One of the hardest things about being a writer can be sitting down in front of the computer day after day, without knowing if anything will ever “come” of all the work you’ve been doing.
Regardless of whether you are thinking about the New York Times Best Seller List or just finishing a first draft to prove to yourself you can, staying motivated can be a tricky thing.
It’s easy to write when you’ve got nothing else on your schedule, it’s raining outside, and you’re waiting on your next paycheck before you go out and do anything that requires an entrance fee. After all, writing costs nothing, or at least not much since you really can still write with a notebook and pen. It also doesn’t require other people or access to a club. Anyone can do it.
Because it’s hard! Even when we feel compelled to write, as most of us do, we also feel compelled to sort socks, play with the cat, and watch daytime television. It’s a little like going to the gym, you know you’ll feel better after you do it, but it’s hard to get out the door. Human beings are, by nature, impacted by inertia. The moment you stop writing it can be hard to get going again.
So here’s a few things you can do to help overcome that inertia, starting with one’s mental state about why one writes in the first place. Sometimes understanding our motivations can help.
Along with being impacted by inertia, human beings are also expressive creatures. We dance, sing, paint, and tell stories. Almost all of us, at one time or another, said, read, or heard “Once Upon A Time,” and knew something great might follow.
We are born to tell stories, some of us are just further over on the storytelling scale than others. Which is great, because everyone over on the other side is just waiting to hear a story. Knowing that, we storytellers suddenly feel pressured to tell the best story we can right out of the gate. But that’s not the point. The point isn’t writing the perfect story, the point is telling the story in the first place.
So, one way to stay motivated is to stop pressuring yourself for a specific outcome. Stop worrying about an agent or a book deal. Stop worrying about whether anyone is going to like what you are doing. Focus on whether or not you like what you are doing.
Do you enjoy the process?
Does it quiet the voices in your head that keep poking you about getting their story down on paper?
Do you find yourself working out plot problems while standing in line at the grocery store and every conversation you overhear in public might give you insight into human behavior, which you can then steal and put into your own work?
GOOD! Start there. Enjoy the process. It is, after all, the only thing you have control over.
I often hear writers say they aren’t “ready” to write their story yet. They aren’t sure if it’s good enough or they have an idea but it isn’t formulated yet.
My question then, is, what would it look like for you to be “ready?” The whole story mapped out in front of you? Okay, work on your outline. Or, more organically, just start writing and see what unfolds. Write that opening and then write that ending and then figure out how to go from point A to point 12.
How “good” is “good enough?” When someone buys it? That’s not going to happen if you don’t write it. Write it, then worry about the “good enough” part. If everyone worried about the perfect first draft, nothing would ever get written.
So, my first piece of advice on staying motivated is to get rid of expectations and just enjoy the ride. If you stop second guessing about whether or not what you produce every time you set down is “good enough,” you’ll find it’s a lot easier to actually set something down.
Perfection is for rewrites, and even then you’ll make mistakes, that’s what editors are for. Or Beta Readers, or …
Let your work be messy and unclear and illogical and flawed. There’s time enough later to make it clean and clear and almost perfect.
Step one. Write the first draft. You can, you really can, you just have to put in the time.
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