to put some of this in to words with more than just my own experiences with finding and keeping motivation. I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I’ve self-published four books so far and have many other writing projects in various stages. I love writing. But this person who sits in front of their computer and sighs in frustration at the blank screen loves writing just as much as I do. There’s just some sort of disconnect, a frayed edge to the wiring that isn’t carrying the galvanized current.
Most of us can’t turn our minds off to write. The creative mind is a terrible beast, and it has a habit of working better when you’re in a grocery store picking out bunches of cilantro than when you have three hours of free time and some really good coffee. However, all that worry is still there. Not just panicking about a family member, worrying about bills, thinking about that noise the car is making, thinking about work, thinking about that souring relationship, no. There are so many worries that exist before the terrible beast that is writing.
Writing is a lot of things. It’s ideas, and it’s researching those ideas. It’s taking that research to a point where a story can be told of it. And then you worry, “Is my writing good enough?” “Do I overuse adjectives?” “Do I have too many similes?” “Is my story even any good?”
You worry that no one will like what you do, or worse, no one will even read your work, and it will fall to nothing before it can ever be something.
Here’s the truth of it: write because you like it. And yes, I know how that sounds, but hear me out.
Writing is fun, and that’s why you are a writer. The most important part of writing is not only letting go of all the problems plaguing your life, but letting go of the nihilism and difficulty of thought surrounding the act of writing itself. First of all, write the first draft and focus on that. Even if your research isn’t finished and your characters aren’t fully fleshed out, you should write the first draft, mostly because it will give you a great idea of where you’re going. Then after you have that thing, that real and tangible thing, you can not only feel proud but you’ve started the most important leg of the journey. Writing is sort of like creating a creature from nothing. You make the skeleton, then you fill in the muscles, then you apply the skin and the aesthetic goodies. But without one piece you cannot have the other.
One of my favorite tricks while writing is something I call the ‘Ignore Trick’ (honestly I’m naming it right exactly now, I’ve never thought of it as having a name). Here is what I do: If you don’t like a particular scene, or piece of dialogue, or sentence, then write it quickly and shitty so you can keep moving. Go on to the next part of what you’re doing and build on that. Not only can you alter or erase that part later on (or completely change it during the second draft and beyond) but you can laugh at later.
So, don’t get stuck. Write a bad sentence, write bad dialogue, write a bad scene, then ignore it and move on. Once you get used to this habit, you’ll find that you can fly through words and scenes, and you will actually result in having something written down. Yes, you might be angry when you reread it, but it’s still there. You created it.
This is the first and most important part of motivation while writing: doing the thing. You can hate your writing all you want, you can kick and scream and whine about how no one will like it or read it, you can tell yourself you are the worst writer of all time. Do that. Prove it. Prove it by writing the thing down so that you can have something to hate later.
Because it’s something.