You’re sitting there in the post-reading bliss of finishing a fantastic book. It moved you. It inspired you. Hell, this happens with film, with video games. This strike of awe and amazement and inspiration happens when you look at a particularly beautiful piece of art or finish a song that feels as if it were written specifically for you. You put that book down, you walk out of that movie, you turn off that video game. For a while, the inspiration moves in your veins like adrenaline, it sparks your mind like a drug.
Then, the bad part of your brain sets in, and you wonder: Why do I matter? Can I even make something half this good? A tenth this good?
Coming up with a reason for existence is difficult, be it about writing a novel or a book of poetry, or simply life itself. In the scope of writing, it does come down to you, and deciding whether or not your story and your time matters, and how to cultivate the motivation to make that happen. You sit down and begin typing out the first few paragraphs of your story, certain that it’s a wonderful thing, but that thought still plagues you: why does this matter? Why does the story matter? Is it worth my time?
This part of writing and motivation can be a tad dangerous. There are no guarantees with writing. None. With writing, you are expected to be good. This in itself means hundreds of different things. Most importantly, can you write well, and can you craft a good story? Then, after you do these things, will your story find its audience? Will the audience care? Will they see it the way you wanted to be seen?
Writing is constant exercise, not just of your fingers and your lower back, but of your ability to be aware. You have to understand the proper use of adjectives. You have to know how to build sentences and thread those into paragraphs. And you have to write as if you are speaking to one individual, not many, so that your story can not only get across but can be loved. You have to construct locations, characters, plots. You have to remember to include all the best parts of your research. Writing is not a skill developed across hours, it is a skill developed across years. It can make you wonder if all the time is worth spending. Writing requires much of your free time, if not most of it. The motivation doesn’t end with the writing itself, it begins there, and it has to carry you through to the end. Is all this time worth it? Is my art worth it? Why do I matter, at all?
My first suggestion for this bitter thought pattern is: ignore it. Let’s guess that your first novel will be around eighty thousand words, give or take a few thousand. It will probably take you around three to six months to write, perhaps longer if it requires a lot of extra thought and life keeps interrupting you. This is a huge time and thought commitment, and there is absolutely no guarantee that this amount of time will get you anywhere. There is no guarantee of money. There is no guarantee of fame. But here are the real, honest guarantees: growth, and fun.
Growth is fairly obvious, the more you write the stronger a writer you will become. This isn’t a ‘maybe if I write I will get better,’ thing. I am telling you, guaranteed, you will be a better writer the more you write. You can have absolute, one hundred percent faith in this. Ask any writer alive, they will tell you this is true.
Fun. I’ve said this so many times before but it bears constant repeating. Writing should be fun for you. You should love your story, your characters, your plot. You should have fun weaving the tale. You should feel joy at perusing the thesaurus and dictionary, reading other authors, gathering research, and feeling new story and plot breakthroughs. All these little moments will become an almost obsessive high as your story takes a firm hold in your mind and becomes a good majority of what you think about in the day. You should absolutely look forward to your free time writing, because you are creating something from nothing. Writers cull magick. They have spells in their fingers. Believe nothing less.
So why do I matter? Why does my writing matter? Mostly, because it’s yours. You could be half way through your first draft and find that there’s a novel out there that’s strikingly similar to yours. Keep writing anyway. Your story will be different, I promise, and you will change so much along the way. Your first novel or short story or book of poetry may not be your magnum opus and it shouldn’t be. As long as you keep writing, as long as you look for reason and hope within your own pages, as long as you let the motivation carry you, you will arrive at a good place. I promise.